Last updated at 10:13 AM on 2nd February 2011
A recent survey showed most women still dream of marrying a millionaire. A year ago Kim Perez, 43 and working in a chemist’s shop, set out to fulfil that ambition. Here she tells ANNA PURSGLOVE how she succeeded …
Last spring, I flew to New York for a date with a man I had not met before. As I walked towards the arrivals lounge I frantically smoothed down my clothes, fretting that my carefully selected wardrobe (Moschino shirt, Mulberry holdall and fake-but-convincing diamond earrings) wouldn’t be showy enough to impress an American multi-millionaire.
This, after all, was a man who owned a penthouse in Florida, a ski lodge in Colorado and a business pad in New York. He ate in top restaurants, drank the finest champagnes and, I was sure, could have dated any woman he set his sights on.
Self transformation: Kim Perez spent months changing her appearance, and even her accent, all so she would meet a rich man
But he wasn’t dating any woman, he was dating me — a pharmacy counter saleswoman from the dull old town of Brigg in North Lincolnshire. And, yes, I’d targeted him not just because he was attractive, but also because he had serious money.
The simple fact is, I’d spent months changing my appearance, and even my accent, all so I would meet a rich man. And if that sounds shallow, then let me explain a little about my past.
I come from a very humble background and left school with no qualifications. I married my boyfriend Steven, a mechanic, straight out of school and, aged 20, gave birth to our daughter Claudia.
I worked in my local pharmacy, but I always felt I deserved a better life. Just like people who believe they have been born the wrong gender or in the wrong era, I felt like I’d been born into the wrong social class.
I had this hunger for the finer things in life, and the lives I read about in glossy magazines. I wanted to live in beautiful houses and own designer clothes and jewellery.
Although people always describe me as good-looking, I dreamt of having a nose job and a boob job. If I really wanted to live this life I dreamed of, it was obvious that my next partner would need to have money. Proper money.
So when my marriage fizzled out and I found myself nudging 40, I decided to reinvent myself into the kind of woman that a wealthy man might find attractive. But how could a beauty counter assistant from Brigg pull it off?
In my head, I made a mental list of how I would go about it. No man is going to look at a woman he believes is simply after his money, so I had to pretend I had my own.
The first thing that had to go was my Northern accent. I’d always hated the way people from Brigg said ‘ey up’ or referred to me as ‘our Kim’. Northern accents make people assume you’re stupid and working class. I needed to delete my past in order to change my future.
First, I decided to invest in elocution lessons. I spent £600 seeing a private tutor twice a week. After six months, it was virtually impossible to tell I had been born in the North.
Secondly, I needed to know where rich people ate, and where they holidayed. I needed to educate myself.
I read glossy magazines to find out about the best restaurants and the most luxurious resorts, and I got books from the library on etiquette. I didn’t want to use the wrong knife or pick up someone else’s bread roll by mistake.
I remember one book said it was OK to get your compact out at the table because the Queen does that. I do that all the time now.
Happy now: Kim met millionaire husband David through an internet dating site that specialised in matching Americans with Brits
If I was going to convince someone that I had the same life as them — and, more importantly, that I could fit into their world — I needed to know the places that they were talking about, and exactly how to behave.
Finally, I knew I had to look the part. It’s no good having a beautiful voice if you’re dressed head-to-toe in High Street clothes.
Here, though, I had a problem. I’d already spent my savings on elocution lessons: how could I afford a whole new wardobe — and a designer one at that — on my meagre wage?
But I wasn’t about to give up. I took on as many extra shifts as I could manage, and saved every last penny. Instead of buying from designer shops, I spent hours scouring eBay.
I decided that I would focus on building up an expensive look to be worn only on dates. I bought a second-hand Mandalay dress (sexy but classy), plus a few designer accessories, including a second-hand Christian Dior bag and a Louis Vuitton holdall.
I also bought a crisp Moschino shirt and some well-cut Joe’s Jeans for a more casual look.
Slice of happiness: They were married in August last year in David's Florida apartment before a honeymoon travelling around the Caribbean
It didn’t matter when I needed to default on my electricity bill so I could afford hair extensions. I was speculating to accumulate — and I knew it would be worth it.
Within a year, I’d completely transformed myself. Friends I hadn’t seen in months didn’t recognise me.
But where to start my search for a rich man? By chance, I’d heard about a dating website called iloveyouraccent.com and at first I thought it was something to do with having a nice voice. But when I looked into it, it turned out to specialise in introducing American men and women to potential partners in Britain.
Suddenly, everything just seemed to slot into place. To put it simply, I knew it would be easier to reinvent myself if there was a bit of distance between my past life and what I hoped would be my future life — a life with a wealthy American.
On my profile, I described myself as a ‘fun-loving, sophisticated woman’, and said that I was looking for a man who liked ‘the finer things in life’. Obviously I didn’t say that I was looking for someone with money, because that would have put people off, but I hoped it was clear all the same.
And that’s how I found David. From the moment I spoke to him, I knew he was the one for me.
I’d had a few emails from other men, but as a general rule, if a man talks to you mainly about sport and alcohol then he hasn’t got much else going on in his life.
David peppered his emails to me with tales of flying business class and expensive champagnes. I knew he had to have serious money. This was the man I had been waiting for.
What did I tell him about me? Not very much during those early conversations. I described my job as being for a ‘cosmetics house’ (rather than a local pharmacy) and didn’t give away too much about my background.
All set: Kim's life now consists of shopping, then going to the gym or for lunch - all in between setting up a fake-tanning business with David
So for weeks I sent these vague emails, giving him very little information about me but finding out more and more about his life. He owned his own business and took five-star holidays in the Caribbean. I was thrilled when he asked me to meet him for a date in New York.
There was just one problem: there was no way I could afford the flight, and no way I could tell him the truth about my finances.
Instead I stalled, telling him that I had work commitments. It worked. Before long, he had bought me a business-class ticket and offered to pay for the hotel.
It was a magical five days. The last time I’d been to America, I’d been eyeing up $50 fake designer handbags. This time we stayed at the Waldorf Astoria, where David had booked us separate rooms, so there was no pressure to sleep together.
We spent the next few days going to galleries and designer clothes shops and eating at the most wonderful restaurants.
And on the final night, we slept together — not least because, by then, I found David irresistible.
I remember vividly that his last words before I got on the plane back to London were ‘Bye, sweetie’, which really worried me. It sounded as though I might be nothing more than a good-looking distraction.
Back in the UK, however, there were beautiful flowers and a card waiting for me, telling me what a great time he’d had. And from there, the relationship became very intense very quickly. We’d talk on the phone six or seven times a day, and David was always sending me huge bouquets of flowers.
Just three months later, he asked me to marry him and move out to America. I didn’t hesitate. By then, I was head over heels in love.
My friends and family were shocked that I would so readily give up my life — but that had always been my plan. If you settle for the mundane, then that’s how your life will be. Instead, I identified my dream life and had been determined to get it.
In August last year, David and I were married in his Florida apartment and spent our honeymoon travelling around the Caribbean (Jamaica, St Lucia, St Martin …). Only a handful of his family were present at the wedding, plus a few of my really good friends and one of my favourite aunts.
Yes, it’s fair to say that a lot of people from my old life thought I was being cold and calculating, and they didn’t want to support me — but I can live with that. A month before we got married, I did take David back to Brigg to show him where I came from, and at that point I was a little more open with him about my background.
David’s only comment was: ‘Let’s get out of here!’ He still doesn’t know exactly how close to the breadline I’ve been — though I did confess that I’d changed certain things about myself to attract him, and he thinks that’s funny. Americans are generally more comfortable with the idea of bettering yourself than British people are.
Now, I really am living the dream, and I have to pinch myself every morning to remind myself that I’ve actually been this lucky.
My life now consists of shopping, then going to the gym or for lunch. David’s helping me set up a little fake-tanning business to keep me occupied, because there is only so much shopping you can do!
Apart from my gorgeous husband and our lovely homes, I’ve got a beautiful white Mercedes to drive and a closet full of amazing clothes, not to mention a diamond bracelet and Rolex watch.
Do I feel like I’m still playing a part? In some ways, yes I do. I’m still careful to keep things vague when I talk to people about my background.
And do people back home who know the whole story think I’m a gold-digger? Well yes, of course, some of them do. But I’m not interested in what other people think.
I would recommend what I’ve done to any woman who is in a rut and really committed to pulling herself out of it. Just look at my life: you could do the same.
David and I have been together for nine months and we are totally happy in each other’s company. He’s got that lovely quiet confidence which people who are comfortable around wealth have, and it’s very, very sexy.
He didn’t even demand a pre-nup when we got married. And for my part, I told him that if, after a few months, things weren’t working out, then I’d go back to England with nothing more than I left with.
But can I really see myself going back to the life I had in Lincolnshire? Not for a minute.
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