Actress for the still camera

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She’s a global style icon whose recent hardcover release had fashion devotees waiting with bated breath. But at her public romp of a book launch in London, she was also caught saying, “Well, I didn’t actually have to write anything.”

The quote, first run in fashion pub WWD, has since been repeated across celebrity and fashion gossip sites, even the Huffington Post—with a subtle snort between the lines.

The source of the quote was Kate Moss, so the fact that she didn’t write anything had nothing to do with her lack of contribution. “KATE: The Kate Moss Book” (Rizzoli) is almost exclusively a photo memoir of her career. Most of the 300 color and black-and-white images representing the model in either photograph or multimedia were reportedly selected by Kate herself.

As far as words go, what pittance of paragraphs there are, Kate did supply. And, for the record, she did write the introduction – a heartfelt, though not necessarily sharp, tribute in first person to the collaborators whose work is represented in the images. The remainder of the book’s written portion –two-and-a-half spreads relaying a redacted conversation with longtime chum and former Storm model agency booker Jess Hallett – took the words straight from the horse’s (potty) mouth.

Hype, however, seems to have rallied around “KATE” as some sort of porthole into her personal story. And to the extent that it reveals some previously unreported thoughts and events from her work life, the dialogue with Hallett is certainly anecdotal. Kate reminisces about early days in the industry – strapping on Vivienne Westwood “prostitute shoes” and micro shorts at age 15 to frequent clubs with singer Boy George and friend John Galliano, feeling lonely while jet-setting, admiring creative directors like “KATE” editor Fabian Baron, working with dueling art directors and hating her boobs. Also, loads of name-dropping.

But amid the banter, Hallett uses a few lines to draw a line in the sand, saying that no personal, private content can be expected within the pages.

But are we surprised? Or just disappointed? Kate has never been known as a public talker, hardly even defending herself in the midst of her cocaine scandal or anorexia allegations. She credits former beau Johnny Depp with the credo “never complain, never explain.” Kate never has complained or explained. So did we expect her to start now?

Instead, “KATE” offers a kind of anti-autobiography, fitting for this “anti-model” of the early ’90s. Indeed, she states in her introduction that the book isn’t really about her. Rather, it’s about the photographers, designers and artists who created the 300 images with her. The statement, though humble, is also a wink and a nod from someone who knows that her own effortless enigma has helped keep her in the game for the last two dozen years.

Though not impressive in word, “KATE” does what Kate does best, leaving the story she wants to tell to the images. There, she bares all, brandishing her model persona in color and monochrome with, naturally, a ton of T&A.

Included are images from her first famed magazine shoot for The Face, during which, at 16, photographer Corinne Day made her go topless. Though the images show that adorable and illusive grin of her youth, Kate cried over the ordeal, she told Vanity Fair in a more verbose exclusive by James Fox that ran concurrently with the book release.

Hundreds of other shots show Kate performing narrative to the camera – Kate as sex symbol, Kate as a waif, Kate sans makeup, Kate drunk on the ground, Kate with a snake, Kate by Lucian Freud, Kate as Warhol’s Marilyn, Kate as Bowie, Kate as the devil and Kate as a nun. Kate as something other than Kate.

“I don’t want to be myself, ever,” she says in VF. “I’m a terrible snapshot.” The world can collectively disagree with the latter, but the former is far more interesting.

Longtime collaborator and friend John Galliano tells Fox that Kate needed a narrative, a persona, even before walking down the aisle at her own wedding.

“I don’t really think that anyone knows who she is today,” he says.

Perhaps daughter Lila Grace? Husband Jamie, to whom the book is dedicated?

What’s certain is that readers reaching for the artful coffee table book are more interested in her story than she is in telling it. “KATE” still keeps quiet, giving up just enough for the public to want more. Lucky for them, there is also talk of an upcoming documentary.

A silent film, perhaps?

 

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