Lara Stone Opens Up for Vogue US / Photo by Willy Vanderperre

A relative giant in the world of fashion, supermodel Lara Stone has struggled to fit in. But could her unexpected success mean the return of curves?

By Rebecca Johnson

Lara Stone Opens Up

When you’re a model, nobody calls you fat. “What they say is ‘curvy,’ but you know they mean fat,” says Lara Stone, who is Dutch and so soft-spoken, you have to lean forward to hear what she’s saying. However, she enunciates that word—fat—clearly and forcefully, as if it were caught at the back of her throat. The word hovers over the din of the hotel lobby where we are seated in downtown Manhattan, laced with irony and just a tinge of bitterness. After all, there is nothing remotely fat about supermodel Stone, who stands five feet ten and wears a size 4. As Karl Lagerfeld, a fan, says, “Lara Stone has a gorgeous woman’s body.”

Worse than being called fat is a gaggle of stylists whispering in a corner after you’ve been trying on clothes for ten minutes. “That,” she says, “is when I know I’m about to be canceled.” It doesn’t happen nearly as much as it used to. In the last three years, Stone’s star has risen to the point where her face, a beguiling mixture of tough and naive—imagine Sandra Bernhard crossed with Grace Kelly—has appeared in ad campaigns for Givenchy, Calvin Klein, and Hugo Boss. She’s walked the runway for almost every major designer, including Marc Jacobs, Balmain, and Isabel Marant. In modeling, she has endured long past the usual sell-by date. The fact that she has done it while being a good two sizes larger than the minnows currently walking the runway makes her all the more unusual. But it has not been easy.

Stone’s career is a case study in the unlikely. She was a teenager with an attitude problem on a family trip to Paris when she was scouted by an agent in the Métro. “I was,” she says, “the typical angry teenager.” Asked what her interests were back then, she draws a blank. “Cigarettes,” she finally admits. She did not know much about fashion, but she always liked the idea of dressing up—“Halloween is my favorite day of the year”—and anything that got her out of her small hometown, about a half hour west of the German border, was fine with her.

Lara—who was named by her mother, a Doctor Zhivago fan—spent a few years in Paris living the typical life of a struggling model. She shared an apartment with five other girls, went on endless casting calls—Walk. Turn. Walk. Thank you—and worked catalog shoots that paid well but not spectacularly. At 22, she was about to hang it up when she met Derek Dayley, a young agent at IMG who had a hunch about her unconventional looks. “She had been pigeonholed as this pretty, fresh-faced blonde, but I saw something else,” he explains. “She’s got this interesting, one-of-a-kind beauty.”

“I can have an androgynous quality,” Stone agrees, “except for the boobs.”
It’s hard to say which came first—the superskinny model or the size 0 sample. Either way, the trend has been tough on both the models, who find it nearly impossible to maintain that body type past the age of seventeen, and the magazines that want to show clothes on models who aren’t painfully thin. In the old days, stylists came to a shoot armed with pins to make the clothes fit the model. Now the relevant tool is a pair of scissors. Since the Council of Fashion Designers of America organized a health initiative three years ago to raise awareness about eating disorders, there has been some progress, but some girls remain worryingly underweight.

Designers who use the superskinny girls defend the trend, saying clothes hang better on a coat hanger. But the opposite is also true—some clothes look better on bodies with “boobs,” which is why Stone’s career has flourished. “Lara makes clothes look good,” says Virginia Smith, the fashion market editor of Vogue. “It’s refreshing to see her come down the runway. Sometimes I’ll call in a piece, it will arrive, and I’ll think, Why did I think I liked that? Then I’ll remember, Oh, because Lara wore it.” Photographers also appreciate Lara’s fuller silhouette. “I have never thought of Lara as fat,” says Mario Testino. “It is just a matter of different shapes. It reminds me of when I started to work with Gisele; everyone used to think that she was too voluptuous. Look at where she is now!”

Still, it’s not easy being a four in a land of zeros. We don’t tend to talk much about models’ inner lives. It seems enough that they are enviably thin, impossibly beautiful, and paid gobs of money to stand around in gorgeous clothes, but it can be hard on a young girl’s psyche to constantly hear how different you are. “It’s depressing when the clothes don’t fit and you are always the odd one out,” says Stone. Wearing black Azzedine Alaïa boots, a Balenciaga miniskirt, and a Chanel necklace, Stone looks every inch a supermodel at the peak of her career, but her size remains an issue. “I was on a shoot just last week,” she says. “And the stylist took out this tight corset dress and said, ‘Here, put it on,’ and I was like, ‘Who are you kidding?’ There was no way, so that was very rude of her. It’s like, come on, she’s a woman; whether you’re buying jeans at the mall or wearing couture, you know what it’s like for clothes not to fit. It’s not an easy kind of rejection, because it’s very personal. It’s you, your body. You take it to heart.”

She has tried to lose weight with diet and exercise, but nothing worked: “I even tried pills, but they made my heart race.” Eventually, Stone admits, she started drinking alcohol to get through the day. Nobody in the business noticed. “In this job, you’re always in different countries with different people,” she explains. If anything, Stone had a reputation as one of the more responsible girls in the industry. “I never get a late call on Lara,” says her agent. “I think she’s missed a plane once.” (It was in Turkey, and she’d stayed up too late watching a soccer game the night before.)

But even if others couldn’t see it, Stone knew she had a problem. “I was waking up shaking. I couldn’t do anything until I had a drink. I hated it. I didn’t like the person I became. Plus, I was looking like absolute shit, waking up with a swollen red face, pimples everywhere.” Last January she voluntarily checked into a monthlong alcohol-rehabilitation program. She chose South Africa because she thought it would be nice to be near the ocean. “I thought it would be like a holiday, but it turned out I was in lockdown for 23 hours. It was really not a holiday. It was a lot of therapy, a lot of crying, and a lot of difficult moments.” It was also successful. She has not had a drink for eight months.

Stone doesn’t blame fashion for her problems. “I like my job,” she says. “I don’t want to do anything else.” She doesn’t even blame the designers—“That is their aesthetic. It’s not for me to say whether it’s right or wrong.” Her problems—if you can call them that—recall the poet Rilke’s definition of fame as the collection of misunderstandings that gather around a person. “People think I’m angry because of my face, or that I’m a sex bomb. I’m neither.” What she is, is shy. “It’s really annoying,” she confesses. “I mumble, I don’t know what to say, my face gets red, and I hide behind my hair.” Alcohol helped loosen her up, but it was a short-term solution that created its own set of problems. Now that she is sober, she sees things a lot more clearly, including her own body. “People still tell me I’m fat, but when I look in the mirror, that’s not what I see.”

© by Vogue US

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