Kate Moss doesn't divulge. As she's told Vogue back in 2010, the iconic supermodel has had a longstanding fear of her words being taken out of context and as a result, she's stayed far away from press for much of her career. That is, until Monday, when Moss went on record with Desert Island Discs in a tell-all interview recounting her runway days.
On the BBC Radio 4 show, Moss opened up about her rise to the top of the fashion world in the '90s, at age 14. She bounced from exposing uncomfortable shoots, including her experience at 15, when she had to run from a photographer forcing nudity for a bra catalog, to laughing about the time George Harrison tried to buy her a Christmas present. Moss also took the opportunity to correct the record on her drug use and "heroin chic" aesthetic, as well as ex Johnny Depp, speaking candidly on feeling objectified, insecure and scapegoated.
Recalling one of her most famous shoots, the 1992 Calvin Klein ad with Mark Wahlberg, Moss said she had “not very good memories.” Leading up to it, she said her anxiety was so severe she couldn’t get out of bed for over a week and needed to take valium to treat her nausea. Being just 16, Wahlberg’s macho persona and entourage made her feel “vulnerable and scared,” which she thinks Klein channeled intentionally. She added, “I was quite young and innocent, so Calvin loved that.”
This sense of discomfort was a common theme for Moss in her early days. She recalls crying throughout taking nude photographs for the cover of TheFace in 1990 because she was “really self-conscious” about her body. Though now one of the biggest models in the world, she said she never thought of herself as beautiful, and her mother’s take couldn’t have helped. Moss said that when she told her mom she’d been offered a modeling gig in London, her mother replied, “I don’t think you’re very photogenic.”
In the end, some of her most traumatizing shoots launched her career. Moss said she “suffered for them,” but “they did me a world of good.” Gracing hundreds of covers and runways, she had a whirlwind career, accompanied by wild partying. She said, “My mom used to say you can’t have fun all the time, and I say ‘Why not?’”
While her career continues to move forward, as she just opened a talent agency in 2016, she has received a fair share of backlash. Responding to criticism that her 1993 shoot for British Vogue glorified thinness and drug use, Moss said, “I think I was a scapegoat for a lot of people’s problems. I was never anorexic. I never have been. I had never taken heroin.” She added that the shoot, featuring her at home in underwear, was shocking because it wasn’t glamorous and she was “just a regular girl.”
The heroin chic persona followed her throughout her career. In an interview in 2009, Moss said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” and she hasn’t heard the end of it since. She noted that just a joke between her and friends became a “soundbite.” She also reflected on the response to tabloids publishing photos of her doing cocaine, saying, “I felt sick and was quite angry because everybody I knew took drugs. For them to focus on me and try to take my daughter away, I thought was really hypocritical.”
No charges came from those photos, but she has dipped her toe into other legal troubles since. Recently, she found herself in the middle of her former partner Johnny Depp’s libel case with Amber Heard. Moss testified in denial of abuse allegations during their relationship because, as she said, “I know the truth about Johnny. I know he never kicked me down the stairs. I had to say that truth.”
While the 36-minute interview couldn’t possibly do justice to Moss’ hugely influential career, hopefully this experience makes her a bit less camera-shy and there will be more candid tidbits to come.
Photo via Getty/ Catherine McGann