I’m more than a little in love: As a girl I had a crush on Simon Le Bon, but now I’m dating Andrew Ridgeley! Millionaire with ‘the longest legs in Belgravia’ speaks out about her new romance
- Amanda Cronin, 47, is dating Andrew Ridgeley, 59, who is known for Wham!
- She had a crush on rival band Duran Duran’s lead Simon Le Bon growing up
- And this is why when Andrew introduced himself she didn’t know who he was
- Now they’re dating and seen publicly for the first time at Wimbledon in July
As a young girl growing up with big dreams in rural Hampshire, model turned entrepreneur Amanda Cronin had a bit of a crush on the lead singer of the pop group Duran Duran.
‘I loved Simon Le Bon,’ she recalls. ‘I definitely had a thing for him.’
Other 1980s pop stars didn’t get a look in — which may explain why 47-year-old Amanda didn’t recognise the one she found herself seated next to at a friend’s birthday dinner last month.
‘He introduced himself as Andrew, and I didn’t really get who he was at first,’ she says. ‘All I knew was that he was wearing this beautiful, patterned tuxedo, looked very handsome and he seemed very interested in chatting.’
Only over the course of the next few hours did Amanda put two and two together — ‘the penny dropped’ is how she puts it — and realise that her dining companion was none other than Andrew Ridgeley, the surviving half of the legendary 1980s pop duo (and great Duran Duran rivals) Wham! following the tragic death of George Michael on Christmas Day 2016. Fast forward six weeks, and Andrew, 59, is now Amanda’s boyfriend — if that isn’t too teenage a word — unveiled in the public eye when they were photographed together at the Wimbledon Championships earlier this month.
Two weeks on, and still only six weeks in to their fledgling romance, it appears the couple are going from strength to strength.
‘It’s been very unexpected, but he’s very happy and I’m very happy,’ Amanda tells the Mail in an exclusive interview.
I’m your man: Model turned entrepreneur Amanda Cronin (pictured) is smitten with Andrew Ridgeley
‘We have already booked a holiday for next summer and we are talking about some trips in the autumn in the UK.’
On paper, of course, theirs is a rather unexpected partnership, bringing together a famously private retired pop star who has largely lived his life out of the public eye since Wham! disbanded in 1986 with a glamorous and wealthy socialite renowned for having ‘the longest legs in Belgravia’ – 39in and counting — who is no stranger to the gossip columns.
Divorced from entrepreneur Mark Daeche in 2019 — Amanda received a chunky settlement — she sprang to wider public fame earlier this year after featuring in the documentary The Millionairess And Me, which documented her unlikely friendship with Martin Read, a once-homeless documentary-maker, and during which she airily discussed her £10 million jewellery collection and £200,000 Bentley.
Andrew, meanwhile, has been single for two years following the end of his 25-year relationship with Keren Woodward, one third of another 1980s pop group, Bananarama. On paper, theirs isn’t an obvious match, but who can predict when Cupid’s arrow will strike?
Certainly, Amanda, who has a grown-up daughter Sofia, 28, from a brief early marriage, is as giggly as a schoolgirl when we meet to discuss the unexpected direction that her life — and those magnificent legs, showcased today to great effect in a short blue leather skirt — has taken.
‘We have so much in common, and we honestly just laugh and laugh when we’re together,’ she says.
‘I would say I’m more than a little in love.’
Naturally, Andrew, who at 5ft 10in is the same height as his new amour (Amanda has never dated anyone shorter), loves her legs.
‘He’s very complimentary and definitely comments when I wear something shorter’ she smiles. ‘He also says I’ve got very soft skin.’
Pop stars George Michael of Wham (left) and Simon le Bon of Duran Duran, at Wham’s final concert
The Pop group Wham consisted of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, both pictured
Amanda wasn’t always so thrilled by her endless pins, however. As a teenager, they were so thin that she used to wear three pairs of thick socks to school to bulk them out and was relentlessly teased by her peers.
But, by the time she was in her late teens, her impressive 30 per cent torso to 70 per cent leg ratio had become an asset.
Signed by a model agency, her endless legs secured her swimwear, hosiery and catwalk modelling assignments all over the world.
That all came to an end in her 30s when a skin cancer scare required the removal of a mole on her inner thigh, leaving her with an 8in scar.
By then she had met Mark Daeche, founder of then-independent energy company First Utility, and while the couple went through an acrimonious split in 2017 after 11 years together, their relationship is now amicable.
‘We’re friends, we’re at peace,’ she says of Daeche. He has even visited the stunning mews house Amanda has built from scratch in the heart of Belgravia, and into which she moved only last month.
Ex: It comes after Andrew split from his long-term partner Keren Woodward in November 2017 (Andrew and Keren pictured in 1991)
Situated on the site of what was once a double and single garage with a two-storey flat on top, she demolished the lot and rebuilt it from the ground up, transforming it into a stunning double-fronted three-storey dwelling, complete with its own cocktail bar, a stunning spiral staircase that sits below a domed skylight and terrace with retractable glass roof.
She designed the interior herself, right down to the immaculate dressing room in her master suite — where her collection of designer shoes and handbags are displayed in special compartments, and where she has made-to-measure vanity units to accommodate her legs — and the New York deli-inspired kitchen.
Eighteen months after she signed on the dotted line, she has turned her £3.5 million purchase and £2 million renovation spend into a property valued at £12 million. Little wonder she is now hoping to be taken seriously as a property developer, not to mention an entrepreneur, after launching her eponymous beauty brand which, as of yesterday, is being stocked by leading department store Fenwick.
‘I became interested in skincare after my brush with skin cancer,’ she says. ‘I educated myself.’
Easier to do all of this when your bank balance ends in a series of zeros, of course, although Amanda prickles at the notion that her wealth has smoothed her path,
‘There will be people who will say: “Oh well, it’s easy for you because you had the money’’, but actually I built the skincare brand from scratch and in a very lean, economical way.
‘By the time we launched, I think we’d spent less than £350,000 and we’ve gone from zero to 15 distribution outlets in the space of less than six months.
‘I’ve been in charge of all the product and brand development, and I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved. I am going to turn it into a billion-dollar business.’
This is a bold claim, but Amanda is not short on self-belief, although thankfully it’s offset by a sense of humour and a refreshing unguardedness about her love life.
Because make no mistake, Amanda knows the fascination that accompanies her new relationship — which brings us to that fateful first meeting with the former Wham! singer, just days after Amanda had moved into her new home.
Low-key: Andrew Ridgeley’s new millionaire girlfriend Amanda Cronin , 53, flashesd her torso on Thursday as she stepped out in athleisure wear
Single since her 2019 divorce from Daeche, she reveals she had barely been dating. ‘I’m not a nun, I haven’t been sitting at home completely on my own and there have been some flings, for sure, but nothing that I would have ever talked about to anyone,’ she says.
The stars aligned when she was invited to a black-tie birthday party thrown by beauty editor and consultant Olivia Falcon at her country estate over the jubilee weekend at the start of June.
‘To be honest, I didn’t really want to go because I knew there would be lots of couples,’ Amanda reveals. ‘But in the end I thought “why not?” Olivia had said there was someone coming to the party who was single and ready to mingle, but she didn’t let on who it was. So I actually took a date with me, who also happened to be called Andrew.’
That Andrew was an investment banker, but after a couple of margaritas to get the party started, Amanda found herself seated next to the ‘other’ Andrew at one of the two long alfresco dining tables at which dinner was served.
Amanda Croinn and Andrew Ridgeley pictured at a party in London earlier this month
‘So I had my Andrew on my right, the other Andrew on my left, and we started chatting straight away,’ she recalls. ‘And then we chatted all through dinner.’
Once she’d sussed out who he was, Amanda learned that Andrew had also been single for around two years since splitting from Keren Woodward.
Several glasses of wine later, and Amanda and Andrew were whirling round the dance floor to the 2020 Elton John and Dua Lipa hit Cold Heart — now ‘their’ song —before snuggling up on a couch and chatting into the small hours.
By the time Amanda left in her chauffeured Bentley at 3am — with the original Andrew — she had the former pop star’s number tapped into her mobile.
‘I’d planned to drop him a text a few days later, but he beat me to it,’ she recalls with a smile. ‘He went back to Olivia’s for brunch the following day and said he needed my number, and so by Sunday lunchtime he’d already texted me and arranged a date.’
Andrew has largely avoided the spotlight since parting ways from the late George Michael and Wham!, preferring an anonymous life in rural Cornwall, where he moved in 1990 after purchasing a 15th-century farmhouse.
His date with Amanda came in the form of lunch at her new home. ‘We had another date in the diary, but Andrew had come back early from a cycling trip and said he could come over on the Sunday if I was free,’ she recalls. ‘I was cooking lunch for my daughter, but told him he was welcome to join us — and he did.’
She appeared in a new documentary The Millionairess and Me after striking up an unlikely friendship with Martin Read, a filmmaker who has spent time in prison and homeless after leaving home at 16
What did Sofia make of him? ‘At first she was a bit protective — like “who is this guy coming into Mummy’s life?”, but the second time they met, she told me she thought he was a really nice guy — which he is,’ Amanda says. A third date followed at an exclusive London restaurant before Andrew invited Amanda to the Wimbledon tournament at which they were ‘outed’ as a couple.
‘I was in Florence with Sofia when he invited me and, as I am not a big fan of sporting events, I thought I’d dodged a bullet as he invited me on Monday when I was still going to be away,’ she recalls.
‘Then he told me he had tickets for Centre Court on Tuesday as well so I had no excuse.’
Forty-eight hours and one hastily purchased designer outfit later, the couple arrived at Wimbledon to the flash of awaiting photographers. ‘Halfway there, he told me it was likely the Press would be there,’ she recalls. ‘I didn’t really take in properly what that meant, but then we walked in and it was a case of “snap, snap, snap”,’
Within minutes her social media had exploded with messages from curious friends.
Two weeks on and the couple are going from strength to strength, planning holidays. ‘Obviously our trips are all pre-planned from before we met, but we will overlap in France in a few weeks and we have some other things planned,’ she says. ‘I’ve mentioned I might want to go to Italy for my birthday in September, too. We both love good food and fine dining.’
Off the menu. though, is chat about the pop star’s past. ‘If you ask him something he’s so polite he will always answer, but we never really talk about Wham!’ she says.
‘Obviously the Wham! legacy is huge, but for me the past is the past. We talk about what he’s doing today, what projects we’re both working on — all sorts really, just not that.’
As for that teen crush on Simon Le Bon — well, that hasn’t come up yet either, although somehow I doubt Andrew has anything to worry about.
- Amanda Caroline Skincare is available at all Fenwick stores nationwide as well as online.
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