The success of Lara Stone–easily the most in-demand model in the business right now–is more than a little surprising. In the sea of slender, pubescentlooking models that currently predominate, she is a singular creature: 26 years old; gap-toothed and wobbly on high heels; her silhouette, feminine and curvy and clearly accented by breasts; her eyes brimming with a kind of feral attitude and personality and sexuality.
Like many models, the Dutch-born Stone started working as a teen (in her case, after being discovered on the Paris Métro while on a family vacation). She entered the Elite Model Look contest, and though she didn't win, Elite signed her anyway. By 1999, Stone was living in a models' apartment with other struggling 16-year-olds, going on casting calls and traveling to secondary markets to make money. But six years later, Stone still hadn't gotten her big break. She was booking regional catalog jobs, and had little experience with either major editorial or runway work. In fact, it wasn't until 2006, when Stone switched management agencies to IMG, and was chosen by Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci to walk in his fall couture show, that she began to get steady work-at the ripe old age of 22. Since then, she has walked in shows for practically every major European house, including Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Lanvin, and Fendi, and has become a muse to designers such as Tisci and Karl Lagerfeld. "When I first met Lara, she had this incredible vulnerability about her-so sensitive I just wanted to cocoon and protect her," Tisci says. "I'm so happy to see her where she is today; she's so strong you get the impression that nothing could stand in her way. She's a real modern icon. Lara has the most incredible character that thankfully remains real and untarnished by the fashion system. It's so reassuring to see someone as successful as Lara keep her feet on the ground. Actually, I think one of the things I love most about Lara is the fact that she hasn't lost her ability to laugh at herself: She has a very dry, wicked sense of humor." Adds Lagerfeld: "She made shape trendy and invented a kind of new girly femininity."
Stone has appeared in dozens of advertising campaigns and been featured in virtually every major fashion magazine-including French Vogue; she has developed a close relationship with editor Carine Roitfeld, and the magazine devoted an entire issue to her. (She stirred some controversy last fall when she did a feature in blackface for the magazine.) She also made international news recently after revealing that she had checked herself into a rehab facility last year, and again in January, when she got engaged to her boyfriend of less than a year, David Walliams, a star of the British comedy show, Little Britain.
Marc Jacobs, who worked with Stone on the spring/summer '10 campaign for Louis Vuitton, recently spoke to her from his studio in Manhattan, having just returned from Paris. He was in the midst of busily preparing his namesake collection for his always highly-anticipated show at New York fashion week when he connected with the London-based Stone, who was on a job in St. Barts.
MARC JACOBS: Hello? Is this Lara Stone?
LARA STONE: Yes, it is.
JACOBS: I'm speaking to the Lara Stone?
STONE: [laughs] Am I speaking to Marc Jacobs? Is it really you?
JACOBS: It's really me!
STONE: Oh, my gosh!
JACOBS: So, Lara, where are you?
STONE: I'm in St. Barts. We're shooting in the sunshine.
JACOBS: Oh, that's great. I was there around Christmas with Lorenzo [Martone].
STONE: It's really beautiful here.
JACOBS: Have you been before?
STONE: No, it's my first time.
JACOBS: I hope you get some time to enjoy it. It's freezing cold in New York so I'm extremely jealous.
STONE: Oh, I'm sorry. You should come!
JACOBS: Well, I'm preparing for a show. We've been at work until midnight every night, so there's not a chance.
STONE: You're pretty busy. I forgot that it's that time of year.
JACOBS: Yeah. You're pretty busy too. I mean, you're working all the time, aren't you?
STONE: Yeah, it's busy.
JACOBS: How do you feel about that? How do you feel about being one of the busiest models-if not the busiest model-in the world today?
STONE: I feel happy about that. It's good to be busy. I never expected it.
JACOBS: I heard you just got engaged to David Walliams.
STONE: Yes, I did.
JACOBS: You're madly in love, I hope.
STONE: I am madly in love. I've never been happier.
JACOBS: When did you two meet?
STONE: Just in May of last year, so it's all pretty soon.
JACOBS: Have you started to make wedding plans yet?
STONE: Not so much because I haven't been home at all since we got engaged.
JACOBS: Have you been thinking about what you're going to wear?
STONE: Well, I asked Riccardo [Tisci] to make my dress.
JACOBS: Oh, you did! I just saw him the other night at Club Sandwich. I was out dancing in Paris.
STONE: Yeah, he told me. He said you guys had so much fun.
JACOBS: I saw him sporadically throughout the course of the evening. It was my last night out. Now I'm in the office every night. [laughs] So how did you and David meet?
STONE: We met at a party and then went on a few dates.
JACOBS: What's he like?
STONE: He's wonderful. He's amazing. He makes me laugh. He's a proper gentleman. He's a bit mean but in a good way. I'm happy.
JACOBS: I'm very happy for you. So I wanted to start by going back for a minute to where you come from and how you got started in fashion. Tell me a little bit about your family, your background, and growing up in the Netherlands.
STONE: Well I was born in a little village in the south of Holland called Mierlo. I have a little sister-she's 24 now-and my mom and dad are still together. My dad's English and my mom's from Holland. It was great growing up in Mierlo. It's a lovely little town where you can run around in the streets and climb trees and all that stuff when you're a kid. Then, when you're a teenager, it's not so fun. . . . [Jacobs laughs] But I moved to Paris when I was very young.
JACOBS: How old were you?
STONE: I was 16. It was crazy. I started modeling when I was 13 or 14, I think. We were on the Métro in Paris on a family holiday, and somebody came up to me and asked me to be a model, and that's how it started. [laughs] It's been a long time.
JACOBS: You know, I see a lot of girls. And when I started working, the big models were people like Naomi [Campbell] and Kate [Moss]. It was a time when there were models who had real personalities and individuality. I think you are probably the first one in a long time who is in that realm where you're becoming iconic in that way. How do you feel about that? Do you enjoy the fame and success that you're having?
STONE: You know, I think it's great in any job to be doing well and doing it the best that you can, so that's pretty great. But I wouldn't call myself a celebrity in any way. I'm just doing my job. We were talking about it today, actually-that so many of the girls now, you don't really know any of them anymore. Me and Sasha [Pivovarova] were talking about it, about doing shows, and how we only know each other and a few other girls. Everyone gets replaced rather quickly.
JACOBS: Yeah, that's kind of what I was saying. I mean, when I was starting out, it seemed like there were so many girls who were known by their first names, who were unique, who all had idiosyncrasies and characteristics that made them individual. Those girls stuck around; you'd work with them season after season. But now it's completely different.
STONE: It's a bit of a shame. It would be really fun to just be with the same group of girls all the time.
JACOBS: Yeah. I guess it would also make it more comforting in a way. Do people recognize you a lot on the street?
n real life, I'm very shy, but people think I'm this angry, sexy kind of . . . god knows what they think!... So I'm definitely not the person you see in pictures.—Lara Stone
STONE: Not that much-just occasionally. I find it weird.
JACOBS: You find it weird?
STONE: It's so strange when some little girl runs up to you and is like, "Oh, you're Lara!" And I'm like, "How do you know that?"
JACOBS: Yeah, but it's amazing how many people know fashion and follow it. I mean, young girls-so many of them dream of being a model, so you must be a big hero to them. Within the fashion world, you are a celebrity.
STONE: I guess. I just find it weird when people scream your name or something. It's like, "Yeah,okay. . . ." It's funny, I think mostly-you know, little me.
JACOBS: Little you. [laughs] It's interesting, in terms of photographers because a lot of models achieve that kind of iconic position by working primarily with one photographer, but you've worked with so many of the best-Inez [van Lamsweerde] & Vinoodh [Matadin], Steven Klein, Steven Meisel, Juergen Teller; and for this story, Mert & Marcus. I don't want to get you in any trouble, but what's it like to work with all of these people who have very distinct styles and processes?
STONE: It's all so different. Everybody has a different creative process. Some people take a really long time, and it's really frustrating to work with them. . . .
JACOBS: [laughs] I think I might know who you're talking about.
STONE: Well, some people change as well. [laughs]
JACOBS: That's true.
STONE: Personally, I don't like working with female photographers because they seem to never be able to make up their minds about what they want to do-with the exception of Inez because she always knows what she's doing. But so many times it's like, "Oh, let's try this" and "Let's try that" and "Let's do this" and "Let's do that." It's like, "For fuck's sake, woman!" [both laugh] But, you know, every photographer is completely different; the fact that they are so different is what makes it fun. You don't want to get bored.
JACOBS: I guess, in the same vein, you obviously have relationships with different designers. We've worked together, but you've also worked with Riccardo Tisci and Miuccia Prada and Karl Lagerfeld and many others. Do you enjoy working with different designers?
STONE: Yeah, definitely. I mean, sometimes when you do a show or a campaign with a designer, you get along with them really well and you become friends. And then, sometimes, people are just a bit . . . weird.
JACOBS: Is there anyone in the fashion world who you really look up to or particularly identify with?
STONE: I guess Carine Roitfeld. We've worked together a lot; she's been a big supporter and helped me along with everything. Also, just the way she does her magazine-she's not afraid to do things differently or scared to put certain things in her magazine, a bit of controversy. She's a bit naughty. She likes sexy things.
JACOBS: She's great; I agree with everything you said about her. Now, what does Lara the girl from the Netherlands think of Lara Stone the model? Is there any separation? Or do you become someone else when you're in front of a camera?
STONE: I think I do become someone else. In real life, I'm very shy, but people think I'm this angry, sexy kind of . . . god knows what they think! And there I am in front of them, nervous and blushing and stuttering and whatnot. So I'm definitely not the person you see in pictures. I mean, in pictures, you look like something you're not.
JACOBS: Is there anything that you particularly love or hate about the fashion business?
STONE: I hate walking down a runway in really high heels.
JACOBS: Really? I thought you always wore high heels!
STONE: I'm terrible in high heels. I'm so bad.
JACOBS: It's so funny because Katie [Grand] always says, "There are some high-heeled boots; Lara's going to looovvve those."
STONE: I think she's being sarcastic. I can't do it.
JACOBS: So that's something you hate. What about something you love?
STONE: I love dressing up and putting on the makeup and the hair and the clothes and just being a different person for a day. Maybe it's just the idea that you can kind of hide behind it all in a way. . . . I don't know, but I like that. And I love the traveling, of course. Not the flying, but the actual traveling.
JACOBS: Do you see yourself modeling for a long time? How do envision your life in the future?
STONE: I think about quitting all the time. I'll take such a little thing and be like, "I quit! I've had enough of you people!" And then . . . I don't know, it gets better. [laughs] I'm not really good at making plans so I don't have any definite plans for the future. I would love to have a family and kids at some point, but not right now. I'll probably keep doing this for a while because it's going pretty well. I guess we'll have to see.
JACOBS: Now, this is a subject-and you can certainly say that you don't want to talk about it-but I know you went to rehab, which is something I've done a couple of times myself. When did you decide to go into treatment?
STONE: It was last year-two seasons ago-during shows. The drinking was getting way out of control. I just didn't recognize myself anymore. I didn't know what I was doing or where I was. I always had to have some drinks with me in my bag. I don't know. . . . Just waking up shaking and then having Bloody Marys on your own, first thing in the morning-I started to feel really pathetic about it. So I was like, "I can't live like this." It was just this really awful feeling of becoming a totally different person and not being able to control it at all. Then I tried to not drink, but that didn't work. So I figured I should just go to rehab. Also, with this job, always traveling on the plane and everything, I thought it would be really difficult to quit on my own because you're always in situations where it's acceptable to have drinks. So I decided right after a show that I was going to go [into treatment]. I Googled a bunch of places, and I found this place that I went to in Cape Town, South Africa, called Stepping Stones. I stayed there for a month. It was really difficult-lots of talking and crying.
JACOBS: I know that experience very well.
STONE: Yeah, it's no fun. But afterwards it's like the best thing ever. I didn't want to leave.
JACOBS: I had the same feeling. It's so weird how scary it is at the beginning, and then you bond with the people, and it's really an amazing experience. It is impossible to do it on your own, and it's good to ask for help when we need it.
STONE: It was the best thing I've done in my entire life. I'm so happy I did that.
JACOBS: I don't want to pry, but is it hard for you in social situations now, where you have to deal with fashion parties where everyone's drunk?
STONE: Well, it's gotten a lot better over the last few months. It's only been 10 months, but it's getting so much better. I kind of feel a bit insecure about things. At fashion parties, I do feel like people are kind of watching me and I just . . . I don't know, I get so shy, and I think, Oh, if only I could have a drink now. . . . But then that feeling disappears-it actually disappears pretty quickly. I remember how happy I am that I don't drink anymore. I think about all the bad times I had when I was drunk. . . . I messed up so many things. I don't want to do that anymore.
JACOBS: Good for you-I think that's great.
STONE: Good for you, too.
JACOBS: Thank you. So how do you feel about constantly being asked about your body?
STONE: Well, I'm a bit better now, but I was pretty self-conscious about it a few months ago because everybody kept going on like, "Oh, she's so curvy!" and "She's a plus-size model!" and this and that. It's all people would talk about-how I'm not very skinny. For a while, it made me pretty upset and I got a bit obsessive about it. I did a bunch of dieting and exercising and everything. I was losing weight, but I was still much bigger than everybody else. I didn't really see the point of making myself crazy anymore, so I kind of toned it down a little bit.
JACOBS: Well, that's good. Again, I can remember years ago, when Kate first came around and there were so many articles. Everyone was saying that it was heroin chic-that she was a waif, that she was anorexic. But Kate would eat just as much as anybody I knew-the media had just turned her into this thing. It must be really, really hard when you're the object of that.
STONE: It is. You know, we're shooting bathing suits down here in St. Barts and, of course, I do get extra self-conscious. But I'm still here. If there were really something wrong with me, then they wouldn't fly me over here to do this kind of thing-and they can use Photoshop and make me look nice.
JACOBS: What qualities do you most admire in another person?
STONE: I just like a good, honest personality. I like a real person, not somebody who is pretending to be something that they're not. That really annoys me.
JACOBS: So then the quality you despise the most in another person is dishonesty, I guess?
STONE: Yeah, but not just in a lying kind of way-more in a general kind of way.
JACOBS: What would you say has been your proudest moment so far?
STONE: I'm very proud of going to rehab and staying there. I'm very proud of my Louis Vuitton campaign; I thought that was really great.
JACOBS: [laughs] Yeah, that was very nice to do. Do you have any guilty pleasures?
STONE: I feel guilty about smoking way too much-and I have a bit of an addiction to chocolate milk shakes, which is not good.
JACOBS: Cigarettes and chocolate milk shakes are two amazing things. What's your biggest phobia? STONE: Flying.
JACOBS: So how do you deal with it if you have to travel all the time?
STONE: I just get on the plane and hope for the best. I refused to get on the plane here to St. Barts. I was stupid enough to look at the landing on YouTube; there are so many videos.
JACOBS: That is a scary landing.
STONE: I was like, "I'm not doing this. There's no way you'll get me on that plane."
JACOBS: So you took the boat?
STONE: Yeah, a little speedboat.
JACOBS: What words do you love to hear?
STONE: "I love you."
JACOBS: Good words.
STONE: They are.
JACOBS: What is the most fun thing you've ever done in a strange place?
STONE: [laughs] Well, the most fun thing ever. . . . I don't know. I'd probably have sex in a really naughty place or something. That would be pretty fun.
JACOBS: Classic sex or kinky sex?
STONE: Well, the location usually makes it quite kinky in itself.
JACOBS: Have you ever been in a physical fight?
STONE: I've started many of them, but no one ever hits me back. I used to love slapping people in the face when I was drunk. I thought it was really funny, so I did a lot of that. I'd pick fights with doormen and bouncers and stuff a lot. Ex-boyfriends. But nobody ever punched me back, so I don't know if that counts as a physical fight.
JACOBS: Yeah, that seems sort of one-sided-or just aggression. [laughs] If you could go back in time-say, 10 years ago-and give yourself advice, what would you tell young Lara Stone?
STONE: I would probably advise her not to take life too seriously and to just try to be happy.
JACOBS: What kind of advice would you give to a young girl who wants to be a model today?
STONE: To think about it for a really long time before she does it because it's not as easy as it looks-and to just be herself and not let people
make her crazy.
JACOBS: Okay. Since you're engaged to a very funny man, do you have a favorite joke?
STONE: I don't have a favorite joke.
STONE: No. He is funny, but I haven't heard a good joke in a really long time, actually.
JACOBS: Is there anything that you would like to say to all these avid fans who will be reading this interview and scrutinizing every word?
STONE: Maybe not to take it too seriously. Sometimes I'm sarcastic. . . . Actually, I wasn't sarcastic here; I was pretty honest.
JACOBS: Well, I think I've asked you enough questions for one night. Go back and enjoy St. Barts. Where are you staying?
STONE: At the Guanahani.
JACOBS: Oh, nice.
STONE: It's lovely. Marc, thanks for doing this.
JACOBS: It was my pleasure! Enjoy the sunshine. Congratulations on your engagement!
STONE: Thank you.
JACOBS: Big kiss to you, Lara.
STONE: Big kiss.