Kate Moss: A photographer asked me to strip when I was 15
Model Kate Moss was interviewed by the BBC and told about traumatic experiences she says shaped her early years in the modeling industry. She told, among other things, about a photographer who asked her to strip when she was a teenager, about her testimony in the Johnny Depp trial: "He never hit me. I had to tell the truth", about her drug use in the early 2000s and the "heroin chic" look that sparked the popularity of Kate Moss to the top of the international modeling world.
Kate Moss, one of the world’s most famous models, has spoken of her anger at the condemnation she received after publication of photographs of her taking cocaine in 2005. She took the blame, she believes, for the widespread acceptability of drug-taking in her circle.
“I felt sick and was quite angry,” the British supermodel revealed on Sunday in a rare radio interview, “because everybody I knew took drugs. So for them to focus on me, and to try to take my daughter away, I thought was really hypocritical.”
Although Moss was not charged for the offence, and she kept her daughter, Lila, she lost lucrative contracts with several top brands and later said “sorry” formally in a public statement. “I had to apologise really, if people were looking up to me,” she told Lauren Laverne, host of BBC Radio 4’s long-running Desert Island Discs programme.
For 30 years, Moss, 48, has represented the summit of British cool. But the woman whose motto “never complain, never explain” was borrowed from her former boyfriend, Johnny Depp, used the interview to speak out about the anxiety that crippled her teenage modelling years and of the abuse and mistreatment she suffered in the industry.
Moss also explained her decision to speak up for Depp in his recent American libel case against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, and talks about defending her old friend, the British fashion designer John Galliano, who was found guilty of racist abuse in 2011.
“I believe in the truth and I believe in fairness and justice,” she said. Her appearance at Depp’s trial was prompted by a wish to set the record straight. “I know the truth about Johnny,” Moss said. “I know he never kicked me down the stairs. I had to say that truth.”
The urge to stand by Galliano came from her belief that he is “not a bad person – he had an alcohol problem and people turn.”
“People aren’t themselves when they drink,” suggested Moss, “and they say things that they would never say when they were sober.”
At 14 years old, Moss was approached on an aeroplane journey by the owner of the Storm modelling agency, but she didn’t imagine herself as a model. “I thought it was vain,” Moss said.
The start of her career in 1988 was traumatic and “a hard slog”, she recalled. She had to travel across cities alone for photographing castings. At 15, she had the “horrible experience” of being asked to take off her top for a bra catalogue shoot. “I was really shy then about my body, and I could feel there was something wrong, so I got my stuff and I ran away.”
She says the experience “sharpened her instincts” – “I can tell a wrong ’un a mile away.”
Her 16-year-old face was suddenly in international demand after a photographic session for The Face magazine on Camber Sands in Sussex with her photographer friend, the late Corinne Day.
Moss admits crying “a lot” about being naked. “She [Day] would say, ‘If you don’t take your top off, I am not going to book you for Elle. It is painful. I loved her, she was my best friend, but she was a tricky person. But the pictures are amazing, so she got what she wanted and I suffered for them, but in the end they did me a world of good really. They changed my career.”
The American designer Calvin Klein chose Moss for a 1992 underwear campaign as a result, but her memories of this job, posing with actor Mark Wahlberg in New York, are “not good”. She took Valium for her anxiety to get out of bed for work.
Topless again, Moss felt “objectified and vulnerable and scared”, she told Laverne, adding: “They played on my vulnerability. Calvin loved that.”
Her friend Day was responsible for the controversial images taken for Vogue magazine a year later, which were decried for promoting “heroin chic”. Pictured in her own flat, the ever-slim Moss was shown in underwear. “I was a scapegoat for a lot of people’s problems,” Moss said. “I was never anorexic. I never have been. I had never taken heroin. I was thin because I didn’t get fed at shoots or in shows and I’d always been thin.”
A quote often attributed to Moss, that “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, was not her own coinage, she said. It came from a note stuck to the fridge door in a flat, designed to dissuade a dieting friend from snacking.
Born in 1974 to a travel agent father, Peter, and “glamorous” mother, Linda, who worked part-time in a bar, Moss said she suspects she was quite lonely. Her looks were not remarked on at home, and her mother was surprised when modelling work came her daughter’s way.
Her unruly “headstrong” teenage behaviour worsened, Moss remembers, once her parents split up: “I started smoking spliff and I hung out with older boys,” she says, confessing she was full of sadness. “Yes, I was heartbroken ... it was all a bit dark.”
Moss set up her own modelling agency in 2016, signing up her own daughter early on. “I’ve said to her, ‘You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. If you don’t want to do this shoot, if you don’t feel comfortable, if you don’t want to model, don’t do it.’ I take care of my models. I make sure they’re with agents at shoots so when they’re being taken advantage of, someone is there to say, ‘I don’t think that’s appropriate’.”
Moss has moved her main home to her Cotswolds country house and reveals she has become obsessed with gardening. Partying, she says, is “boring to me now”, adding, “I’m not into being out of control any more.”