Arguably the originator of the "waif look" that dominated the fashion scene of the early-1990s, Kate Moss was easily one of the world's most famous, sought-after and notorious supermodels at the turn of the millennium. The 5'7" British-born Moss came seemingly out of nowhere, achieving overnight international stardom as the reed-thin muse of Calvin Klein's latest ad campaign in 1992. Frequently paired with future movie star Mark Wahlberg, her look - defined by sullen eyes atop an undernourished frame - ushered the oxymoronic term "heroin chic" into the popular lexicon. Moss' appearances on the covers of such magazines as Vogue were soon nearly outpaced by the amount of covers of tabloids she was featured on, usually on the arm of celebrity beaus like leading man Johnny Depp or British rocker Pete Doherty. Notoriety, however, turned notorious after a scandal involving photos of Moss snorting what appeared to be cocaine appeared in various media outlets in 2005. After an initial abandonment by several of her most profitable modeling benefactors, the seemingly impervious Moss not only rebounded professionally, but went on to earn more money than she ever had before. Never quite a darling of the press, Moss certainly had admirers but just as many detractors. Regardless, of the latter, no one could deny Moss' chameleon-like ability to adapt to aesthetic trends, allowed her to continue to dominate the modeling world, long after many of her contemporaries had retired from the catwalk.
Kate Moss was born Katherine Moss Addiscombe in the London Borough of Croydon, England on Jan. 16, 1974. At age 14, she was discovered at JFK Airport by an employee of the British wing of the Storm Agency while she was returning from a Caribbean holiday with her mother. Moss struggled through school at Ridgeway Primary and Riddlesdown Collegiate while doing small modeling jobs as a teen until she landed the cover of the 1990 "Summer of Love" issue of the British magazine The Face, quickly followed by her notorious Calvin Klein debut, leading to the dubbing of her signature "waif look," and the advent of the only somewhat derisive term "heroin chic." Moss soon became a lightning rod for controversy, accused of portraying what many critics - then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, among them - cited as an unhealthy image of beauty that promoted eating disorders and drug use. Moss was so ubiquitous on billboards, magazine covers and in numerous ad campaigns in the early to mid-1990s, that other supermodels of the day - including Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista - were left in the dust eventually, as their looks eventually became dated and their diva-esque behavior unmanageable.
Although notoriously self-effacing and rarely one to give interviews, Moss and her personal life became equally as controversial as her photographs. From her famous lovers (such as fiancé Johnny Depp), to the ubiquitous rumors of her drug-laden, rock-and-roll lifestyle, Moss remained the darling paramour of the fashion world throughout the 1990s, becoming a spokes model for such labels as Chanel, Banana Republic, Versace, Yves Saint-Laurent, Gucci, Narciso Rodriguez, Louis Vuitton, Celine, and Burberry. Her nude "Obsession" fragrance ads proved so popular that in 1995, she received the "Fashion Personality of the Year" award and later in 1996, won "Model of the Year" at the VH1 Fashion Awards. In 1997, Kate: The Kate Moss Book was published - a compilation of photographs, personally selected by Moss, to represent her career in front of the camera - to great success.
One of the earliest cracks in Moss' near perfect façade came soon after her break-up with actor Johnny Depp in 1998, when she checked herself into London's Priory clinic, citing "exhaustion." Although her friends attributed her stay to depression via a failed engagement, insiders alleged the model was actually in rehab, which she later admitted, conceding she had been drinking and getting high before taking the catwalk for years, but denied using harder substances like cocaine. As the millennium ended and the golden age of the supermodel faded back to more familiarly curvaceous personalities - usually movie or TV stars - representing brands, Moss was the lone vestige of her peers to flourish and gain steam. Her popularity boomed through her uncanny ability to create a seemingly infinite number of images for different brands, vanquishing her earlier "waif look" with a new trademark of adaptability. At the age of 30 she was declared the "sexiest woman of all time" according to a poll conducted by the men's magazine Arena to mark its 150th issue. In February 2005, a nude portrait of a pregnant Moss by Lucian Freud sold for millions of dollars.
Perhaps it was her earlier denial of hard drug usage that in part exacerbated the Kate Moss cocaine scandal in the fall of 2005, an escalating debacle that threatened to completely derail her career. On September 5th, just two weeks before her daughter Lila's third birthday (from former boyfriend and "Dazed & Confused" (1993) film editor Jefferson Hack), London's Daily Mirror ran a front page story with Moss pictured on the cover clearly sniffing cocaine from the surface of a CD jewel box. "Cocaine Kate: Supermodel Kate Moss snorts line after line," was the tabloid's gleefully salacious headline. Even more damning was a videotape that accompanied the photos of the debauched evening, which took place at a West London recording studio where her boyfriend Pete Doherty's band Babyshambles was recording. Within hours, websites were rife with images of her bacchanalian antics. All the publicity led London's Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair to launch an official inquiry, putting forth his reasoning behind the probe as to limit "the impact of this kind of behavior on impressionable young people."
Within days, Moss' professional world began to crumble around her, most notably with the mass exodus of several marquis contracts with the likes of Chanel, Burburry, and Swedish-owned H&M clothing (which was at the time premiering a line designed by Moss' close friend Stella McCartney). Directly on the heels of her drug photos, Naomi Campbell's personal assistant Rebecca White - who had known Moss since the late 1990s - publically aired accusations of Moss seducing her, supermodel lesbian orgies instigated by Moss, and the privileged model's drug-fueled tirades. Moss entered rehab soon thereafter, issuing a brief statement accepting full responsibility for her actions and expressing a need to address personal issues. Having successfully completed treatment herself, Moss broke up with the drug-addled Doherty after he departed from his rehab stint prematurely. It would be the first of many separations and reunions for the couple, whose dysfunctional relationship would play out in the British tabloids over the next two years.
In true Moss style, just months after the cocaine scandal broke and despite rumors of her imminent arrest, she staged an amazing comeback, much of which she attributed to a recent conversion to Buddhism. Her annual earnings more than doubled after she left rehab and all her former fashion suitors quickly lined up to woo her back to their camps, including Rimmel, Virgin Mobile, Dior, Roberto Cavalli, Longchamp, Stella McCartney, Bvlgari, and David Yurman. The spring of 2006 saw Nikon launch a campaign with Moss as the avatar of "hot," wearing the same type of black, knee-high boots as she wore in the damaging Daily Mirror photos the year prior. That summer, citing a lack of evidence (photographic proof was inadmissible for use in drug charges in the U.K.) London police announced that they would be dropping any and all charges against Moss in regard to the cocaine incident of the previous year. Miraculously - and to the chagrin of many in the press - it seemed as though the supermodel would emerge from the scandal relatively unscathed. By the summer of the following year, Forbes magazine had ranked Moss as the world's No. 2 top earner in its list of supermodels for 2007, out-moneyed only by Gisele Bündchen.
Despite the tempestuous nature of their on-again/off-again relationship, Doherty introduced Moss as his fiancée when she took the stage at a Babyshambles concert in the spring of 2007. By the summer of that year, after repeated failures to kick his addiction to hard drugs, the rocker was seen removing items from Moss' London home. Apparently oblivious to Doherty's public pleas for reconciliation in the days that followed, it seemed as if Moss had finally put that chapter of her life behind her. That same year also saw Moss designing a clothing line sold exclusively by retailer Topshop across the U.K., and later sold in the U.S. through the high-end chain store, Barneys. In a case of excess idolatry, a solid-gold statue of Moss was unveiled in the fall of 2008, sculpted by artist and Moss admirer Marc Quinn. The artwork, titled "Siren," was estimated to be worth an astonishing $18 million. Moss' glamorous world was later rocked in February 2010 by the news of the apparent suicide of fashion designer and close personal friend Alexander McQueen. In October of that year, she appeared on the cover of Bryan Ferry's album Olympia and married musician Jamie Hince - who she began dating shortly after leaving Doherty - in the summer of 2011.
By Bryce Coleman