Supermodel Behaviour: What Katie did next

When Kate Moss was pictured taking cocaine on the front page of a national newspaper, many predicted her career was over. Instead, there has been a textbook rehabilitation of her public image. By Maxine Frith
Click to follow
The Independent Online


Like the Royal Family, Kate Moss's attitude towards the media has always been "never explain, never complain", but the drugs scandal forced the supermodel into a rare public statement on her private life. When the story first broke, her reaction to reporters in New York was: "I don't want to know. Fuck off, just fuck off!" But as H&M sacked her and Chanel, Burberry and Rimmel began making ominous noises about following suit, pressure grew on Moss to say more. A week after the pictures of her taking cocaine appeared in the Daily Mirror, she issued a statement through the Storm model agency: "I take full responsibility for my actions. I also accept there are personal issues I need to address and have started the difficult, yet necessary, steps to resolve them. I want to apologise to all the people I have let down. My behaviour has reflected badly on my friends, family, co-workers, business associates and others. I am trying to be positive and the support and love I have received are invaluable." It may not have been a total mea culpa, but the next day Rimmel issued a press release saying that Moss's statement was a "positive step", and the tide began to turn her way.

Verdict of PR expert Mark Borkowski: It was a big story and as all the brands started to move away, her minders recognised the danger and put out a public statement. To a certain extent it held the ground.


Having issued an apology, the next step for Moss was the rehabilitation clinic. She had spent four weeks in London's Priory Clinic in 1998, but for this sojourn she chose The Meadows in Wickenberg, Arizona. Alumni include fellow supermodel Elle Macpherson, Whitney Houston, Paul Gascoigne and It-girl Tara Palmer-Tompkinson. The £20,000 bill for a month's stay is certainly reassuringly expensive, but those in the know say the Meadows' programme is as tough as any boot camp. It is based on the 12-step programme devised for Alcoholics Anonymous: patients are cut off from the outside world and subjected to a strict regime of early nights, 6am wake up calls and endless rounds of group therapy. Moss was banned from smoking or using her mobile phone and was only allowed visits on a Sunday. She also missed her daughter Lila's third birthday party. She checked out at the end of October. The fact that less than a week later, she was back at work on a modelling shoot in Ibiza said that she had rehabilitated in all senses of the word.

Mark Borkowski's verdict: The usual cliché for every celebrity is to go into rehab; they check in and when they get out they behave badly again. But Kate checked herself into the best clinic and it demonstrated she meant it. It was a three-pronged response to a) stop the media hype; b) the brands, to say I'm going to sort it out; and c) to the public. She was admitting she had a problem and was doing something about it.


Having got drugs out of her system, everyone agreed that the next habit for Moss to break was Pete Doherty. Before she met the singer, part of her longevity as a model had been based on the mystique surrounding her; everyone thought Moss a party animal, but few saw her out of control. But the blame for the taking - and leaking - of the cocaine pictures was laid firmly at the door of Doherty and his friends. While Moss was in rehab, he continued to grace the front pages with tales of his drinking and being arrested. The model apparently tried to get Doherty to clean up, paying for him to check into the Meadows clinic where she had been treated. He left the centre after a week and was arrested on suspicion of possessing class-A drugs. The death knell for the relationship appears to have been Doherty selling his story to The Sun, in which he claimed Moss went into rehab to save her career and dumped him because he was not rich enough to buy her diamonds.

Mark Borkowski's verdict: Shrewd move. She put Pete Doherty on notice and distanced herself from him.


Life in London life was always going to be difficult, with the police waiting to interview her about her drug use, the paparazzi ready to dog her every step and a group of friends whose every peccadillo was on the front pages. So Moss did what only the super-rich and connected can do: moved out of her house in London and upped sticks to the US. There had been lurid tales of three-in-a-bed sex with her Primrose Hill friends Sadie Frost and Jude Law, and lesbian liaisons. Moss's move stateside put some distance between her and their antics, and means she has also managed to put off being interviewed by British police.

Mark Borkowski's verdict: By stepping outside the Primrose Hill set she was saying: "Focus on me and what I am; not as a part of them, being dragged down."


For someone whose career was deemed to be over three months ago, Moss has staged a remarkable revival. H&M may now be regretting their sacking of the model, given that others are queuing up to hire her. With an estimated £12m of work lined up over the coming months, some fashion watchers believe she could soon be earning more than she did before the scandal. The designer Stella McCartney is said to be in talks with the model about fronting her autumn/winter 2006 collection and she has also signed a £500,000 deal with the French luggage company Longchamps. Within days of leaving rehab, she was on a modelling assignment for the Italian designer Roberto Cavalli, while Calvin Klein is said to be offering a seven-figure contract. After initially distancing themselves from Moss, Burberry and Rimmel have continued their association. Vanity Fair magazine, one the arbiter's of who is in or out in A-list society, featured Moss on its front cover just seven weeks after the drug story broke.

Mark Borkowski's verdict: Her management team used the cult image and the notoriety of her danger to attach to fashion brands that were not high street, but very much at the higher end and could handle danger and risk. For every high-street brand that didn't want to get involved, there was an excellent one that did because of what she stood for.


The drug and sex allegations may have had Middle England choking on its morning cornflakes, but in Moss's circle, there was a more sanguine reaction. Her friends were soon out in force to back the model. Her former lover, the actor Johnny Depp, said: "It was unbelievably unfair the way she was treated. She's a good mum and she just happens to be human and the press wouldn't allow that." Sir Elton John, a rehab veteran, also came to her aid. As Moss went into rehab, he said: "She's a great girl and I love her to death." Her friend Sadie Frost predicted, rightly it seems now, that Moss would "bounce back bigger and better". Mario Testino, above, the photographer who has often worked with Moss, called the treatment of the model "cruel".

Mark Borkowski's verdict: The media and celebrity backing really helped. She never took any of the instant media fixes. She stayed true to the enigma of Kate Moss and let them speak for her. She never poured her heart out on a chat show.


So she's issued the apology, done the rehab, dumped her boyfriend, moved to the US and revived her career - it seems an understatement to say that 2005 has been a tumultuous year for Kate Moss. But she is being rewarded for her efforts. French Vogue went ahead with their pre-scandal plans to have the model edit their December issue, with pages of photos of her as well as written pieces commissioned by her. The weekly magazine Grazia last week named Moss as this year's best-dressed woman in the world. With an average of eight stories a week in British newspapers in the past month alone, it is clear that the Moss name is a big seller. However, there may be one award that Moss would rather not be associated with; the Daily Mirror won Scoop of the Year for its pictures of her snorting cocaine.

Mark Borkowski's verdict: What she did do was clever. She edited French Vogue. She was also helped by a bit of luck when the story about David Cameron and possible drug-taking emerged. His statement about himself diminished what the media had got on its high horse about six months ago.


Her last experience of being on film was the secretly taped video of her snorting cocaine, but Moss's next foray on to the small screen shows how far she has come since the scandal broke in September. Viewers of ITV on Christmas Eve will see the model in an advert for Virgin Mobile, during which she sends up her recent turmoil. The £1.2m deal with Sir Richard Branson's phone firm completes Moss's rehabilitation and includes her first ever speaking role. Moss "will impress a lot of people with her great comic timing," Sir Richard said as the advance publicity for the ads was launched this week. It will be shown at peak time during the Ant and Dec Christmas Takeaway show on Saturday. Moss has gone from seedy cokehead to prime time television in 12 weeks. Not bad for a woman once in danger of simply being remembered as Cocaine Kate.

Mark Borkowski's verdict: Her people were looking at the adults' brands that might buy into her image. What she'd done was quite rock 'n' roll by contrast. And the contract for Virgin Mobile became a publicity stunt in itself. This has been a well-polished exercise, but it hasn't run its course yet. Just as it was too soon to write off Kate Moss, her actions have to be of absolute integrity because you can't mess up a second chance and recover as quickly.