The story of Anne-Marie Sten reads like a Jackie Collins novel. Born in Woodbridge, Ont., she started out as a wannabe model and soon morphed into an international sex goddess who appeared in society pages on the arm of rich, powerful men. In 1977, in Paris, at the age of 23, she met Adnan Khashoggi, an international businessman and arms dealer whose monthly expenses at the time were said to be $7.5-million. For almost eight years, she was one of his mistresses – he had 12, it was rumoured – and once referred to herself as his "pleasure wife." He set Sten up in an apartment in Paris and whisked her away on his private plane (which always had a small group of musicians onboard to play during takeoff) or his $70-million yacht to his various luxury residences.
Next, in 1985, Sten married John Heimann, a banker with Merrill Lynch in New York. By the early nineties, she was divorced, remarried and once again living the Eurotrash-circuit life with George Mimran, a wealthy Moroccan. In 1997, single again after another divorce, she resurfaced in Toronto, at a party at the house of Barrick Gold honcho Peter Munk and his wife, Melanie, where Sten wore what one guest described as a "nipple-grazing" black sheath, captivating Matthew Barrett, then the chairman of Bank of Montreal (now retired in Oakville, Ont., where he is a director of Goldman Sachs and Harry Winston). He became husband number three a mere five weeks later. They were divorced within two years.
A towering beauty over six feet tall, she deploys a charisma and energy that suck the air from a room when she enters it. She also knows how to dress that body, whether in jeans and a crisp white shirt, a classic little Chanel suit or, once on the Riviera, a full-length transparent sheath with only a G-string underneath.
Now, pushing 60 and still single, she lives in a modest apartment in Monte Carlo, where she uses her extensive global contacts to help others put deals and business ideas together. In a rare interview on the phone a few weeks ago, she shared her rules for surviving marriages, time and gravity.
Never have regrets
"My marriage to Matthew [Barrett] was not a mistake. Maybe we weren't compatible. It was just infatuation. The priest who married us suggested that before we marry, maybe we should try therapy for a while. I would have done that. I like to figure things out. But Matthew said, 'No. Just look at her!'" Asked if it was true that she once sniffed at a $100,000 emerald necklace Barrett gave her, suggesting it wasn't up to her standards and that he should give it to one of his daughters, she offers a throaty laugh and says, "I don't know. One of my greatest qualities is that I forget unhappy or bad things."
Make sure the people you care about can recognize your clavicle
Those nude pictures that circulated of her when she was with Barrett? "They put my head on someone else's body. It upset me at the time. And it horrified my [late] mother. But she knew that wasn't me. She would say, 'I know your clavicle. And that isn't yours.'"
Discuss diet tricks, but never admit to plastic surgery
The rumours – from facelifts to hair weaves to annual lipo before bikini season – include the suspicion that she had a rib removed to appear thinner. "I prefer not to talk about those things," she offers lightly. "I'm happy. That's the secret. And it's what you eat. I have never tried alcohol. I eat non-gluten and a lot of fish. I take resveratrol supplements. And I follow [California-based] nutritionist Feline Butcher."
Remain a hometown girl, even when you move to Monaco
"I have this reputation as the bad girl from Monaco, but I'm a girl from Woodbridge. I was never a party girl, and I'm not a gold digger… Donald Trump said to me once, when I was between marriages, 'If I Googled you, I wouldn't have come near you with a 10-foot pole, but now that I know you, I see who you really are.'"
Remember that eventually they'll see you from the front
"I see many older women who look great from behind with fit bodies and great hair, wearing short dresses, but then they turn around, and it's not a good look. I still wear clothes I have had for 15 years, but I would say I am less into stretchy material and more into cashmere. I am more classic now."
All ages have opportunities
She is thinking of moving to New York, where she feels it is easier to be older. "A lot of elderly men who have lost their wives are not necessarily looking for a young wife."
You don't have to be poor to be spiritual
She learned the most from Khashoggi, with whom she remains in touch. "He was very philosophical, very spiritual," she says. "You don't have to be poor to be spiritual." He spoiled her by lavishing her with gifts of spectacular jewellery. "Every Friday night that we were together, we would be having a lovely dinner somewhere and someone would appear with a beautiful box and in it there would be a necklace and bracelets and earrings and rings, all matching. They were always given with such tenderness."