Elizabeth Hurley (born 10 June 1965) is an English actress, businesswoman, and model.
In the 1990s, Elizabeth Hurley became known as the girlfriend of Hugh Grant. In 1994, as Grant became the focus of international media attention due to the success of his film Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hurley accompanied him to the film’s London premiere in a plunging black Versace dress held together with gold safety pins, which gained her instant media attention.
She has been associated with the cosmetics company Estée Lauder since the company gave Hurley her first modelling job at the age of 29. They have featured her as a representative and model for their products, especially perfumes such as Sensuous, Intuition, and Pleasures, since 1995. Hurley owns an eponymous beachwear line.
Elizabeth Hurley was born on 10 June 1965 in Basingstoke, Hampshire, as the younger daughter of Angela Mary (née Titt) and Roy Leonard Hurley. She is half Irish. Her father was a major in the Royal Army Educational Corps; her mother was a teacher at Kempshott Junior School. She has an older sister, Kathleen (‘Kate’), and a younger brother, Andrews Hurley.
Elizabeth Hurley attended Harriet Costello School, a mixed secondary modern in Basingstoke, and, while in her teens, she became involved with punk fashion, dyeing her hair pink and piercing her nose. When I was 16 – this was about 1981, 1982 – the thing to be in Basingstoke, the suburb I grew up in, was punk,” she explained. She also reportedly associated with New Age travellers in her youth.
Aspiring to be a dancer as a young girl, she enrolled in ballet classes. Hurley continued in the sixth form and took A-levels in English, Sociology and Psychology in 1983 before spending three years studying dance and theatre at the London Studio Centre. She was expelled from the school in 1986 after going AWOL to a Greek island.
Elizabeth Hurley with fashion designer Valentino Garavani at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival
In 1995, with no prior modelling experience, Elizabeth Hurley was introduced as an Estée Lauder spokesmodel. She later recounted, “I was far from an ingénue, having had my first modelling job at 29.” Hurley has since featured in ads for Lauder’s ‘Pleasures‘, ‘Beautiful’, ‘Dazzling’, ‘Tuscany per Donna’, and ‘Sensuous’ fragrances as well as participated in campaigns for the company’s other cosmetics.
She was replaced as the face of Estée Lauder by Carolyn Murphy in 2001. However, she continues to work with the company non-exclusively, signing a contract for the 16th year with Lauder in 2010. In 2005, she modelled for Saloni, Liverpool Department Stores of Mexico, and Lancel.
She was part of the seasonal advertising campaigns for Jordache, Shiatzy Chen, Got Milk?, Patrick Cox, MQ Clothiers of Sweden, and Lancel in 2006 and Monsoon in 2007. In 2008, Hurley was unveiled as the seasonal campaign face for Blackglama mink. Hurley has appeared three times on the cover of British Vogue. She is signed to TESS Management in London.
In April 2005, Elizabeth Hurley Beach, her beachwear line that she also models every summer, was launched at Harrods in the UK. It debuted later that year in select Saks Fifth Avenue stores in the United States and other European countries.
She told Tatler magazine, “I was on Necker Island for a fashion shoot and even as Richard Branson was lying back in a hammock, he was on the phone, doing deals, managing his empire. But then I thought I am never going to have even a holiday home, let alone an island, unless I start a business that I can do without disrupting Damian’s school days.” In May 2008, Hurley designed and modelled a capsule collection of 12 swimsuits for the Spanish clothes brand MANGO.
Elizabeth Hurley made her first film appearance in Aria (1987). She subsequently appeared in the movies Passenger 57, EDtv, Bedazzled, Serving Sara and Dangerous Ground. In 1997, she received her first and only acting award, the ShoWest Supporting Actress of the Year, for her performance in the spy spoof Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
When Hugh Grant founded and became the director of Simian Films in 1994, Hurley was credited as one of the producers for the company’s two Grant vehicles, Extreme Measures (1996) and Mickey Blue Eyes (1999). In 2000, she was publicly criticized for breaking a five-month acting strike to film an Estée Lauder advertisement, for which she was fined $100,000 (£70,000 in 2000) by the Screen Actors Guild and labelled “Elizabeth Scably” by protesters.
In 1988, Elizabeth Hurley appeared briefly in a speaking part as a schoolgirl in “Last Seen Wearing”, an episode of the detective series Inspector Morse, which was partly filmed at a real school, Reading Blue Coat, Sonning, Berkshire. This is believed to have been her first TV role. In the same year she also played Rosie Japhet in an episode of Rumpole of the Bailey (Rumpole and the Barrow Boy). In the late 1980s, Hurley portrayed the title character in a five-part television drama, Christabel.
After appearing in John Cleese‘s The Human Face (2001), she hosted the inaugural series of the British reality show Project Catwalk on Sky 1 in 2006. The show drew tepid ratings with only 1% of its target audience tuning into the first few episodes. Hurley was criticized as a presenter by Marcelle D’Argy Smith, a former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, who described her as “witheringly boring” and added: “Liz Hurley has no fashion experience whatsoever. She wore a dress and has appeared at premieres.” GQ‘s Dylan Jones defended her as someone “immersed in the fashion world as a celebrity.” She was dropped after one series because her bosses reportedly believed she was too wooden.
In 2011, Elizabeth Hurley filmed a guest star role in the series pilot of NBC‘s Wonder Woman as the villain Veronica Cale. The network decided not to pick up the series. In July 2011, it was announced that Hurley would join the fifth season of Gossip Girl for a multi-episode arc. Her character, Diana Payne, was described by the series’ executive producers as “a sexy, smart, self-made media mogul and all-around force to be reckoned with”, whose “entrance on the Upper East Side will change the lives of all our characters—including, and especially, Gossip Girl herself.”
In September 2013, she was cast in one of E!‘s first two scripted pilots, The Royals, which was picked up in March 2014 and aired in 2015. The drama series, revolving around a fictional British Royal Family and set in modern London, stars Hurley as the matriarch Queen Helena. Hurley played Marvel Comics villain Morgan le Fay in the final season of the Hulu show Runaways, released in 2019.
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