Arizona Muse: the model mum sweeping the catwalks
The fashion world just can’t get enough of the model Arizona Muse. And with her spectacular beauty, work ethic and down-to-earth manner it’s not hard to see why.
BY Kate Finnigan |
01 April 2012
Unless you work in the fashion industry or you’re an avid follower of its ups and downs, it’s unlikely that you will have heard the name Arizona Muse. No, she is not an indie-rock band, nor is she one of Truman Capote’s lesser-known female characters and, yes, it really is the moniker her parents bestowed upon her at birth. But her name (‘How could anyone resist someone with that name?’ Anna Wintour said last year) is just the start.
Muse is a 23-year-old American model who, over the past 18 months, has captivated the world of high style. Since September 2010, when Miuccia Prada exclusively booked the then unknown to open and close the Prada show, her gazelle-like legs have stalked every catwalk between New York and Paris and her gorgeous features have appeared in advertising campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, Fendi, Chloé, Louis Vuitton, Karl Lagerfeld, Isabel Marant and, for the last two seasons, the British high-street favourite Next.
Last month Estée Lauder named her as its new ‘face’
In February 2011, the same month that Anna Wintour used her editorial letter to praise this ‘gorgeous, smart grown-up’, the influential style magazine Dazed & Confused dedicated its entire fashion content to Muse. And yet the most interesting thing about her is one of the most normal things in the world: she’s a mother.
‘There are plenty of models who have children,’ Muse says, with a tinge of defiance. We’re sharing a squashy leather sofa in a studio in east London. It’s mid-February and Muse has been working for 20 days without a break. Her three-year-old son, Nikko, is back in Brooklyn with his nanny and after a shoot on the day we meet she will fly back there and wake up with him the next morning. Then she’ll work in New York for two days, go to a shoot in Death Valley for another couple and then have five days off before she starts the four-week tour of duty that is the biannual New York and European fashion shows. She has a cold and a bad cough, which can’t have been helped by working outside on a British Vogue shoot the day before we meet. ‘I was wearing peep-toe heels and short skirts. I was freezing! That’s how glamorous modelling is,’ she says, her hands hugging a hot mug of tea.
I am still trying to think of the many models with children working at this level and this pelt. Natalia Vodianova has three, Jourdan Dunn has one, Kate Moss has one; but they are few and far between. Muse doesn’t look as if she is going to concede, but then she hits the nail on the head. ‘I think the others were established before they had children. I had a child and then became established, which I would not recommend doing! I highly recommend getting your career established first and then having children.’ She chuckles.
But those were not the cards that fate dealt out to Muse. Born in Tucson, Arizona, (oh, the childhood horrors of being named after your address), she grew up in Santa Fe, modelled as a teenager and then moved to Los Angeles. In 2007 she had been signed by the agency Next and was living in New York when she became pregnant. Believing that was the end of her modelling career, she moved back to Los Angeles. After Nikko was born, and with the father no longer in the picture, Muse was faced with the reality of single motherhood. She decided to chance her arm again at modelling. ‘I thought, “I have a child now. I have to support him and I have to support myself. I think I can do this.” So I gave it a try back in New York.’
Muse with her son, Nikko, in the Next campaign
The way she puts it makes this sound like a straightforward and rather sensible decision – although she admits later that it has been ‘tricky’. The reality of modelling, well paid though it is, can be grim, whether you’re nursing a baby or not. It’s a tough game with long days that often turn into long nights and lots of travelling far from home. How on earth did she do it? ‘I started out not travelling,’ she says. ‘I started working in April when Nikko was one, and the following September was when I did [the catwalk] shows. So from April to September I didn’t travel.
I was just working in New York and I was really glad I was able to do that for another six months. He didn’t start travelling the crazy way he’s been travelling with me until he was one and a half. And now he’s almost three and he’s doing that a lot less. It was a lot for him, it was rough, although good for him to have me around. Babies need to be with their mommies, in my opinion, and we were really lucky to be able to do that.’
Aside from the hours, there are the obvious aesthetic demands of being a model. Given how her career went stratospheric on her return, it seems that pregnancy and childbirth didn’t wreak havoc on her body. ‘No, it did, it did,’ she insists. ‘At first I was like, “I’m going to be fat for ever!” I think we all feel that way after we have a baby.
‘I threw away so many clothes thinking that it would be so depressing having them sitting in my drawer when they’re never going to fit me. I got rid of my favourite pair of jeans, which of course would fit me now. You just have to give your body time. You can’t have a three-month-old baby and think, “That’s it for me.” I tell mothers that you have to wait a whole year before you start judging your body, before you start working on it. Just give yourself a whole year of rest. And breastfeed. I’m a big advocate of breastfeeding.’ She breastfed for 14 months. ‘I loved it. And weaning was really easy when we did it,’ she says. ‘He was ready, I was ready.’ And then her body pinged back to its old model self…? (Women of a sensitive disposition might prefer to look away now.)
‘I think my body was better after I had a child, actually,’ she says. ‘I prefer my body now to what it was like before I had Nikko – although I exercise now and I didn’t then. I remember my mom saying that after you have a baby you get really thin. So you gain all that weight and then you just lose it and keep losing it. You’re breastfeeding and you’re busy and you’re tired… so that helped.
That was conveniently timed.’ She laughs heartily. I have a romantic notion that motherhood also gave her an allure that the casting agents couldn’t resist. ‘I don’t know about that,’ she says with a laugh. ‘But I remember during my first season feeling really well received as a model and a mother. When people asked me things, they asked about being a mother; they weren’t asking me about walking down a catwalk. They were real-life things. It was nice.’
To say Muse – with her strong eyebrows, olive skin and light-up-the-room smile – is beautiful is like saying Paul McCartney was once in a band. She is spectacularly so. She is neither one of those blank-canvas models whose regular features can be blended to any look nor unapproachably exotic. Her looks are unusual but possess a heartfelt quality to which other women seem to warm. It’s why she can be both the archangel of high fashion in a Chloé advert and also the beaming, friendly face of Next. Muse’s agent, Amanda Bretherton, says, ‘Arizona has a Grace Kelly feel that transcends different styles and eras in fashion.’
Muse on the
shoot; cotton knitted top, £38, and cotton shorts with belt, £30; both
Beauty, impeccable manners and a willingness to reveal that she spends a lot of time washing her knickers in the sink because she once got a hotel laundry bill of £600 turns out to be a rather intoxicating mix. Clad in black, from her Rag & Bone sweater to her authentic Arizona cowboy boots, she is calm, gracious and unfussy. Shall we put this down to her British heritage? Let’s. While her father is an American art dealer, her mother, a clinical therapist, is English. Her maternal grandmother and aunts and uncles live in London, so she sees a lot more of them these days. Is she an anglophile?
‘Someone just asked me that yesterday and I’d never heard the word before,’ she says. ‘But I do feel very English. I think it’s really helped having grown up with an English mother. I don’t speak another language but I’m very familiar with Europe and I like being half-and-half. It’s been really nice to be the face of Next because it’s such a British label. I’m proud of my British heritage.’ Ask her to name something British that she loves and she comes up with…’Grass! I grew up in the south-west of America and it’s beautiful, but in a rugged, harsh way, so I absolutely love grass.’
Her mother obviously felt the opposite. It was she who came up with the name Arizona. ‘She had just moved to the desert when I was born and they’d finished building a house and everything happened all at once, so perhaps she was a bit overwhelmed!’ Muse says, smiling. ‘I like it now but I used to hate it. It took me a long time to grow into it. It’s a big name for a little girl. They called me Zoe as a child and I guess that was better, but I really didn’t like Arizona.’
She misses the mountains of Santa Fe where, as a tall, gangly teenager (‘I hunched, dug my feet into the sand, anything to be shorter’), she rode horses, camped in the desert and led an outdoorsy existence (her younger brother is a professional snowboarder). ‘It’s so beautiful. I love it there. I’d love to live there again, but later, not now,’ she adds hastily. I don’t think the fashion world would tolerate any such move. There is too much expected of her. When we meet she has a stint of international fashion collections ahead of her; by the end she’d been in 26 shows.
‘I’m trying to prepare and think about what is going to keep me going through this next season of shows,’ she says. ‘It’s kind of scary to think about it. It’s a whole day after day after day and sometimes fittings until 3am, and then seven o’clock call times.’ Does she have to stay healthy and watch what she eats? ‘Yeah. It would be really nice if there was healthy food everywhere, but there isn’t.’ She shrugs. ‘In Paris there’s… bread. You don’t get to choose because you’re staying in hotels; you don’t know when you’re going to eat next. That’s the tricky part. By the end of fashion week we’re all looking forward to sitting at a proper table with a knife and a fork and a plate, not just snacks and finger food at random times.’
For 18 months her life has been lived at breakneck speed. ‘It hasn’t stopped and it’s not going to either, if I have anything to do with it. I want to keep going,’ she says, her mouth pursing with determination. What’s the drive? ‘I don’t think I have an ultimate goal. I don’t think by next January I want to do this or that. But an immediate goal is that I want to buy an apartment. I would roll around and kiss the floor. I mean I would feel so good if I owned my own apartment,’ she says. ‘It would be a solid achievement: I have done this.’
Styling by Hew Hood
Hair by Tony Collins
Make-up by Lesley Chilkes
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Arizona Muse: the model mum sweeping the catwalks
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