Noelle McCarthy: Behind the beauty
Some models think they're better seen than heard. Kate Moss for example. Between the billboards and the cover shoots, I've probably seen more of her than I have of my own sister over the past decade, but I have very seldom heard her speak. Mossy doesn't go on camera much, aside from the odd promo video for Rimmel or Topshop. Vanity Fair tried to do a 'tell all' with her, and the biggest secret they got out of her was the fact that she used to dress her little brother as a girl. She's enjoying one of the longest modelling careers in the business, and she hasn't said much for most of it. Kate's well known for holding her peace doggedly; she even did it when the whole world piled into her, after those photos of her taking coke came out.
This is not a bad policy for someone in her line of work. The best models have an aura of mystery about them. You're not supposed to know what they're thinking or feeling, that is part of their allure.
Which is why I was glued to Amber Valletta's self described 'coming out'.
Valletta is one of Moss' contemporaries, a fellow supermodel, one of the great leonine beauties of the 90's and 00's, and a recovering drug addict as it turns out.
She's made a video in which she talks about her addiction, and how at the worst of it she turned up to shoot a multimillion dollar campaign high on drugs. (Watch the video here)
Her story is a revelation, not just because of the honesty and humour with which she tells it ("I'm a raging addict"... "I'd lick the carpet if you told me that would work"), but also because she's telling it at all.
Valletta's been clean 15 years now, she says. She was at the top of her game at the height of her addiction to drugs. Among other gigs, she was the star of the legendary 1995 Gucci collection by Tom Ford. Millions of people saw that campaign all over the world, ditto her shoots for D&G, Calvin Klein, and Versace. You can't listen to her talking about her life as an addict without going back and searching those images for any hint of darkness, of discomfort even. You won't find any at all. She is a model. It is her job to be beautiful and perfect. In her heyday, Amber Valletta was one of the world's most visible women, but as it turns out, none of us saw her at all.
It is interesting to me that Valletta is choosing to speak out now that she is in her 40s, and she's not doing as much work as she used to. She is free to be as honest as she likes about what she did and how it was. Inspiring and all as her story is, I don't know if we'll see very many working models following suit and 'coming out' as addicts. That is their choice, nor does their recovery need to be public, but I wonder how supportive an industry built on the ideal of perfection can possibly be to real-life women who choose to give voice to their struggles and flaws?