Sunday, December 4

Take off your bra! Put on some weight! Kate Moss speaks out after decades of being talked down to | Zoe-Williams

yesor many things Kate Moss said on Desert Island Discs were shocking and yet not shocking, but before any of that, just the sound of her voice was absolutely arresting. For over 30 years, she has been the sphinx at the very center of the culture: no chat shows, no panel games; no podcasts or voiceovers; no Simpsons cameo, no gentle segue into the kind of familiarity where someone who sounds a bit like her could make a decent living doing voiceovers for radio ads. She has been, at various points, just about the most famous person in the country, without anyone who didn’t know her being able to say with certainty what she sounded like. And maybe it’s because she’s really shy, as she told Lauren Laverne on Sunday, or maybe it’s because she made a decision, at the age of 14, that she wouldn’t become public property – in which case, she’s just about the wisest person , famous or otherwise, who ever lived.

It’s terribly sad to hear what it was like to be a model in 1990, partly because it’s probably exactly the same today. Moss described going to a casting for a bra catalog when she was 15, and some garden-variety predator asking her to take her bra off of her. It’s such a low move. An equal could retort, “Why do you need to see me without a bra, when you’re specifically hiring me to wear a bra?” It’s a pure leverage of shabby, middle-ranking power.

She talked about the photographer Corinne Day, who was a friend of hers, and yet still steamrolled her into – what else? – being naked, for the 1990 Camber Sands shoot for The Face that not only made Day’s name and Moss’s, but also Cool Britannia’s. Then Moss talked about her crippling anxiety before the equally seminal Calvin Klein shoot in 1992, rooted, it sounds, in that nightmare hall of mirrors, where she was lauded for her beauty, yet expected to surrender her autonomy in its service – and smile while she was at it.

If that sounds particularly judgmental towards the fashion industry, it isn’t really, because the rest of the world wasn’t any better, it was just further away. The 90s overflowed with rumors about Kate Moss – that she was dumb, that she was a druggie, that she used not to be dumb before she was a druggie, or – counter view – that she had always been dumb, because she grew up in Croydon. Misogyny and snobbery collided to produce a cloud of disapproval that sounded arch and knowing but was base and irrational, almost medieval.

It came to a head in 2005 when some tawdry story about cocaine cost her millions in lost advertising campaigns. It made no sense. Cocaine in 2005, as it had been in the 90s, as it is now, was just a trundling, out-of-office-autoreply of a story. Stories about traces found in the toilets of the Royal Opera House, the BBC! Traces on every banknote! Come back to me, moral majority, when you have some drug dirt on a figure whose drug use actually matters, such as someone who is running a government department. If you’re only going to go after models and rock stars, that’s just bullying.

When she wasn’t the poster girl for “partying” and “heroin chic”Kate Moss was being blamed for being the model peddling “unrealistic standards” for girls, being too thin, making thin look too easy, or making it look too hard, not having a “healthy” BMI, swanning around like a walking eating disorder, not even ashamed. It was unfair because she never had an eating disorder – that’s just the way she looks. It would make just as much sense to attack her for setting unreasonable standards for the perfect nose. But it was unfair on a deeper level. She was accused of upholding a dangerous ideal by the very people who had decided she was perfect, and then expected to atone for that.

Throughout the years of Kate Moss’s ongoing discretion, she still always came off as completely magnificent. Was her dignity of her preserved by her silence of her, like the Queen’s of her? Turns out, no: she has now spoken and is, still, completely magnificent.

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