It was a story too hot to hold. Or at the very least, too hot to keep under wraps. Mario Testino’s pictures of Kate Moss and Rihanna, the bad girls of fashion and music, respectively, naked and laying on top of each other were taken months ago and stored away for our March issue of V magazine. But some hackers broke into the files and released them, which got Rihanna in a stir and she ended up posting them herself. We at V magazine were in a tizzy, but for no reason: Even with this sneak peek, the story behind the pictures was just as good as the visuals themselves. How the girls met, what they like about each other, who are their favorite designers? (Who would have thought Rihanna was a big Michael Kors fan?) I had the divine pleasure of speaking to these two icons. Scroll down past the covers and Testino’s backstage video for my entire article, and go to www.vmagazine.com for more from the shoot and our March issue.
Last November, my phone was cha-chaing across the table with unnerving frequency. What was the dilemma? Family drama? Saucy gossip? The vibrations, I discovered, were a direct result of the countless music and fashion blogs erupting over the images that you see here. Hacked from an insider’s computer, the saucy pairing of Rihanna and Kate Moss engaged in S&M-esque poses melted everyone’s brains and even Rihanna’s Instagram account. “I posted them because I was so excited,” she revealed during our interview, adding that she deleted them when she realized it was the result of hackers. “I was so bummed because I thought they were so sick. It goes to show how badly people wanted this cover. I guess it was as big a deal to them as it was to me!” We received requests from all over the world for the rights to reproduce the pics, but weren’t ready to give them up or the story behind them, until now.
The truth is that someone unexpected is to thank for this blessed pairing of fashion’s and music’s favorite bad girls: Kate Moss’s young daughter, Lila Grace. “I was a fan,” recalls the model of the pop star, “but what really started it was my daughter and her friends running round the house singing all the words to her songs.” So when Moss cohosted the 2009 Met Gala with Marc Jacobs and found herself sitting next to Rihanna, she did what any mother would do and whipped out her phone and sheepishly asked for a picture together. “I was, like, Are you fucking kidding me?” remembers Rihanna. “I was so starstruck. I’m not going to lie.”
When Moss explained that the photo was for her kid, Rihanna was even more gobsmacked. “I didn’t know she had a child, and she still looks like this? So there’s hope for people who want babies and still want to be sexy,” she laughs. Moss remembers Rihanna that night too—“those amazing eyes”—and got her shot for Lila. Rihanna took a picture of them on her phone too, which she still proudly shows off today.
The two bumped into each other again last February at another fabulous fête: Stella McCartney’s presentation for a one-off dress collection, held at an old London church. Stationed at different tables, models and dancers had secretly learned a choreographed number, which turned into a surprise flash mob that included Amber Valletta, Shalom Harlow, and Yasmin Le Bon perched on dinner chairs and vogueing to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” That should have been enough excitement for the fashion-heavy crowd, but an equally thrilling collusion was developing nearby. The chemistry between Kate, in a body-hugging cutout minidress, and Rihanna, sporting a long bias-cut slip dress, was brewing.
Mario Testino had a front-row seat to their girlish antics, and when the photographer asked Rihanna when they could schedule a shoot, Moss was keen to participate. “Kate overheard us talking and she said, ‘I want to do it with you!’ Again, I was like, Are you fucking kidding me?” says Rihanna with a laugh. “I was dying on the inside. All my fantasies were coming true all at once: Mario, V, Kate Moss. I was like, This is an amazing threesome!” (On the subject of that night, Moss is a little more cryptic. “I can’t remember what we talked about,” she says, then with those trademark wide-set eyes dancing, adds, “It was a really good night.”)
Moss—famously discovered at 14 by a modeling agent at New York’s JFK Airport and then revolutionizing the concept of high fashion and beauty—and Rihanna—the Barbadian babe turned pop sensation and nonstop hit machine—might not at first seem a likely pairing. One is the queen of London cool, the other a hip-hop fantasy. But it turns out the two have more in common than fashion-icon status: meager beginnings, careers that started in the trenches of industries only the toughest can survive, and climbing to the absolute tops of their fields amid both cultish worship and criticism.
Both women have made entirely their own choices, and done a terrific job at keeping writers for high-fashion glossies and down and dirty tabloids extremely busy. They have been bold, beautiful, and unapologetic. They are, put bluntly, our culture’s favorite badass bitches. Though when I ask Moss if she would call herself a bad bitch, she shuts me down: “That’s not very English, darling.” Rihanna, not surprisingly, was a little more into the classification. “That is true!” she cheers. “I know for sure I’m a control freak. I am definitely in control. That’s the kind of woman I am.”
Moss is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to the media, and though she loosened up a little to grant a few interviews last year, in conjunction with the publication of her eponymous book, she remains mum today on the topics of tabloids. Rihanna’s personal life has always been part of the public domain. “But I don’t read it anymore,” she says, adding that all the opinions coming at her via the Internet and her active social-media streams can sometimes overwhelm her. “I already have too many voices in my head right now! I don’t have room for that other stuff. If I let that other stuff in, it’ll take the space of productive shit, and that isn’t good.” Has she ever posted anything on the Internet that she wanted to take down, or tried to correct a rumor? “It wouldn’t make a difference. There’s nothing we can do about that. There will always be them, and there will always be me.”
The two love fashion as much as fashion loves them. How does Rihanna describe her personal style? “It’s an expression of my mood. I’m more of a spontaneous girl. I find myself drawn to the things that come together at the last minute. I hate when a look looks over-thought. I hate when fashion looks too contrived. I just throw myself in the closet and see what happens.” When asked who her favorite designers are, Rihanna cites Tom Ford and Michael Kors. “Tom Ford is just pure sex,” she explains. “Only the baddest bitch can wear that. And he knows how to tailor things to women to make them look so desirable. Michael Kors is just easy fashion that works for any age group. A girl can look sexy in the same dress when she is 20 as when she is 50. He is timeless.”
Asked what designer inspires her now, Moss offers only one: “Hedi [Slimane]’s new collection for Saint Laurent. Obviously. Living for…”
On the set of the shoot, these bad girls kept it playful. “That was hilarious,” Moss says, her nose scrunching up like a feline vixen. Afterward, they’re still gushing about each other. “She is just an awesome, cool little rock star,” Rihanna says of Moss. The concept of playing with each other using masculine and feminine identities evolved organically, she says, and then, naturally, at the end, they got naked. “And that was the best shot,” Rihanna laughs. “Take her top off and put that bitch in my lap!” So the obvious question: would they get topless with each other again? Kate’s response: “In a heartbeat.” Rihanna: “That depends on the terms,” she laughs. “But I’m sure Kate knows them.”