Caprice models her life on traditional Jewish values

A STATUESQUE blonde with piercing blue eyes may not be everybody's idea of a typical, nice Jewish girl. But Caprice Bourret has been defying the critics for years.

The Los Angeles-born former model, who arrived in Britain in a blaze of glory in 1996, is now a successful entrepreneur, having launched her own lingerie line four years ago.

After putting in more than 250,000 of her own money, her By Caprice Lingerie is now sold around the world and at well-known department stores.

A stunning see-through dress at the 1996 National Television Awards was her coup de grace.

The media coverage duly went into overload and Britain knew her by her first name.

"That dress put me on my way," the 38-year-old told me.

Much adulation followed, including Caprice appearing in ITV's Filthy Rich: Daddy's Girls, a documentary about the lives of three rich young women, and Caprice: The Making of a Supermodel.

She was linked with a number of high-profile men, including the likes of music legend Rod Stewart and actor Dennis Quaid.

None were confirmed, except an incongruous relationship with the former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams.

Caprice is blessed with good looks and Adams with good football skills but, superficially, if ever there was a case of beauty and the beast . . .

She was also pictured on the arm of the more aesthetically-pleasing cricketer Kevin Pietersen weeks after he had helped to lead England to a heroic Ashes win in 2005.

But what Caprice really would like is a nice, nuclear Jewish family.

"I would like to have children and to bring them up as Jewish," she said.

Perhaps her desire for a comfortable home life stems from the difficult one she had during her childhood.

Born in Whittier, Los Angeles County, she grew up in nearby Hacienda Heights, the daughter of a Jewish mother and a French-Canadian father - hence the Gallic surname.

But her father walked out on the family when Caprice was five, leaving her mother Valerie (nee Pion) to raise her singlehandedly.

After her father walked out, Caprice explained that there were no more Xmas trees.

And her mother koshered the kitchen.

She explained: "My Jewish upbringing has made me who I am today.

"I have kept kosher for 24 years and find it pretty easy to do so anywhere I am."

At 15, Caprice started attending shiurim run by chassidim in Los Angeles.

"I wanted to learn about my religion, but I wanted to have Orthodox teaching," she said.

"People are still surprised and shocked to find out I am Jewish. They think I am lying."

However, she has been the victim of racism. Caprice said: "Some boyfriends in the past have made fun of me in an antisemitic way, making comments.

"I fast on Yom Kippur and boyfriends have said things about that.

"I am open to other beliefs. My problem comes when religions are criticised by others."

Spotted by a modelling agent at a beauty pageant, Caprice moved to New York at the age of 18, admitting she existed on a diet of cream cheese and baigels.

At least it was a Jewish diet!

"It was scary for my mom to let me go, but she was really supportive and I had to make a choice," she recalled.

From the warm way Caprice speaks about her mother, it is clear how well she gets on with her.

Her mother apparently kvetches over everything, while she describes her grandmother as a typical Jewish grandmother, who is always "telling me I look skinny, I need more food on me - but we are very close".

Caprice had intended to go to Europe to get herself on the front cover of the Continent's fashion magazines - and made the decision to come to Britain.

She recalled: "I did not know anything about the UK, so it was not a calculated risk."

Her decision worked and she appeared on the covers of the likes of GQ, Esquire, Maxim and FHM.

And during this time she was voted GQ's Woman of the Year and Maxim's International Woman of the Year.

Television work came in the form of helping footballer Ian Wright to host Friday Night's All Wright and several series for VH1 and E! Entertainment.

Oh, and she also did what many famous people do when they "make it" - she released a single.

But Oh Yeah, which came out in 1999, only made it to No 24.

After that, Caprice's star started to fade and she admitted she does miss the reverence. She explained: "The adulation, all of it was crazy.

"There would always be paparazzi hanging about and sometimes the newspapers would write horrible and slanderous things about me.

"But when you step back and you are out of the spotlight, you do miss it in a way. I think I did my best to embrace it all."

Reality television shows are often frowned upon by the more culturally-inclined, but perhaps Caprice thought the best way of re-launching her star was to enter the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2005.

She joined the likes of feminist writer Germaine Greer, racing pundit John McCririck and leggy Danish actress Brigitte Nielsen in the house.

Caprice remembered: "I really did not enjoy the experience. I was in a confined space for 17 days and there were a lot of egos competing in there."

Evicted with a day left of the competition, Caprice said she cemented a firm relationship with DJ and TV presenter Lisa l'Anson, but found Nielsen - perhaps most famous for her short marriage to Sylvester Stallone - "very calculating and awful".

It is fair to say that Caprice has had her fair share of ups and downs. I mention the drink-driving incident four years ago, when she was banned from driving for one year and ordered to pay 2,500 costs - despite being defended by famous "Mr Loophole" Jewish lawyer Nick Freeman.

"I was mad at myself and stupid and irresponsible," she admitted.

There is a perception that most models don't have much between the ears, but Caprice certainly doesn't lack business ingenuity.

Nine years ago she partnered Debenhams to launch her own range of licensed lingerie.

The collection, designed and modelled by her, was an instant success - more than two million UK women were wearing her designs.

But she was not satisfied with just designing and lending her name to the line and so dissolved the deal and invested her own money to start her own company.

Caprice continued: "When I hit 30 and especially as a model, I had to think of the future.

"Longevity in the modelling world is zero. It has been tough over the last two years, but I am now expanding the business.

"We are now in profit and had a phenomenal season in January."

Caprice has two homes in London and insists she feels more European than Californian.

She recently sold her homes in South Africa and is a regular visitor to Israel.

Caprice last went to the Jewish state a month ago and visited the site of the legendary sage Rabbi Akiva - a frequent pilgrimage.

Evidently proud of her Jewish roots, she is heavily involved with the Jewish Blind and Disabled charity, as well as Esther Rantzen's Childline.

Despite everything she has achieved, Caprice is down to earth, affable and is keen to encourage young women to go forth and conquer.

She explained: "I came from nothing and built up my life. I didn't marry into it, I came to another country and made it.

"Never throw in the towel and if you work hard enough and be persistent and smart, you can succeed.

"And always leave your ego in your pocket."

© 2010 Jewish Telegraph