Camila Batmanghelidjh … ‘People might think, why doesn’t she have her own children? I don’t have that kind of psyche.’ Photograph: Sam Frost
I was premature by two and a half months. They thought I was going to die and sent me home without even registering my birth, so I don't know my birthday. My mother can't remember.
She met my father in England, where he was training as a doctor. But I was born in Iran, during the time of the shah. I was the third child, out of four. We had two police bodyguards who drove us everywhere. I thought that was normal because my father was one of the wealthiest men in Iran. My grandfather was a self-made millionaire at 21. He built hospitals and hotels. My father built one of the biggest sports centres in the Middle East, with ice rinks and swimming pools, a dry ski resort and shooting ranges. Now I live in a very different world: one in three of the children we see at Kids Company sleeps on the floor, one in five have been shot at or stabbed.
When I was nine, I wanted to open an orphanage and made a plan for what eventually became Kids Company. My younger brother, Bobby, was hyperactive and I always told people he was my first patient. So there was a sense that I was different. But my parents didn't try to change me – get me to dress straight or do normal things. I was like an unusual guest in their house. So I didn't develop low self-esteem. The gift from my mother was freedom. Many parents don't realise how toxic they can be by over-controlling their children...
Go to link