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an intimate conversation with the supermodel success story of 1993: kate moss

As Kate Moss turns 40 we skip backwards 20 years to December 1993, the first time she appeared on the cover of i-D, No. 123, The Smart Issue, wearing an oversized jumper, sleeves hanging way past her hands, the whole image tinted blue with 'KATE MOSS TELLS ALL' printed in pink and splashed across the front. This is the interview exactly as it was printed back then, sit back and get comfy for a juicy read about the teenage life of the world's favourite supermodel.

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"I love reality - things like bad posture, vacant stares, skinniness... they're normal to teenagers. Women have forgotten what it's like to be young." So said photographer Corinne Day earlier this year, as she took a scrawny schoolgirl from Croydon and helped redefine the '90s beauty aesthetic; by doing so, creating one of the biggest fashion phenomenons of the decade.

That phenomenon was mini-model Kate Moss. Kate Moss is 19 years of age, stands five feet seven inches in her stockinged feet, and weighs about 105 pounds. Her face and body propelled a whole host of similarly ‘waiflike’ models onto the catwalks and into the pages of magazines all over the world, to an accompaniment of newspaper articles decrying the promotion of what they saw as an unattainable beauty ideal for most women. The upset this new vision of beauty caused was played out in the press a mere matter of months ago, after Vogue published a series of photographs by Day featuring a young-looking Moss slouching around a scruffy flat in cheap underwear. “Paedophilia!” screamed the headlines. But Kate Moss is well past the age of consent, and the shock was that of the new order asserting itself.

In ’93, fashion has subjected itself to a reality check. Excessive flamboyance is now seen as a touch distasteful. Interest has shifted towards a movement that rejects gloss in favour of an acceptance of the political and economic turmoil of the times. Reality is intruding into the cloistered world of couture. The current shift of emphasis in style is from a hard-edged gloss to a more individual eclecticism. After the unnatural glamour of the ‘80s, change had to come. Perfection had become boring. People wanted something that was less artificial, an alternative to conventional good looks.

This tied in with the revolution in editorial photography that was occurring. Photographers like Day, Nigel Shafran, Kate’s on-off boyfriend Mario Sorrenti, David Sims and Juergen Teller were as interested in personality as they were in proportion. They no longer looked for girls to ‘give’ to the camera in the old sense but simply couldn’t quite call it reality – fashion, by necessity, requires us to buy into an illusion – but it was a step in the right direction.

Kate’s is the face of beauty sans artifice – ie without the couture suits and elevated heels, without collagen and silicon and half of Harvey Nichols’ cosmetics counter. With unwashed hair and Adidas trainers, she mirrors reality – or at least a version of reality that sees beauty as something deeper than a series of flaws to be covered up. It’s all about changing people’s vision of what’s acceptable. Models’ imperfections have traditionally been rendered invisible by make-up and camera trickery. Today, the idea is to accept girls for what they are – even though they veer from the traditional ideal of ‘beautiful’.

The time was right for Kate to clean up. After years of unpaid work for English mags like this one, she was snapped up for a mega Calvin Klein campaign with US teen throb Marky Mark, for Vauxhall’s Corsa TV ads, for Versace’s promotions, to be the face of Yves Saint Laurent’s Obsession, for a hundred cover shots and fashion pages. Her private life was open season for the gossip columns, her every move was documented in the tabloids and she became the face that represented the new wave of British fashion talent that was taking on the world.

She still looked the same, though. Whether snapped with fellow supermodels at some glitzy nightclub do or with friends in the Portobello Road, she still wore battered denim and screwed her hair back in a scruffy ponytail. That’s a part of what makes her special, a part of what elevates her above the rest of the superwaif bunch who are now an accepted part of the international fashion circuit. And the other distinguishing characteristics? Just look at these pictures with their strange combination of innocence and sexuality and make up your own mind.

Where are you and what are your surroundings like?
I’m in Paris, in my rented apartment, and it’s really nice.

Describe yourself in three words.
Oh my God! I’m glad I had my coffee before this. Ermm, I don’t know. Can I come back to that one? I wouldn’t say sexy. I don’t think I’m funny, but some friends think I am… I think, sometimes. What else? Dunno.

Who are your favourite band?
Oh, I’ve got lots. I like Rolling Stones and Radiohead and Suede and… the Velvet Underground.

And your favourite record?
Now I’m not sure, but for a while it was Bjork’s Venus As A Boy.

What’s the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon?
Just chilling. Not doing anything. Like yesterday, I watched EastEnders omnibus and cooked. I don’t like cooking but I like eating, so my friend cooks and I eat. Then we sat around and drank wine and played backgammon and watched videos. Not very exciting, but a good day.

What do you spend the most money on?
Clothes, probably. I don’t buy loads but I spend more on that than going out.

Who is your favourite designer?
John Galliano, Helmut Lang, Martin Margiela, Vivienne Westwood.

And your fave piece of clothing?
Vivienne just gave me loads and loads of little things and there’s this little pink and cerise mohair dress which is really cute. Oh and I’ve tried and tried but I just can’t get out of my Adidas trainers.

What do you do in your spare time?
Just have friends over and listen to music and talk… oh, and go shopping! A lot!

What’s your idea of a perfect night out?
To go to a restaurant and then to go to a club where all my friends are. A club in London, a funky one.

And who would be your ideal date?
Keanu Reeves. Ooh, there’s lots of people I think are sexy.

First crush?
It was Matt Dillon, but at school I had my first crush on somebody called Scott Wilson. It was a major crush! I snogged him once but after that we just became friends. I was about 14, I think. I’ve seen Matt Dillon in clubs, but I didn’t go and chat him up. He’s got a bad reputation in New York so that kinda put me off.

When you shot the Calvin Klein campaign with Marky Mark, did you fancy him?
No. Not really. He didn’t fancy me either, I don’t think. We weren’t each others types. He was this young homeboy, like really young, and he likes girls with big butts and big tits and shit and I don’t really fit in that category. 

So how does it feel to be the object of so much male attention?
I don’t know if I am a sex symbol, I don’t think I am. I dunno! It’s cute that teenage boys want to put pictures on their walls. I don’t get chatted up so much any more, I’m sure I’m intimidating now. I used to get chatted up a lot more.

What’s the best chat-up line you’ve heard?
My ex-boyfriend (Mario Sorrenti) said he wanted to take pictures of me. He got my phone number and rang me up to say he wanted to make me a model. That was funny. I don’t really use one myself, I just flirt.

How much does it take to get you drunk?
Loads! It depends, if I’ve eaten I can drink all night, but it depends on the circumstances and what else I’ve done. I drink gin and tonic. It’s delicious!

What’s your worst fault?
Not knowing when to say no, when to stop with anything. Knowing when to say no but not saying no. Knowing you should but not doing it, that’s a big fault of mine. Oh, and not phoning anyone back and not keeping in touch with my family.

The boring question: did you always want to be a model?
No. I wanted to travel, but I didn’t know how to. I thought I’d go to college and do travel and tourism or something boring like that. Thank God I didn’t or I’d be in a travel agent’s behind a desk right now.

What were you like before you started modeling?
I was quite shy at school. I was the girl that all the boys used to be friends with, not the girl that boys fancied. I didn’t really have a boyfriend, I was just one of the lads that hung out.

Ever break the law?
Yeah, but I never got caught! Nothing really serious. Like when we were young we used to go into Tesco and nick things – I actually never did nick because I just couldn’t do it, I was just too paranoid, but my friends used to and I would stand and watch for them to see if anyone was going to catch them.

Should cannabis be legalized?
Yeah.

Do you smoke?
Yeah. Who’s going to say ‘no, no, I don’t’ now? Nobody hides it any more, it’s not like a drug. People just get it out and skin up.

Rumours were rife at the Paris collections last month that numerous girls were indulging in serious drug abuse to help keep their weight down. Any truth in that?
I’ve never really been that paranoid about my weight so I would never go to that extreme, and I don’t know anyone who does. It’s ridiculous. Actually I suppose I know one girl who does, but she just lives with a friend of mine. I don’t think that many girls do.

So do you have to worry about what you eat?
No. I’ve never been on a diet. But I can put on weight. When I’m in Paris during the shows I lose weight because I’m rushing around but if I’m in LA or New York I do fill out a bit. Not like loads of weight, but people do notice.

Ever want to swap the skinny Kate Moss look for, say, Helena Christiansen’s curves?
Yeah, all the time. I always used to want to have silicon implants! I wouldn’t now, but when I was younger I was like ‘yes, definitely, I want tits’. I was desperate for tits. I would still like a bit more than I’ve got, but unless they grow a bit…

But it’s been said that personality is more important than proportion in modeling right now.
I don’t think actually that is true. I think it’s more about the photographers showing what they’re about than them showing what the girls are about, do you know what I mean? They say it’s more real but it’s just more real to them, it’s not really real. It’s not sometimes even real to the model, it’s just real to the photographer because they’re the interpreter, the one with the vision. Personality is really important now, though. Sensitivity. It’s more than a picture with clothes in it because that’s kinda boring now. You’d be as well just doing catalogue pictures. You have to put emotion into it now, it has changed.

Is there anything you wouldn’t do in a photoshoot?
I wouldn’t wear fur, but you don’t get asked to do that so much any more. It depends on the time and the day and who the photographer is. You can say yes to somebody just because you know them and know the picture won’t get used out of context. Sometimes you look a the clothes you have to wear and think ‘nasty!’ but it’s your job so you just put them on and work it.

You must like being photographed, surely?
No! I don’t mind being on the set now, but I still don’t like snapshots. But it’s undercover photographers that are worst, you don’t even know that they’re taking a photo then the next day it’s in the paper and you’re like ‘shit!’ It’s so annoying.

Has success changed you?
To a certain extent it does, even if you don’t want it to. You can’t help it, your surroundings and your life are so different. But I’m still the same person, it just affects your outlook.

Do you think your success changed anything in modeling; paved the way for the acceptance of girls who didn’t fulfil the traditional modeling criteria?
In a way I did, but the fashion industry are like sheep – if one person does something, then everyone’s going to do it. I think it is brilliant though, because there are both big and little girls around now rather than one acceptable size and shape.

What’s most important to you now – money, fame or sex?
Oh, definitely sex! Rather than money or fame, it has to be sex.

Do you ever get paranoid about your appearance?
Sometimes I get up in the morning and look in the mirror  and think shit, I’m looking rough. I look kinda rough just now actually, I need to go on a sunbed ‘cos I’m all pasty and white.

Another boring question:  what will you be doing in ten years time?
I don’t want to carry on modeling as long as Lauren Hutton but I don’t know what else I’m going to do. Something’s going to come along. I thought about photography because on set you learn so much about images and the way things work, but I don’t know now. Lots of my friends are photographers and I don’t really want to be one.

There was a bit of a furore earlier this year concerning an underwear story you did for British Vogue, which hit the headlines because, it was said, you looked under age.
That felt a bit weird. I could have said something about it at the time, but that would have just been entering into their game so I didn’t. I knew that the pictures weren’t intended to be what they say they were, and it was really nothing – they just made a fuss about it. They’re going to write things that aren’t true about you all the time – it just goes over your head at the end of the day. I mean, then I was like ‘Oh my God, that’s really horrible saying that’. Paedophile, uggh. But you can’t let it get to you.

Now Tania Court (i-D’s cover girl in October) is in the papers with ‘is she/isn’t she’ anorexic stories.
She is thin, but then so are a lot of girls. What is she supposed to do? Stop working just to make people happy so that she won’t be supposedly making young girls anorexic or inducing body insecurity? She’s not going to say no to work. It’s up to the people who book her – they’re the ones who are paying. If they’re not taking any notice of what the media say, then why should she? It’s the same with me. I think ‘Oh my God, what am I supposed to do? Eat and put on weight and then they’ll be happy?’ It’s like, why should we try and please people that have nothing to do with us or our lives?

Don’t you worry there might be truth in the accusations that models do adversely affect the way women perceive themselves?
Women are always going to worry about what they look like. When it was Cindy who was flavour of the month, everyone wanted to have silicon implants to get big tits. Now they say people are going to be anorexic because models have a thin body type. I don’t think women are so stupid that they look at a magazine and say ‘Oh God, I’ve got to be that thin to be fashionable’. As long as they feel good about themselves, they’re not going to worry about what’s in a fashion magazine. At least I hope not.

And that ‘waif’ word…
It’s just a label people want to use. And it’s so stupid. What’s the dictionary definition of waif anyway? I’m not a lost, underfed child or whatever it means.

Finally: are you a tax exile?
I’m not telling you! I can’t really: the tax man will be after me. I don’t talk money, it’s completely insensitive. You get ridiculous things, you know, and if you talk about it to normal people they’re just like ‘fuck, why weren’t we born beautiful’. That’s what somebody said to me the other say. I mean, I do work hard, but it’s just a different kind of work. I don’t like talking about it though.

But you do make a fortune, so isn’t money important?
No, it’s not important to be rich – it’s just important for everyone to have some money. Just a little bit is nice.