Everything we learned from Kate Moss on Desert Island Discs

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Legendary model Kate Moss discarded her own time-worn motto “never complain, never explain” this Sunday by giving a rare interview for BBC radio’s Desert Island Discs.

The supermodel, cultural icon, model agency owner and now creative director of Diet Coke, spoke to presenter Lauren Laverne in one of the most candid interviews of her career.

The iconic BBC Radio 4 show features notable public figures who are asked to compile a list of records they would pack if they were marooned on a desert island and explain why the song has made such a mark on their lives and careers. Since its inception in 1942 the radio show has become something of a British institution and was voted the “greatest radio show of all time” in 2019.

Moss, who rose to prominence in the early 90s, became the poster girl of “cool Britannia” in the decade where Britpop, grunge and “heroin chic” were king. But far from the aura of effortless nonchalance that she has come to be associated with, Moss admits to feeling shy and uncomfortable with many of her formative modelling experiences.

The now-iconic The Face cover of a bare-faced, sixteen-year-old Moss scrunching up her nose in a series of black and white images taken by Corrine Day, may have launched the model’s career, but remain a conflicting memory for her. Moss admitted that although the late photographer came to be one of her best friends, she could be “tricky” to work with. “She [Day] would say, ‘If you don’t take your top off, I am not going to book you for Elle. It is painful. I loved her, she was my best friend, but she was a tricky person. But the pictures are amazing, so she got what she wanted and I suffered for them, but in the end they did me a world of good really. They changed my career.”

Kate Moss (Getty Images)
Kate Moss (Getty Images)

Another of her career-propelling shoots, she said, left her feeling “objectified.” It was the famous 1992 Calvin Klein underwear photoshoot with actor Mark Wahlberg and it brings back, “not very good memories,” she said. “He was very macho, and it was all about him. He had a big entourage. I was just this model,” she told Laverne. She felt “vulnerable and scared. I think they played on my vulnerability. I was quite young and innocent, Calvin loved that.”

Moss also recalled the “horrible experience” of being asked to take her bra off for a shoot when she was 15-years-old. “I was really shy then about my body, and I could feel there was something wrong, so I got my stuff and I ran away.” She said the incident “sharpened her instincts” – “I can tell a wrong ’un a mile away.”

Moss, who was born in 1974 in Croydon still has the same girlish, slightly husky voice she has had since her teenage years, and her sense of playfulness is palpable throughout the interview, particularly when remembering her friends. In one memorable anecdote she recalled going last minute Christmas shopping with Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull and bumping into George Harrison. To Moss’s surprise The Beatle admitted he was starstruck to meet the now-famous model after seeing her on Model TV and insisted on buying her a Christmas jumper as a gift, but Moss refused on account of how ugly it was.

 (Mark Large/Daily Mail/Shutterstock)
(Mark Large/Daily Mail/Shutterstock)

“I wish I’d let him buy it for me”, she bemoaned. “But I just couldn’t let him because it was so disgusting - this jumper, but it would have been my jumper from George Harrison. It was a cable knit, batwing pink sweater and I was like, ‘Please, I can’t let you buy that for me,’ but I loved him so much.”

Kate went on to choose Harrison’s song My Sweet Lord as her most treasured desert island. "[The song] was re-released the week he died and I couldn’t stop crying. I was sobbing. I thought ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I mean it’s upsetting, but I could not stop crying and I found out I was pregnant with Lila. So that’s my song with her, and for George.”

Kate and Lila Moss modelling for Fendi's Spring/Summer 2021 Haute Couture collection (AP)
Kate and Lila Moss modelling for Fendi's Spring/Summer 2021 Haute Couture collection (AP)

Moss, 48, set up her own modelling agency in 2016, signing up her 19-year-old daughter Lila early on. “I’ve said to her, ‘You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. If you don’t want to do this shoot, if you don’t feel comfortable, if you don’t want to model, don’t do it.’ I take care of my models. I make sure they’re with agents at shoots so when they’re being taken advantage of, someone is there to say, ‘I don’t think that’s appropriate’.”

Moss sold her £10 million Primrose Hill home last year and moved permanently to her Cotswolds country house where she admits to falling in love with gardening during the pandemic. “I’ve got a membership to the garden centre and I got with my mum and we have the best time,” she said, before admitting that her schedule involves morning meditation and going to bed early these days.

The model, who has been sober since 2017, told Laverne that she still loves to dance but partying is “boring to me now”, adding, “I’m not into being out of control any more.” She also addressed the photos of her appearing to take cocaine which made front page news in 2005. “I felt sick and was quite angry,” she said. “Because everybody I knew took drugs. So for them to focus on me, and to try to take my daughter away, I thought was really hypocritical.”

Despite 34 years in the public eye and countless high profile friendships and relationships, such as with the actor Johnny Depp, who’s trial she testified at this year, the model seemed devoid of airs and graces but maintains a strong sense of fairness. Explaining her decision to speak up for Depp in his American libel case against his ex-wife Amber Heard, Moss said, “I know the truth about Johnny. I know he never kicked me down the stairs. I had to say that truth.”

British supermodel Kate Moss is one of the final witnesses to be called to give evidence and testified remotely from Gloucestershire, in England (Evelyn Hockstein/AP) (AP)
British supermodel Kate Moss is one of the final witnesses to be called to give evidence and testified remotely from Gloucestershire, in England (Evelyn Hockstein/AP) (AP)

Moss admitted to Laverne that she has always been shy, even in front of the camera. “I’m actually really shy in front of the camera. I don’t like having my picture taken when it’s not at work. I don’t like having selfies or snapshots. I find it difficult to be myself in front of the camera. I find it much easier to be somebody else.” She told T Magazine in 2010 that. "When I used to do interviews a long time ago, I used to get very ill just worrying about them before they came out” - but she needn’t have worried, the overriding reaction to the model’s Desert Island Disc foray is that a) she has great taste in music and b) it would be really fun to be her friend, or at the very least, listen to her tell a few more incredible A-list anecdotes.

Must-listen celebrity Desert Island Discs episodes

Tom Hanks

The legendary actor’s episode has become one of the most-listened to in the show’s extensive catalogue. Hanks opens up to presenter Kirsty Young about the loneliness of his “vagabond” childhood moving around the US and growing up in ten different homes. At one point he pauses to collect himself after welling up, making for gut-wrenching listening.

Maya Angelou

Angelou details the childhood trauma that led her to go mute for almost five years after. She explains to presenter Micahel Parkinson how poetry and love helped her find her voice again.

Yoko Ono

In a remarkably candid interview, the famously interview-averse Ono opens up to Kirsty Young about the hostile reaction to her relationship with John Lennon, she details the night he was shot and remarks on feeling his presence in the recording studio with her.

Jilly Cooper

In a rollicking interview the Riders author tells Kirsty Young about her boarding school days lusting over the 80-year-old gardener and her hilarious and beautiful 52-year marriage to her husband Leo.

Simon Cowell

Simon Cowell admits to presenter Sue Lawley that he was “a horrible child”, how he set his house on fire when he was four and got arrested for holding up the school bus with a pea gun. He left typically opinionated Lawley speechless when he chooses a mirror as his luxury item, because the person he’ll most miss is “himself”.

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