She Has a Wild Side

by Laura Rosenfeld

From the minute viewers met Annabelle Neilson on Ladies of London , they were warned not to mess with her. After all, she did say, "When I walk in a room, I think people think, 'Oh shit. It's Annabelle,'" in the series premiere. Since then, Neilson has proven to be a no-nonsense chick with a wicked sense of humor and an air of mystery. In fact, Neilson has been one of the more aloof Ladies of London, of course that isn't very difficult to do around this group, considering it mainly consists of outspoken Americans. Still, you might be surprised to learn that in her earlier, pre-Ladies of London life, Neilson had a bit of a wild side.

In the series premiere, we learned from Neilson's castmate Caroline Stanbury that Neilson has acted more reserved since the tragic death of her friend, designer Alexander McQueen. Stanbury was hoping that meeting some new people might help Neilson break out of her shell again. Neilson has said herself that even though she grew up in an aristocratic family, she has always been more rock 'n' roll than posh, so there's already a hint that she has more of an edge than her quiet demeanor suggests. And judging from the attitude Neilson will be serving up in Monday night's episode, getting into an argument with Juliet over some underwear, we can see that she has a rebellious side, even though she may seem like a prim and proper lady now.

It looks like Neilson has always been a wild child. While attending boarding school, she hiked up her skirt, cut the sleeves off her blouses, and chopped off her hair to "look like a hedgehog," she told W Magazine. But uniforms can look so stuffy, it probably looked better with Neilson's modifications.

Neilson maintained that defiant spirit when she grew up. Instead of attending hoity-toity luncheons, she was a mainstay in the British party scene. She was never afraid to show off, especially when McQueen was involved, whether that meant grabbing attention for a sheer McQueen dress she wore to a party in 2000 or appearing completely nude and simulating sex with a male model in a video for McQueen's men's collection. The designer even told Neilson that he liked her to wear his clothes because when she wore them, "they would have an adventure," as she recalled in her remembrance of McQueen for Harper's Bazaar in 2011.

And boy, did she have adventures. All around the world, actually. When Neilson was just a teenager, she met her first husband, Nathaniel Rothschild, on a beach in India. Even though they dated for six years, they surprised their parents when they eloped in Las Vegas in 1995. The couple split in 1998, but that didn't keep Neilson from living her life the way she wanted. She took her badassery all over the world, riding a motorcycle through Australia, going deep-sea diving, and racing a car across the Himalayas, according to her Ladies of London bio. More recently, she joined Sir Richard Branson to do some kitesurfing. And there is not a hint of fear in that photo, but rather, Neilson is actually posing for the camera. Fierce.

We've already seen Neilson do some daring horseback riding on Ladies of London this season, so it must be only a matter of time before she truly unleashes that inner wild spirit. Let's just hope that a teased riding injury later on this season doesn't make her climb back into her shell.

Images: annabelleneilson1/Instagram