Alice Sinclair: hot fashion property
Mouthy and moody, Alice Sinclair stormed to victory in the reality show 'Make Me A Supermodel'. But it is only by rejecting her TV past, the wannabe Kate Moss tells Nick Duerden, that she's become hot fashion property
Sunday 25 September 2005
"Kate?" she says, eyes wide. "Oh, Kate's fabulous, a real inspiration. Not only has she been around for such a long time, but she gets away with so much!"
Not any more, it seems.
"Yes, but... " and here, she leans towards me in order to share, sotto voce, all sorts of hilarious, but thoroughly unsubstantiated, Moss-related rumours that would have a tabloid hack stooping to pick his jaw back up from the floor. "See?" she concludes, giggling. "Fabulous!"
As the cheekbones and jutting breastbone would suggest, Alice Sinclair is a model, and one in steady pursuit of the prefix "super". She is 18 years old, hails from Pinner, Middlesex, and earlier this year was the unsuspecting winner of Channel Five's Make Me A Supermodel, in which ostensibly ordinary, albeit pretty, girls were plucked from the street and preened into catwalk beauties.
Sinclair should never really have stood a chance of winning, frankly. Not only didn't she particularly want it - she entered the competition for a lark, and then spent much of the five-week series mooching around in pursuit of her forever pouting lower lip - she was, in her own opinion, weird looking, too much Erin O'Connor and not enough Christy Turlington.
But win she did and, unlike most reality TV victors who so often go on to become spectacularly public failures, Sinclair appears now to be bucking the trend. In the past few months, she has modelled for Fred Perry, Levi's, H&M and a done fashion shoot at Glastonbury. She is also in big demand for this season's fashion shows in London and Milan. Not bad for a girl who had anticipated a summer sitting her A-levels.
Now, it is the middle of September in London, and it is pouring with rain. She arrives a little late for our appointment in a north London pub, removes her jacket to reveal a loose yellow cotton top whose V-neck trails all the way to her navel (thus exposing much bare ribcage), and tells me she is soaking wet. Not as wet as me, I respond, proffering my jeans, which are Cellophaned to my thighs, for proof. But Sinclair goes one better. After politely asking me to order her a Black Russian - "but with diet Coke, not regular; I am a model, after all" - she * removes a silver, ballet-style shoe and encourages me to squeeze it. It is drenched and so, consequently, are her feet.
"Total nightmare," she laughs in a singsong estuary voice that carries throughout the bar. She sits down, her cocktail arrives, and she finishes it in two very hearty sucks on her straw. And then, amply fuelled, she begins to talk.
"You know, it's funny, people think modelling is so glamorous, and it is, if you happen to be Gisele or Kate Moss. But when you are stuck in London alongside 10,000 other seriously beautiful models, all of whom are somehow more striking than you, or skinnier, taller, more blonde, more tanned, whatever - and you are tramping around on public transport for 17 hours a day going to see people with your book even though you are tired, ill, cold or, in this case, dripping wet, and you get home knackered - well, then it's not so great.
"But sometimes you find yourself on a photo shoot surrounded by amazing people who have travelled the world, seen amazing things, and can speak seven languages and are just fascinating company and then you think, 'Well, hang on. This is actually pretty good.'" Here, she pauses for breath and, realising that her Black Russian is history, promptly switches to mineral water.
"I've only been at this game short a time, and this is what I've learnt: there is a fine line between love and hate, and modelling hits it directly."
"Tell me," she continues. "Am I talking too much? I have a habit of talking too much. Don't be afraid to shut me up, OK?"
Let us, at this point, state the obvious: Sinclair is not what you would expect, neither from a model nor a reality TV star. She is blunt about an industry she has only just entered, is intelligent and shrewd, and if she appears somewhat embarrassed by her victory on Make Me A Supermodel, then there is a particularly pertinent reason for this: she is.
"Oh, Christ, massively!" she laughs. "It was a great opportunity, of course it was, but I hate reality TV, I hate people who chase that kind of celebrity, and if you want the truth of it, I hate the fact that it was bloody Channel Five! There goes my chance of credibility, eh?"
Consequently, she is doing everything in her meagre powers to distance herself from it. The very moment she won, she disappeared from view, refusing all requests from the channel's producers to further promote it. Instead, she changed the way she looked so that nobody would recognise her, and has opted not to use the many professional shots taken of her during the series in her portfolio. Many would consider this career suicide; Sinclair merely thinks that she should "earn" her success the way anybody else would.
"Ultimately, though," she says, "I just don't want that kind of fame. I've no desire to be caught in the toilets with a football player, and I need to get away from the whole curse of winning, you know?"
She tells me that Vogue recently turned her down due to her television past (but then she promptly got her own back, by posing for Italian Vogue), and that she suspects she won't be able to work for the magazines she loves - Tank and Dazed & Confused - for the very same reason, at least for the time being.
"As a model, you are ultimately selling your image, and my image is reality TV, unfortunately. So what I really want to do now, if I'm ever going to have a proper crack at this, is to reinvent myself completely, start all over."
Sinclair was born in 1987, and raised by her Irish mother, Stephanie, in a leafy London suburb. A promising student, she was set to study geography at the LSE before modelling intervened. But Sinclair never felt popular among her peers, largely because of her big eyes and endless limbs. At 15, she began cutting her wrists and arms with razor blades, something she perhaps unwisely admitted to on the television show. It has hounded her in the press ever since.
"But it's what journalists do, isn't it?" she says. "You need something catchy for your story, and because I'm fairly normal and because I wasn't abused as a child and I'm not a drug addict or anything, well, then I'm not particularly tabloid fodder, am I? And so they've taken my self-harm thing and have blown it out of all proportion, and I'm disgusted by it. Some of the things that have been said about me in the papers have been shit and hurtful. Somebody said that by allowing me to win the show, I would set a bad example to young girls. Bollocks! How the hell am I supposed to be such a bad influence? Especially when you consider I've actually overcome those problems."
She leans forward now, anger filling every inch of her gangly frame.
"I'd never speak to those kind of journalists now, you know. My attitude is just, bugger off, don't even come near me."
At six-foot tall and almost nine stone, Sinclair is, mercifully, far from anorexic, but she could still make a stick of celery feel self-conscious about its weight. On Make Me A Supermodel, however, she was accused of being overweight.
"'Chubby' was the word they used," she laughs. "And I suppose they are right, in a way. I am definitely a larger model. You should see some of the girls out there. Really small pelvises, no hips whatsoever, the strangest measurements. In comparison, I'm practically curvy."
I smile at this preposterous suggestion, and she holds her hand up in defence. "I know, I know, it's ludicrous, but models are all 16 years old and a size four. If you have tits and hips these days, forget about it. Trust me, Cindy Crawford wouldn't get work today. It's all heroin chic, and how insane is that?"
And yet it is nevertheless an industry she wants to excel in. She loves the lifestyle and, like her idols Yasmin Le Bon and Kate Moss, she too has a musician boyfriend, although she elects not to reveal his name, age or the band he plays in, "But you've probably heard of him." (Later, and off the record, she tells me who he is. I haven't.) Through him, she has lots of friends in the industry, and is forever at music biz parties, where she is exposed to far more drugs than she has ever seen in modelling.
Is she tempted to indulge?
"Well, not really, no," she says. "I mean, sure, I'm young, I want to have fun and embrace life, but I can hardly be off my face all the time and living it up when I've been given such a fantastic opportunity, can I? We've all done naughty things, of course we have, but it's whether you let them get out of control, isn't it? And I never would. I'm too determined to succeed."
After some more scurrilous gossip for a further 20 minutes, she gets up to leave, but not for more modelling appointments. She has had it with work for today.
"I'm tired and I'm wet," she says. "And anyway, there'll be more bookings tomorrow."
Sinclair smiles sourly and, sounding like someone who has been in the business for years adds: "There are always more bookings." *
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