Monday 24 April 2017

Stella Maxwell: How did an Irish girl become one of the biggest models in the world?

How did an Irish girl, a diplomat's daughter, become one of the best-known faces and bodies in the world? Triona McCarthy meets Victoria's Secret's supermodel Stella Maxwell.

Model Stella Maxwell presents a creation during the 2016 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at the Grand Palais in Paris, France
Model Stella Maxwell presents a creation during the 2016 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at the Grand Palais in Paris, France
Stella Maxwell in Love Magazine's Advent calendar video
Stella Maxwell in Love Magazine's Advent calendar video
Models Lily Aldridge (L) and Stella Maxwell attend the Daily Front Row's 3rd Annual Fashion Los Angeles Awards at Sunset Tower Hotel on April 2, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
Stella Maxwell: "I have an Irish passport. I go back every summer and Christmas, and sometimes I pop over during the year to say hi, and, of course, celebrate St Patrick’s Day"
Stella struts her stuff at the Victoria’s Secret show with Lady Gaga
Stella Maxwell launches Victoria's Secret 'Body by Victoria' range in London
The supermodel is said to be dating actress Kristen Stewart
Stella with Miley Cyrus, who is rumoured to be an ex-girlfriend
A make-up artist works on Stella before the show
Stella with fellow Angels, Martha Hunt, Josephine Skriver and Jasmine Tookes before the Victoria’s Secret fashion show in Paris

I see Paris, I see France, I see Stella Maxwell's underpants! Cheeky, I know, but I'm in Paris, France, and yes, I did see Stella strut her stuff in her sequined underpants at the Victoria's Secret show the night before.

The 26-year-old blonde bombshell seems to be the hottest model in the world right now - designers, brands and fashion editors are clambering over each other to snap her up for their runways, campaigns and magazine covers, and she's also been voted Model of the Year at the LA Fashion Awards.

Belgian-born Stella - whom we can claim as our own, as her parents hail from Northern Ireland - holds the number one-spot on Maxim's current Hot List, as well as being Max Factor's newest ambassador.

Her colourful love life - Miley Cyrus, apparently, is an ex, while her current girlfriend is rumoured to be actress Kristen Stewart - means that pics pop up daily on entertainment channels and tabloids.

Stella struts her stuff at the Victoria’s Secret show with Lady Gaga
Stella struts her stuff at the Victoria’s Secret show with Lady Gaga

But back to the show, where I sat in the 'frow', as Stella and 50 other genetic-lottery winners shimmied past, looking like they were having the time of their lives, as Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars and The Weeknd belted out the tunes.

Next day, in Stella's hotel room at the Castille Hotel in Paris, Stella, with not a Solpadeine in sight, looks fresh as a daisy after one of the world's biggest pop-culture events.

Cheese. Not necessarily the first thing that springs to mind when you think of a Victoria's Secret model, now is it?

"What cheese do you use to lure a bear out of its cave?" she asks, as we settle down for the chats.

"I don't know," I reply. "What cheese do you use to lure a bear out of a cave?"

"Camembert!"

Stella Maxwell launches Victoria's Secret 'Body by Victoria' range in London
Stella Maxwell launches Victoria's Secret 'Body by Victoria' range in London

"How cheesy," I say as I begin to warm to the sassy lassie sitting opposite me.

"I heard it and I thought it was the cheesiest thing ever."

Stella, who is dressed in a Texas tuxedo - a denim jacket and jeans combo; an outfit only someone her age can pull off - looks more tomboy than angel. This seems to be the uniform for Stella and her squad, which of course I know all about from scrolling through my Insta feed, where Kristen and herself constantly pop up.

As we talk through her OOTD (outfit of the day), I ask if it's a case of 'double the denim, double the fun'?

"This is a vintage jacket, Levi's vintage, and I'm wearing Acne jeans. I like to mix it up. I like to wear something expensive with something that's not. And this is my friend's brand," she says, pointing to her chunky silver jewellery and belt. "My friend Jessie Jo. Her family own Chrome Hearts, an LA brand."

Stella is quite the Instagram queen, with more than 2.6 million followers. Since I began following her, I've become obsessed with her glamorous life and all her gang.

The supermodel is said to be dating actress Kristen Stewart
The supermodel is said to be dating actress Kristen Stewart

When I first popped my head around the door of her room, Stella was sitting with her feet up. She was lost in her phone, her fingers flying across the screen. I read somewhere that she's ambidextrous, so that probably accounts for the speed!

I tell her how I got a selfie with Olivier Rousteing - the creative director of Balmain - at the show the night before, and we're straight back into fashion talk. Not surprising, as Stella has walked for everyone from Mugler to Moschino, so of course she knows Olivier.

"Yeah, I've walked his show - I think, four times. So I love him. I saw him backstage. He's very sweet."

Martha Hunt and Stella Maxwell promoting Victoria's Secret's BODY range. Picture: Victoria's Secret/Instagram
Martha Hunt and Stella Maxwell promoting Victoria's Secret's BODY range. Picture: Victoria's Secret/Instagram

What other designers do you rate, then?

"I really like Donatella [Versace]. She's cool. I like her a lot. We've built a relationship. And I really like Marc Jacobs. I've done his show lots of times too, and I'm always very thankful to do so. It's one of my favourites. I really like walking for brands where I like the clothes, because it's a big part of the whole thing."

So how exactly does a girl born in 1990 in Brussels to Northern Irish parents, Stella Maynes and diplomat Maurice Maxwell, end up walking the runways for the world's most desirable designers?

"My parents are both from Belfast. I have an Irish passport and a British passport, and I go back every summer and every Christmas, and sometimes I pop over during the year to say hi, and, of course, celebrate St Patrick's Day.

"All my family look Irish. They act Irish. My sister even has red hair... it's crazy. I'm the one that doesn't seem Irish. None of the kids in my family, my siblings, speak with an Irish accent… we've never lived there full-time, we weren't born there, we just go there once or twice a year. It's weird. Our parents sound Irish, but we don't.

Ah go on, do an Irish accent, I tease.

Stella with fellow Angels, Martha Hunt, Josephine Skriver and Jasmine Tookes before the Victoria’s Secret fashion show in Paris
Stella with fellow Angels, Martha Hunt, Josephine Skriver and Jasmine Tookes before the Victoria’s Secret fashion show in Paris

Not a chance.

"It's not very good, so I'm so not going to try,'' she explains. So I write 'Norn Iron' on my notebook and tell her to read what it says - that's how you can sound like a native Northern Irish gal.

We laugh, and then Stella gets into the game and says, "It's like what they do if you want to imitate an Australian accent and you're like, you're supposed to say 'horse trailer' - so it's like, 'Horsetrailer'."

Horsetrailer: Australia. Get it?

Stella moved to Canberra in Australia when she was 13, having lived in Belgium from birth. Then the family relocated from there to Wellington in New Zealand, and it was there, while attending Otago University, that a model scout spotted her.

It was a quick rise to the top - she did campaigns for Alexander McQueen and Roberto Cavalli, as well as gracing the cover of Vogue and Elle, before becoming a Victoria's Secret Angel.

"I have always loved modelling. I used to look in magazines when I was growing up and I just thought it was such an incredible, glamorous life. And actually, as I've been working and doing it, I've just really... I don't know, I'm just enjoying it so much. Yesterday was one of the best days ever. I loved it. I thought I'd be a bit more nervous than I was, but no, I was actually just enjoying it," she says.

In case you've been living under a rock, the Victoria's Secret show is watched in 190 countries by over 800 million people and, for the first time ever, it was staged in Paris, amid very heavy security, at the Grand Palais.

"The first one I did was in London and, yeah, I knew the girls. I had been shooting for Victoria's Secret for a couple of months before I did the show. So I had worked with the teams and I knew the people. I think I had even shot a campaign before I did a show.

"I didn't know what to expect at my first one, but they have it down to a fine art. They know what they're doing, so they looked after us really well.

So it hasn't become normal then? Like, 'Oh, here we go again?'

"No, it's always so special. You're always going to have that little adrenaline rush and that zing and that excitement. You know, we've been building it up for so long and all of us girls work so hard, all the team does. You see, when we work so close with the company, you see everything they go through. It's like a long process over that year to get to where they get to. I think it's just radical, so fun, and I think all the girls killed it. I was watching everyone. There's a screen backstage where we watch the girls walk and they're all our friends, so it's so special to see your friend killing her little moment on the runway. It's amazing."

I marvel at how fresh-faced she is - she tells me it wasn't a super early roll call.

"We started at 10. Not crazy."

So you get overtime? This cracks her up.

"Not at all. I don't care; I'm not even thinking about that stuff. I'm just happy I did it."

What was your favourite outfit from last night?

"I can't even choose from the two because they were so different. There was a different moment for each one. Did you come to the show?' I tell her I'm half hoarse from whooping and shouting.

We talked about Lady Gaga's performance and how she managed five outfit changes for the three songs she performed. Amongst the bionic bods of the models, she looked the most covered-up I'd ever seen her.

"Yeah, she came backstage with us and we sang her song, the one I walked to, the Million Reasons song. She is so great, so down-to-earth, so sweet. She gave us all flowers at the end. It's epic, I've never had that from any performer."

And Bruno Mars? "Bruno Mars is cool." 


I really, really want to ask her about her fellow Angel Bella Hadid and The Weeknd's, eh, broken romance. ICYMI (In case you missed it) he performed Starboy at the show as he danced with and waved to Angel Adriana Lima as she walked the runway, but when Bella walked down it, it was her 'side eye' that was all over my social-media feed!

"Obviously, The Weeknd and I have met and known each other before. I really like him a lot. Everyone was just... honestly, it was just a really good vibe."

In the zone Of course I had to find out how the hell you prep for a Victoria's Secret show. Believe me, when you tell anyone you're interviewing a Victoria's Secret Angel, all they want to know is how they prep for it!

Do you do, like, 3,972 sit-ups before breakfast and eat nothing but protein balls and water?

"I do yoga. I have a trainer in LA and New York, so I can do it every day."

OK, so how do you prepare mentally?"I took a couple of days. I was going to shoot an editorial, but I decided two weeks before the show that I would pass on a couple of jobs and just sleep, rest, eat. Not flying on a plane to shoot an editorial and then flying back to New York. I just didn't want to travel and get crazy."

To be in the zone? I offer.

"Yeah, a little bit. I just wanted to make sure I felt good about where I was at. That's where yoga helps a lot. I meditate and spend an hour just thinking about breathing and my body. It's really good. But yeah, it's not insane. You just work out a bit more. Because I work out all year - I model every day of the year; it's my job to be in shape and my body is my business - so it's not like I just work out those two weeks."

As I'm about to go, I ask Stella for a selfie and, oh my Gawd, did she really come to life - taking the phone out of my hand and showing me how to "find the light".

I need to find my light and lay off the goddamn cheese!

Sunday Independent

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