By switching the stale narrative—born into privilege, beholder of genetically blessed eyebrows, pretty party-girl—to one that’s more detailed and nuanced—sufferer of mental illness, at times “parent” to her addict mother, skeptic of the fashion industry—Cara is more in command of her public image than ever. That’s no easy feat coming from a celebrated model with over 14 million Instagram followers and the heir apparent to Kate Moss‘s vacant supermodel throne. But then again, Cara’s career is grounded in defying expectations.
Cara goes there by talking for the first time about the hardships and realities that shaped her as a person and notably confirming her relationship with musician St. Vincent. Cara gave a stellar, information-packed interview, so perhaps it’s best to follow her trials and tribulations in chronological order.
On family life:
“My family was kind of about that whole parties–and–horse racing thing. I can understand it’s fun for some. I never enjoyed it.” But it was Pandora’s relapsing heroin addiction that may have been the defining fact of Cara’s childhood. “It shapes the childhood of every kid whose parent has an addiction,” she believes. “You grow up too quickly because you’re parenting your parents. My mother’s an amazingly strong person with a huge heart, and I adore her. But it’s not something you get better from, I don’t think. I know there are people who have stopped and are fine now, but not in my circumstance. She’s still struggling.”
On mental illness:
…At fifteen, she fell into an emotional morass. “This is something I haven’t been open about, but it’s a huge part of who I am,” she says. “All of a sudden I was hit with a massive wave of depression and anxiety and self-hatred, where the feelings were so painful that I would slam my head against a tree to try to knock myself out. I never cut, but I’d scratch myself to the point of bleeding. I just wanted to dematerialize and have someone sweep me away.”
On the cyclical guilt-trip of privilege:
“I thought that if I wanted to act, I’d need to finish school, but I got so I couldn’t wake up in the morning. The worst thing was that I knew I was a lucky girl, and the fact that you would rather be dead . . . you just feel so guilty for those feelings, and it’s this vicious circle. Like, how dare I feel that way? So you just attack yourself some more.”
On considering suicide:
“…I was packing my bags, and suddenly I just wanted to end it. I had a way, and it was right there in front of me. And I was like, I need to decide whether I love myself as much as I love the idea of death.” And then a song started playing on her laptop, Outkast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious,” which had been played at the funeral of a friend who had recently died of a heroin overdose. “It felt like a warning from him. And it made me so furious with myself.”
“I’m not sure I understand what fashion is anymore,” she says. “I admit I was terrified to leave. I mean, the bubble gives you a kind of dysfunctional family. When you’re in it, you get it. And the second you’re out of it, you’re like, What the hell just happened?”
On her relationship with St. Vincent:
“I think that being in love with my girlfriend is a big part of why I’m feeling so happy with who I am these days. And for those words to come out of my mouth is actually a miracle.”
Vogue also details her fluid crossover from modeling to acting and singing, noting, “She thinks acting and music, always the long-term plan, saved her.”
As long as Cara continues to pervade different realms of pop culture, we’ll be watching. Something tells us that her star won’t be fading anytime soon.