The model of perfection; The Saturday Profile

Kate Moss, Model
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The Independent Culture
KATE MOSS turns 25 today. She is a girl who loves to party, perhaps a little too much by her own admission. This is what landed her in a clinic late last year. But she's out of the clinic now and back on the front pages. And a girl doesn't turn 25 every day, after all. In the fash-and- trash world inhabited by Kate Moss you don't need an excuse to party, and so when there is an actual reason you can really let rip. She is often described as down to earth and "normal", but even she laughs at this. "Normal? What's normal?" she has said. "I don't know. Everyone has their own reality. I go out for a drink or to a restaurant and have a giggle and then go home. It's different people and different places, but it's still the same. `You're not normal!' That's what Lesley Ash says to Phil Daniels in Quadrophenia. I love that film. You're not normal!"

Well, she's not. Today, for instance, she is expected to open the catwalk show for her good friend, Donatella Versace. Then Donatella is throwing a little (mega) party at a Paris disco. Kate is to be the guest of honour. The music is by Massive Attack. But Kate may decide to go to Morocco instead with her current boyfriend Tarka Cordell. He is rich and handsome. Or she could slip away to meet her old boyfriend Johnny Depp. He is rich and handsome and a cad. He not only dumped her (or so the tabloids say) but also managed to be the father of Vanessa Paradis' baby at more or less the same time. But he is said to have sent her a new BMW while she was resting in that clinic. So who knows?

If you think the above paragraph is ridiculous, then you are mistaken. Anything is possible in the supermodel world. When Kate turned 21, Depp threw her a surprise party at the Viper Rooms in LA. People came from around the world, and Gloria Gaynor sang "I Will Survive". The festivities continued for days. It makes you realise that a birthday jaunt to Morocco is really quite tame. Possibly it is the supermodel equivalent of an early night.

Welcome to the world of Kate Moss. She has lived here since she was 14. Before that she was a middle-class girl from Croydon. Her childhood nickname was Mosschops, as in Katie Mosschops. She rarely wore anything but jeans, and played goal attack for the school netball team. At 12 she announced in the school cloakroom that she would like to be a model or an air hostess. Her great passion was not boys but cigarettes.

Then, at 14, she was discovered at New York's JFK airport by a Storm agency booker, Sarah Doukas. She was 5ft 7in, bandy legged and extremely skinny. "I was so excited because I had seen Sarah judging a Clothes Show competition, so I knew she was for real." Her parents had split up only a few months before and she was on the way home from a holiday with her travel agent father Peter and younger brother Nick. She had also just lost her virginity - allegedly on a beach. It is said that she once said (this kind of attribution is normal with Kate Moss) that her new sexual aura gave her fresh allure. When asked about this during an interview, she spluttered. "I did not say that. I said a lot of silly things when I was 14. I was only 14, you know."

She was not an overnight success. It took years of work to make it to the supermodel league. She knows rejection all too well. "It's hard. It's not easy for a girl to go to casting every day and get rejected by eight different groups of people who say `You're not for this job, you're too small', or whatever." You just have to deal with it," she says. And she did. Then in 1990 she appeared in the "Summer of Love" fashion shoot by Corinne Day and rocketed to superwaifdom. Suddenly she was everywhere. She remembers it as a time of "getting 10 flights a week and just crying all the time". By 1993 she had a Calvin Klein contract. She was 19.

For Kate Moss, being famous meant that she became rich very quickly. But it also meant that she was blamed for a lot of things that she had nothing to do with. She was criticised for encouraging paedophilia. She was too waif-like. She was too grungy. She was the cause of "heroin chic". And, most of all, she was just too skinny. "I was on a plane once and the lady behind the desk got all funny with me, going: `My daughter is starving herself to death because of you.' And I was like: `Hello? I do eat!'" And how. In every interview ever conducted with Kate Moss she is stuffing her face. In the introduction to her book of fashion photographs - it is titled, rather surreally, Kate - she adds a PS: "I'm just on my way out to dinner, to eat a massive steak and loads of very fattening potatoes with lots of butter."

We are still obsessed with this subject. Last week it was decided that Kate had put on weight. But she looked her usual skinny self in the photograph and, if anything, she has gone from being a pipecleaner to a Twiglet. Wow. But over the past years the press has also become concerned about other things about "our Kate". Her drinking, for instance. A few months ago she was described by the Mail as a "hardened vodka-drinker" who was never without her hip-flask of the stuff. And then there are the drugs. She has said that she "doesn't do any more drugs than anyone else". This may be true, but it would be interesting to know what "anyone else" does in her world.

Not that any of this touches Kate Moss that much. She has that Teflon way about her. This is because although she may not be normal, she is a lot more normal than most supermodels. She is the smallest and the coolest. She doesn't spend her free time writing tacky novels or opening restaurants or dating David Copperfield. People say that she is a joy to work with and doesn't have an attitude. She manages to be nice when it's 15 below and she's wearing a flimsy dress and standing in the middle of Bodmin Moor. She smiles, she is helpful, she is wonderful to photograph. She does not throw tantrums like Naomi Campbell. Not that she's always on time. It's just that the others are even less on time than she is. Take this, from David Bailey's interview with her:

Bailey: Is it part of the training that they teach you to be late or is it a natural instinct?

Kate: I don't think all models are late. I think it's in my blood. My mum's always late. But I'll be, like, an hour late. Naomi is late late.

Bailey: I did a job with her in South Africa and she was three days late! When you wake up in the morning, do you think, "I'll keep Bailey waiting for three hours?

Kate: It never happens on purpose. It just happens.

The first thing everyone says about Kate Moss is that she is beautiful. Then they say that she is beautiful in an accessible sort of way. The other supermodels are seen as hard; Kate is soft. She has a "kitten face". Her eyes are expressive, and they do in fact seem to talk a lot of the time. Her look is endlessly versatile. But there is something else about Kate Moss, and it is perhaps the most important. She has style. "She has that Monroe factor," says a friend. This may be true, but she dresses much better than Marilyn ever did.

"At 15 I went to the Wag Club. Everyone was wearing Vivienne Westwood. That was it", she has said of her passion for clothes. She now has three wardrobes full of them, and says it is still not enough. "Kate loves clothes," writes Vogue's fashion editor, Lisa Armstrong. "Believe it or not, some models can take them or leave them. They genuinely don't see the thrill. In an ideal world they'd slump around in a pair of Levi's, a Fruit of the Loom T-shirt and unspeakable shoes for the rest of their days. Or else they spend their lives being painted, styled, coiffed and photographed by the world's greats and still learn nothing. Not Kate. She has absorbed the heady, high-gloss aesthetic of the catwalk and studio and blended it seamlessly with her own grittier taste."

Her style is eclectic. She mixes designer and second-hand. She loves heels. She wears diamonds. She is eccentric with favourite pieces, including a Helmut Lang and a pair of Westwood rocking-horse shoes. But her look is not weird, boho or stylised. Increasingly it is glossy, glamorous, classic. "You won't see her wearing pink because it's this season's colour but because she found a great antique rose twinset on Melrose that she had to have," writes Armstrong.

It looks effortless, and yet we all know that you have to work like hell to make anything look that easy. And that is perhaps what really makes Kate Moss much more than just another supermodel who has to stage a comeback at the age of 25. Two years ago her mother was asked how she saw her daughter's future. "Married with children," she replied. Kate has reached a stage where it all seems a bit empty, and she is supposed to have sought the services of a spiritualist. "I can't go out on my own, even if I need a packet of fags. When I look at billboards of myself 40ft high in the street, I don't see myself any more. I just see an image of what someone's trying to advertise, and that's sad."

Perhaps, though, that is just reality. Her reality. Her completely abnormal normality. It seems incredible that someone with as much going for her as Kate Moss is going to let this fact of advertising life get her down. After all, she is 25, is worth pounds 3m and dresses like a dream. Perhaps someone should go up and shout at her: "You're not normal." Somehow I don't think "married with children" really sums up her future. Her future lies in fashion. Anyone can see that.

Ann Treneman

Life Story

Born: 16 January 1974 to Peter and Linda Moss. They split when she was 14.

Childhood: Croydon. Has been described as the biggest thing to hit the place since the Inland Revenue offices. Educated at Ridgeway Junior School, followed by Riddlesdown High School.

Nicknames: Mosschops. Mossy. Sex on a Stick Insect. Cool Britannia.

Key to success: "People keep booking me because I've got this thing where I just know what the other person wants."

Friends say: "She's reached a point where she wants something a bit real."

She says: "I used to get upset about taking my clothes off, now I'll get my tits out at any chance. At shows, you don't notice it. You take your clothes off and put more on."