Kate Moss: ‘I was only 15 and he said, ‘take your top off’ and I could feel there was something wrong’

UK runway queen opens up in an interview with BBC radio show ‘Desert Island Discs’ about key moments in her life and career

Kate Moss
Kate Moss backstage at a fashion show in 1991.

UK supermodel Kate Moss isn’t one to dwell on her past, but, at 48, she recently agreed to be interviewed by Lauren Laverne on BBC Radio 4′s Desert Island Discs, opening up about some of the more distressing moments that have peppered an otherwise dazzling career.

As the interview got underway, Moss touched upon a harrowing incident at a photo shoot just one year after was signed as a model in 1988. “I had a horrible experience with a bra catalog. I was only 15 and he said, ‘take your top off’ and I was really shy and I could feel there was something wrong and I got my stuff and ran away. I think it sharpened my instincts,” said Moss, who has been running the Kate Moss Agency since 2016.

Although her career has been one of the most successful in the industry, Moss acknowledged that some of her most iconic shoots were not without an element of trauma, such as the black and white Summer of Love pictures that graced the cover of The Face, and launched her supermodel status in July 1990 when she was still 16.

Responsible for the shoot that took place at Camber Sands beach in Sussex was photographer Corinne Day. She and Moss were friends, but Moss says that Corinne pushed her into going topless, reducing her to tears. “I was really self-conscious about my body and she would say, ‘If you don’t take your top off, I’m not going to book you for Elle. And I would cry. It’s painful [to go back there]. Because she was my best friend and I really loved her but she was a very tricky person to work with. But, you know, the pictures are amazing, so she got what she wanted and I suffered for them but, in the end, they did me the world of good. I mean, they did change my career.”

Another of her most memorable photo shoots was the one she did for the 1992 Calvin Klein underwear campaign, which also came at a price. Moss reveals to Laverne that she took Valium to cope with the anxiety of participating in such a high-profile gig, one in which she co-starred with the male model and actor Mark Wahlberg, and in which she again had to go topless. “He was very macho,” she says, referring to Wahlberg, and adds that besides feeling objectified, she also felt “vulnerable and scared. I think they played on my vulnerability. I was quite young and innocent. Calvin loved that.”

Kate Moss and Corinne Day in 2007 at an exhibition of Moss’s portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Kate Moss and Corinne Day in 2007 at an exhibition of Moss’s portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in London.CORDON PRESS

In 1993, Moss worked again with Corinne Day, this time for the cover of the British edition of Vogue. The images, which showed Moss in her underwear in her apartment, were extremely controversial. The style was dubbed heroin chic and she was accused of glorifying thinness and drug use. In her defense, Moss says, “I think I was a scapegoat for a lot of people’s problems. I was never anorexic, never have been. I’ve also never taken heroin. I was thin because I didn’t get fed at shoots or shows and I’d always been thin.”

Some years later, in 2005, the model was once again making headlines when The Daily Mirror published images of what appeared to be the model taking cocaine, earning her the nickname Cocaine Kate. Moss observes in the interview that she wasn’t doing anything anyone else around her wasn’t doing and it was unfair to single her out. “I felt sick and was quite angry because everybody I knew took drugs,” she says. “So, for them to focus on me and to try to take my daughter away I thought was really hypocritical.”

In the event, Moss did not lose custody of Lila who, now 19, appears to be following in her mother’s footsteps as one of the models on the Kate Moss Agency’s books, though Moss has stressed that she doesn’t need to do anything she doesn’t want to. “I’ve said to her, ‘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.”

During the interview, Moss also touches on her defense of her friend, designer John Galliano, who was found guilty of making racist and anti-Semitic remarks in 2011, and her ex-partner, actor Johnny Depp, who has recently been found not guilty of abusing his ex-wife Amber Heard in a defamation lawsuit.

“I believe in the truth and I believe in fairness and justice,” Moss says. “I know that John Galliano is not a bad person. He had an alcohol problem and people turn. People aren’t themselves when they drink and they say things they would never say if they were sober.”

Regarding Depp, who Moss dated between 1994 and 1997, she says, “I know the truth about Johnny. I know he never kicked me down the stairs. I had to say that truth.”

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