Ask Londoners what they know about Croydon and here’s what they definitely won’t say: Croydon has white cliffs (who knew?); it was originally a centre for saffron cultivation (who cares?); Charlie Chaplin was once kidnapped at Croydon Airport (the weirdest thing here is that Croydon used to have an airport). No, any self-respecting Londoner will instantly reply: Kate Moss is from Croydon.
But La Moss, The Boss or, simply, Kate — depending on your preferred nomenclature — is not only the most famous thing to come out of CR0, she’s the most famous thing to come out of London since black cabs, Buckingham Palace and £8 lattes.
For the past 35 years, Kate has been at the white-hot epicentre of London cool. Like a more fabulous Forrest Gump with better cheekbones, she’s always at the heart of the cultural action, whether it’s stealing the show at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, being painted nude by Lucian Freud (and taking an afternoon nap with him) or giving a testimonial via Zoom at Johnny Depp’s trial. Her diamond-spun network of friends and collaborators is a dazzling who’s who of London, from David Bailey and the Rolling Stones to Rita Ora and David Beckham. And then there are the 30 British Vogue covers and countless billboards on every street corner. But none of that is what makes Kate the ultimate poster girl for our city.
Madonna sucked the oxygen out of the party, while Kate was on the dancefloor, giggling and having a blast
For me, it’s all about those pap shots of her having a fag in the street. It’s the fact that her best mate is still her oldest friend from Croydon, hair stylist James Brown. How she managed to make “Get the London look” sound alluring. Her willingness to laugh at herself, whether it’s going headfirst into the Thames for Ab Fab or appearing as Vicky Pollard’s sister in a Comic Relief sketch and delivering the immortal line: “I’ll give you a gobjob for a packet of Quavers.” It’s her watching Strictly on the sofa with Noel Gallagher for Gogglebox. Or the time she got thrown off an easyJet flight for drinking vodka out of her hand luggage and calling the pilot a “basic bitch” — all the more iconic because she was returning from a zen retreat. In one way or another, we can all relate because not taking ourselves too seriously and, yes, sometimes being outrageous or out of order are essential London traits.
Somehow, in spite of her unearthly beauty and multi-million-pound lifestyle, Kate still feels like one of us.
Case in point: I interviewed her for ES magazine just after the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. On TV and front pages Kate was seen at the royal event cheering from an open-top double-decker bus dressed in her Union Jack coat by John Galliano. Can it get more London than that? She described the pinch-me magic of the whole day but, hilariously, singled out spotting Jilly Cooper in the crowd as a real highlight. “That was major!” she fan-girled.
The thing is, unlike most megastars, Kate doesn’t seem weighed down by her fame; she just gets on with it. Last year, when Madonna was in town kicking off her world tour at the O2, I was lucky enough to be invited to an intimate after-show party hosted at a photographer’s home. Not many invites would get me out of the house on a Sunday evening — sorry but Antiques Roadshow is an essential part of my weekend wind-down — let alone a party starting at midnight but, hey, it was Madonna. The great and the glamorous of London were all there, from Edward Enninful to FKA twigs and Kate, naturally.
Madonna didn’t turn up until 2am and when she did it was as if she’d sucked the oxygen out of the place. She sat in the corner surrounded by big guards and hidden behind even bigger sunglasses in what seemed like a strictly no fun zone. Meanwhile, our Kate was on the dancefloor, giggling with friends and having a blast. At 50 — and after a recent reinvention as a wellness guru with her brand Cosmoss — Kate is still the most fun person in the room. I don’t know about you, but that zero-f***s attitude makes me proud to be a Londoner.
Ben Cobb is editor of ES magazine