She’s gorgeous, mega-rich, talented – and hails from Stone. If you haven’t heard of her, that’s because she’s been living quietly in Switzerland with her billionaire hubby and three children. And because her singer-songwriter career has gone rather quiet as well. Which could all change with the April 29th release of her latest album “Love Is”. In the number ‘Send out a Message’ she duets with Boyzone’s Ronan Keating. She’s none other than Kirsty Bertarelli, Miss UK 1988 and second runner-up in the Miss World Pageant that year. Husband Ernesto used to own Swiss Biotech giant Serono and the couple share an estimated fortune of £7.4 billion, placing them sixth in the 2012 Sunday Times Rich List.
Born in 1971 into the Roper family who owned Churchill China, Kirsty reportedly spent a happy childhood in Oulton, riding horses and playing tennis with her sister. But in her boarding school holidays, she would be summoned to the pottery for work experience.
She soon escaped to London, where she became a model, joined the Sloane set, partied with the likes of Liz Hurley and Tamara Beckwith and began writing music for Warner Records. In 1998, she collapsed at her parents’ home with bacterial meningitis, which almost killed her. She made a full recovery and in 1999 met Ernesto, 47, whom she married in a picturesque Alpine ceremony in 2000. The same year, the song she’s best known for, ‘Black Coffee’, became a massive Number One hit for girl band All Saints. Her club track ‘Hands High’ was also championed by BBC Radio 1’s Dance Anthems. But Kirsty’s success as a songwriter only spurred her ambition to perform her own work.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic to hear your songs on the radio, and to see them on TV, but at the same time it’s so hard to hear your own feelings in the lyrics when someone else is performing!”
In 2009, Kirsty returned to the music scene with her techno-pop album ‘Elusive’, a top 20 hit in Switzerland. An exhaustive series of European live dates followed, with appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival and as a support act on Simply Red’s farewell tour.
Her latest album is billed as a collection of timeless pop songs tinged with a lyrical depth that evokes true emotion. She wrote some of the numbers aboard the £100 million vacht Ernesto bought her for her 40th birthday two years ago. As Kirsty explains, “Love is such a potent word, with many sides to it: … it can stir such deep reactions, it can make you irresponsible and irrational, passionate and tender, insecure and angry, joyful and exhilarated. I really enjoyed working with Ronan. He’s got such a mellow voice that brought my words to life, and we had a lot of fun recording the single.”
To promote the album, Kirsty plans to go on tour performing in bars, music venues and travelling about by van. Determined to stand or fall on her own talent, she insists that hubby will not be bankrolling her tour – or giving up the day job, either.
“I don’t think Ernesto is going to stop working and rely on my income quite yet but it still feels fantastic to make your own money,” she revealed in a recent interview.
Aside from her music, Kirsty is involved with the Bertarelli foundation which oversees philanthropic contributions to good causes. One of these is the Bertarelli Foundation’s first Creative Minds Festival which Kirsty launched in May 2012 at the Regent Theatre Hanley. The festival encourages schoolchildren from all backgrounds to get involved with in the performing arts.
Via the Bertarelli Foundation, Kirsty sent this message to Gazette readers: “My passion is writing songs. It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for so long, ever since I lived in Stone! I had such an amazing journey writing the new album and to encourage others, particularly children, to explore the performing arts is absolutely what the Creative Minds festival was founded for.
I’m looking forward to be back in Stoke later this year to see the latest talented performers.”