i-Q: kristen mcmenamy
We look back at our 1996 issue, where Christopher Hemblade got the insider gossip from fashion's first lady. She's the Madonna of modeling, a motormouth who's made the transition from superfreak to superchic.
In our cover shot you're covered in bruises. Where did they come from?
I'm sorry to report it was only a fashion accident. I had to fall onto this mattress which wasn't very springy and I heard a crack. I kinda like, laughed it off, but then it got more painful so I went to the hospital and it was fractured. I keep telling people it involved my boyfriend Miles Aldridge and a mattress — but he was only taking the pictures.
I see you as the Madonna of the modeling world.
I like that! She plans it more than me, though.
Do you feel like you're in competition with other models?
I think I've got in a fight with every girl, that's normal. I like Naomi because she's a character. The industry needs her because she creates excitement, and love her or hate her, she's Naomi. I like Kate Moss because she's such a simple, sweet girl. She hasn't changed and so many do, it's really horrifying. They become monsters. I don't choose to be Amber Valletta's friend. I don't hate her, she just makes no mark on me. If you want to call that boring...
Have you ever walked off a shoot?
All the time because of lack-of-taste editorial. I'm sorry, but there are some pictures I just can't be in. Not if I know at the time it's going to end up looking shameful. All you can do is walk out, there's no explaining why in that situation. In that way I am unprofessional.
There's a story that you sent the hairstylist Christophe a lock of your hair with a note saying, 'you bastard.'
Oh, I'm always looking for some thing to entertain myself. He said he was going to do Linda Evangelista, and as a joke I said not to send us down the catwalk with the same hair color, because who's going to be the one copying who in people's eyes? He said not to worry. So in Milan I was like, "somebody give me a pair of scissors." Everybody said "don't do it, you're drunk," but I just cut it all off and said "here, take your color back."
What do you think about when you're walking down the catwalk?
Never the people in the audience. Not tripping.
What, on acid?
No, then I'd be like crawling!
Do you ever panic?
I get terrible stage fright which usually goes away, but sometimes it doesn't and I freeze. It's like being stuck in those dreams when you're young, naked in the middle of the schoolyard.
Do you get sick of all the fashion industry bullshit?
Definitely! People pretending to like people ... I became a pro at it!
You once said you'd rather have been a whore in Paris than a model. Is it really like that?
Not for me, but it would be if I let it. A lot of girls do, the agents make them whores and send them there and there and there. I got lucky because I could work with the people I wanted to. I'm proud of my career, but when this over I could be a whore, that's another option.
Seriously, what would you really like to do?
Maybe acting. I'm not sure, I need to settle and stop living in hotels before I can concentrate.
You could always be a TV presenter.
Yeah, but I'd probably rip the piss out of everybody! I'd love to be an opera singer but I think it's a bit late for that. How about a stunt woman?
You've already done that! Do you ever feel like just settling down to look after your baby?
Oh, yeah. When I cut my hair off and plucked my eyebrows, for two years I was a freak. Then I got pregnant, went back to stay in Pennsylvania, and was just ready to be a mother.
Who's your role model?
I'd love to say my yoga instructor. I don't see any role models in the entertainment world.
Are you a happy person?
Oh, I get terribly depressed... it goes with the job. I cry and throw things. People who treat me bad I tell to fuck off, but it's the tiredness.
What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you?
Oh, I've been blessed! Best thing in modeling is my i-D covers, worst is my Vogue covers. And another worst thing, no photographer has ever made a pass at me!
Anybody you'd like to murder?
Do you want me to fax you a list? I can't go to jail, I've got kids! I can mentally torture them, though.
Who would you like to be reincarnated as?
An ugly fashion photographer who gets to photograph the most beautiful women in the world. A straight photographer, of course.
What would you do with five minutes left to live?
I'd pray and say sorry for everything I've done. Then I'd give Gianni Versace and Steven Meisel a call.
Interview by Christopher Hemblade
Photography Juergen Teller, Styling Edward Enninful. [The Alternative Issue, no. 150, March 1996]