Being Alexa Chung: Television's hottest property

She is the girl of the moment and one of TV's fastest-rising young stars. She's beautiful, she's talented and her boyfriend's an Arctic Monkey. But what makes Alexa Chung tick? She talks to Deborah Ross about style, celebrity and, er, the joy of reading Sophocles

All I know about Alexa Chung before I meet her is that she is, in no particular order: 1) young; 2) beautiful; 3) a fashion icon; 4) talented; 5) the cool girlfriend of some cool boy from some cool band.

Honestly? I do not like the sound of her one bit and, frankly, resent having to drag my old arse out the door to meet her. You try dragging my old arse somewhere it doesn't want to go. It's no joke. Still, with much cajoling and giddy-upping – "Look, old arse, we all have to do some things we don't want to do sometimes; let's at least be professional about it" – I eventually get it to the pub in Islington where we have arranged to meet. She has already arrived. She is 23, the bitch, and is wearing over-the-knee socks, as you might if you had her long, long legs, but does this make her any less of a bitch? I think not and my old arse thinks not. On this, we are agreed.

Alexa used to be a model, but is now a TV presenter. She is one of the main anchors for Channel 4's youth slot, T4, presents the daily morning music show Freshly Squeezed and is about to present a new reality show, Vanity Lair. Her boyfriend, by the way, is Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys. Do you, I ask, do his laundry? "No," she says. Well, now that this Alex has been covered, I feel we can properly get on with it.

It's true, she is very beautiful. And she is beautifully dressed. Aside from the over-knee-socks, which is just showing off, it's a smock dress "from PPQ" and black, patent heels by "Pedro Garcia". They are both very excellent labels, I say, as if I know. I then add: but if, Alexa, you had to – had to – buy all your clothes from one high-street fashion shop, which would it be? "Hennes," she says, "and Topshop." But that's two, I protest. "I can't have two?" she queries. OK, I say, you seem very nice, and not that bitchy, so you can have two. "Thank you so much," she says. She is nice, actually. And warm and friendly and funny and who knows, maybe she'll work it for my teenage son to go see the Monkeys that are Arctic. He would like that a lot. I hope she realises I was only joshing when I said she was a bitch; that I was only poking fun at my sad old self. If that doesn't cut it I'll just say what I always say: it was the arse that made me do it.

She used to be a model, but not any more. How come? She says she just got totally fed up of it and, in the end, couldn't even stir herself sufficiently to attend castings. Go on, I urge her, tell some stories about how awful it is being a model. Everyone gets off on those. OK, she says, one time "I did a shoot for Now magazine in Finland and it was meant to be a sexy secretary story..." She pauses, then adds: "This is such a low ebb." All the better, I say, encouragingly. "I had to swap with the other model there," she continues, "because although she was meant to be the underwear model, she started crying because her boyfriend was unhappy with her doing it. So I said: 'Fuck it, I'll do it. I don't give a shit.' They took us to a paper factory where I had to sit on top of what was basically a massive loo-roll, while all the people who worked there watched me in my suspenders. It was really, really horrible, actually."

As a model, she did a lot of cover-girl work for teen mags, as well as adverts for products like Fanta and Sunsilk, although I don't think she was ever the girl with the sun in her hair, as that was 1969. She didn't do a lot of high fashion because, she says, her look "is too cheesy, too commercial". I say I only ever went to one catwalk show – the office thought it would be funny to send me to cover one (ha, ha) – and was astonished by the way the models stomped so poundingly down the runway. "It's the aggression," she says, "because they are all really, really hungry." It was, I continue, a Julien Macdonald show and afterwards I introduced myself and as a joke – as a joke – asked: "So, Julien, pockets in or out this year?" And you know what, Alexa? He turned his back on me. "That," says Alexa, "means pockets are out." We laugh. Still, he could have just said, couldn't he?

Alexa Chung presents 'Vanity Lair' on Sundays at 1pm on Channel 4



© Tiger Aspect



She was born and brought up in Privett, Hampshire. Her father, Phil, is a graphic designer who is three- quarters Chinese, while her mother, Gill, is English, a housewife, and "the nicest person on earth". Your first label, Alexa? "Oilily," she says. "I had an Oilily culottes and jacket outfit. It was yellow with a flower print. I wore it to the primary-school disco and loved it." Were you a beautiful child? No way, she insists. She was, she continues, ridiculous to behold. "I was very gawky, very, very skinny, pin-thin, and a bit uncoordinated because when your limbs grow so fast, you can't catch up. It didn't work out so well for a few years."

But not too many years. At 14, she was scouted by the model agency, Elite, but "nothing really came of it and I wasn't that enthralled anyway". Her test shots, she says, were rubbish. "I was hyper-shy and really embarrassed so my face was very, very red." She was scouted again at 16 while at the Reading festival – aren't we all? – and that's when she started modelling proper.

She could, though, have gone to university. She got two As (English, Art) and a B (History) at A-level and had a place at King's College, London, to study English. So you like books, then? She did like books, she says, "but the only things I read at the moment are autocues and scripts". She says she bought The Picture of Dorian Gray the other day, and is determined to give it a go. "I must have been passionate about books previously so I am trying to rediscover that I liked to read once." Who do you remember liking? She loved Philip Larkin, she says. Anyone else? "At school, I took extra English in my lunch hour because I loved it so much, and when we did Sophocles I was like, wow, Sophocles is amazing." She says she absolutely plans to go back and do that degree one day. She adds that she did think for a while about being a fashion journalist. I say fashion journalism is no fun because you can't be rude about anybody. I mean, when was the last time you read a piece saying Armani has lost it or that Julien Macdonald's latest collection is crap (which I'm sure it is; too much nasty sparkle and too many pockets going in)? She says: "Is that one of the greatest pleasures then, of being a journalist: being rude?" You bet, I say. Sometimes, it's only the prospect of being rude that gets this old arse out of bed.

Her first TV job was on Popworld, where she developed a neat, amusingly sarcastic style of interviewing bands (do watch her interview with Panic In The Disco on YouTube ) and now she has Vanity Lair, which is what exactly? "It's a show that investigates what it means to be attractive," she explains. "It's based in an opulent house and it starts with 10 people who have voted themselves 10 out of 10, as attractive as they can possibly be. Each week we add three new people to the mix and they have to decide who stays, after having spent time with them." Good? "Really fun," she says.

We finish our time together chatting about this and that. She lives, it turns out, in Spitalfields "in a really sweet little street where all the hookers hang out". She likes to watch DVDs on an evening in. Or "I host Uno parties, drink whisky, and get really competitive over a child's game. I love Uno, and Connect 4." As for this Alex Turner, "going out with him is like going out with any boyfriend, except he goes away a lot and people pester me to be put on guest lists." (How could they?) We finish when she has to go to the launch of the Elle Style Awards, which she will be presenting. So off she lopes, on those impossible legs. I think I warmed to her, as did my old arse. An old arse can do that; warm for no reason. I should have warned her.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be Lonely Island's second Hollywood venture following their 2007 film Hot Rod
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Day-Lewis stars in the movie There Will Be Blood
music
Arts and Entertainment
Brush with greatness: the artist Norman Cornish in 1999
art
Life and Style
Stress less: relaxation techniques can help focus the mind and put problems in context
art
Arts and Entertainment

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment