Although India Hicks is the poster child for breezy island living, on this day her schedule is pure chaos. It all begins with her usual hour-long run on the beach at the break of dawn. Then it turns into a flurry of feeding her five children breakfast, walking the family’s three dogs, packing bags, getting on a plane from the Bahamas to New York City, attending a business luncheon with close friend Brooke Shields, getting back on a plane and jumping right into preparations for a dinner party. A mere 20 minutes before her guests are due to arrive, she is perched on a chair in her office, painting her short fingernails hot pink while still answering last-minute business calls.
In a way, this tornado of activity is an apt metaphor for the glamorous life India and her partner, hotelier and interior designer David Flynt Wood, decided to leave behind almost two decades ago. At the time, they were living in London and India’s life was full of engagements: as the daughter of British designer David Hicks and Lady Pamela Mountbatten, the goddaughter of Prince Charles, one of Lady Diana’s bridesmaids and a successful Ralph Lauren model, she was at the top of the social ladder. Arriving at the small island, which spans a mere 3 1/2 miles, was a stark contrast. “At first, it felt quite odd,” says India. “It felt very lonely and remote.”
But as is often the case with bold moves, the island ended up providing her with what she needed the most. The pink beaches where she had played as a child — her father had built a home on a nearby island where she spent her childhood vacations — inspired her to create what has become a hugely successful lifestyle brand that includes Crabtree & Evelyn bath and body products, jewelry, bedding and home decor. What’s more, together with David and their five children Felix, 16, Amory, 14, Conrad, 10, Domino, 6 and foster child Wesley, 17, she now has a busier — and often wilder — social life than she had ever envisioned.
With her witty sense of humor and live-by-your-own-rules attitude, India Hicks not only gives us a tour of her place in the sun, but a glimpse into her heart.
- Ulrica: I have three kids and that’s chaotic most of the time. What’s it like having five?
- India: It’s utterly exhausting! It can be complete chaos. You’re never without worry, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. One day they’re absolutely angelic to each other and build a camp in the jungle. The next day someone has hurt feelings and is building the camp alone. They’re all very different people, and it makes them close. Domino has four older brothers, which can both be a blessing and a curse. Right now, the house is action packed and there’s always some kind of madness going on, so she’s loving it. But wait until she’s 17 with four older brothers looking out for her. I guess we’ll have to wait to see how she feels then!
- Ulrica: Domino is your fifth child. How are you doing things differently this time around?
- India: Well, for example, bed time is very different compared to the others. There are times when she’s lying on the floor crying and flailing her legs around because I won’t let her stay up for another five minutes. But…she’s my fifth child so I merely step over her and go upstairs as though she doesn’t exist. Now, I would never have done that with child number one! What if the tears were actually real, and they had some psychological scarring later with years of expensive therapy to repair the damage? But then you learn that five more minutes is never really five more. There will be further negotiations, and with no UN peacekeeper in sight. So by child number five, you don’t even bother with bribery or encouragement or threats. Because you’re so darn tired you’re happy if they fall asleep right there on the floor.
- Ulrica: What’s your one go-to activity that keeps you grounded?
- India: I’m a marathon runner and I run every day. I try to go very early in the morning when no one is around. It’s absolutely my time. There’s no telephone and no distractions. There have been times when I’ve had family and friends visiting and they go, ‘Hey, let us come with you on your run.’ The answer is no! This is my hour. I very rarely listen to music. It’s just me, the sand and the sea.”
- Ulrica: You live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Do you ever hang out at the beach and just relax?
- India: With five children and too many projects and the craziness that goes with the modern working mom’s life, there are never enough of those moments when you’re absolutely still and you have nowhere to be and nothing to do and no one asking for you. What’s even more ridiculous is that I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, I watch amazing tropical sunsets every day, yet most days I spend in front of a computer in an office. But I do have moments when I’m on the beach just enjoying the sun. They might be short, but it’s important to make time for moments like that, not just for yourself but for your kids, too.
- Ulrica: Both you and David are highly creative. Are your kids anything like you?
- India: We’re all very competitive. Both David and I love doing projects with the kids, and even if it’s just making things with Play-Doh, we turn it into a competition if we’re all together. It’s terrible! It’s a very creative household. Recently one morning my daughter said, ‘I’m going to be a designer!’ We all looked up somewhat surprised. I was rather relieved, instead of her saying ‘I’m going to be a model!’
- Ulrica: You’ve been a model yourself for a big part of your life. What’s your sense of style?
- India: Most of the time, I wear jeans and flip flops. I have a fairly simple way of dressing. I’m certainly not a bow and frills kind of girl, but I can never resist a beautiful dress. I tend to wear either a heel the size of the Eiffel Tower or barefoot. There’s not much in between.
- Ulrica: You have so many animals, your house is a little bit like a zoo!
- India: We tend to take in animals a lot! I can’t quite resist a stray animal. Growing up, my family had peacocks and golden pheasants roaming in our gardens. So of course, on top of our three dogs, two cats and a tortoise, we also have a parrot. Plus, my children usually bring in a snake or a lizard and a lot of spiders. I love having animals around. I believe it’s a great learning experience for children on how to respect and take care of something or someone other than themselves.
- Ulrica: You live on an island that’s essentially in the middle of nowhere. Do you ever miss your “old” life?
- India: If there’s one thing that I find difficult, apart from hurricane season, is that I occasionally miss the company of a good girlfriend. When I was younger, I had a lot of friends. Now that I’m in my middle age, I find that I’m more and more attracted to women who are able to accomplish a great idea. And friends where you know you’ve got their back and they’ve got yours. Having said that, I find that because I have children and I have David, who is such an interesting person, my life is very complete. I’ve discovered that my family is really the center of my existence. And my life, as it is, feels full. • Ulrica Wihlborg