Culture & Music
T. Cole Rachel
In the pantheon of glamorous French women, there are few more widely celebrated (or as famously and frequently photographed) than Laetitia Casta. Famously discovered at the age of 15, Casta has one of the most recognisable visages in the world, gracing the cover of countless magazines and serving as a muse for everyone from Herb Ritts to Jean-Paul Goude and Yves Saint Laurent. In addition to working for decades within the upper echelon of fashion, Casta also gracefully navigated the often difficult transition from working model to working actress, giving celebrated turns on both stage and screen while also working as a director, writer, and art director. Here, on a break from shooting two movies simultaneously in France, she discusses the current landscape of her creative life and what it means to come of age in the public eye.
Left: Chanel top & shorts, Falke socks, DROMe shoes, Chanel Coco Crush rings, Right: Saint Laurent shirt & trousers
Left: Laetitia: Eres bra, Arturo Obegero trousers, Chanel Coco Crush rings Leo: Ernest W Baker shirt & trousers, Ann Demeulemeester shoes, model’s own ring Right: Alexander McQueen dress, Maison Margiela shoes, Eres bra & underwear, Chanel Coco Crush rings ’s own ring
Laetitia: Gucci suit & shirt, JM Weston shoes, Falke socks, Chanel Coco Crush rings Leo: Y/Project suit & shirt, model’s own jewellery, JM Weston shoes, Falke socks
TCR: At this point in your career you have worked on every side of the camera, either as a model or an actress or as a director or an art director. Is there a particular role that is your favourite?
LC: I don’t have the ego of having a favourite thing. I’m okay with wherever the possibility of being creative is. It doesn’t matter where my place is. I’m able to move. I love to be in front of the camera but I love to be in the back, too. I love being able to work and also being able to give back, to create opportunities for others. I always imagine my favourite place is to be exactly in between things – like standing in the doorway. It’s easy to enter something new or to escape if you need to.
TCR: You were discovered and started working when you were quite young. As a kid, did you think this was sort of always what you would end up doing? That you would be in front of a camera in some way?
LC: Not at all. I could not define exactly what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew that it would not be waking up and going into an office every day. I only wanted to do something extraordinary. I knew I wanted to do something creative and with lots of people around me. I didn’t know what it was.
TCR: People who have never worked in fashion often have funny misconceptions about what it must be like or how things actually work, but doing big editorial shoots certainly fits that definition – at best, it’s a very creative experience involving a lot of people. It’s a true collaboration.
LC: Yeah, it’s what I like about this work is the possibility to create together – there is this idea or image that you are all trying to catch, this idea of what everybody wanted to achieve from the beginning and we are all in it together. I love that. I think it’s the best. I also love that aspect of working in the theatre – all of these different actors working together and sharing the same idea of the story you are trying to tell. Making pictures is the same thing for me. It’s always been this way.
Laetitia: Louis Vuitton jacket & rollneck, Chanel Coco Crush rings Leo: Ernest W Baker shirt
TCR: You were thrust into the spotlight at a very young age – as a teenager – but you have always come across as so self-assured and articulate. Did having all of these eyes on you, having to be comfort- able with being looked at, come fairly naturally to you?
LC: Well I remember on my first shoot, taking my very first picture. I didn’t know at all what it was like to be a model. I didn’t know anything about it. At that point I just thought that it was best to try and be myself because that’s all I knew. When the picture came out, I looked so much older than I actually was. I was only 16. I looked at the picture and I saw somebody that was 25, who looked so much older and more sophisticated, and I was completely shocked. That was my first contact with photography. At that time people would say that I did the best when I didn’t have makeup on, nothing. It kind of felt like the pictures were capturing some part of my soul, which felt much older. It was showing me a part of myself that I didn’t know. That’s how I started. I found it very interesting to be in front of the camera. As it went on, I could be different people, experience these different moments, like playing a character. I always felt like it was not really me. It was just part of my imagination and I could go anywhere. During the ‘90s, my teenage years, it felt like nobody really knew me. I was always going into these differ- ent characters in the world. I was always shocked to see the results. When I was looking at the picture afterwards, I saw somebody else. It was not me.
TCR: Making the transition from being a model to being an actress is not always an easy transition. For you, did it feel like a natural progression from the kind of work you’d been doing in front of cameras anyway?
LC: Well, it was natural for me, but it was not natural for the people in the business. For a model to become an actress and to be taken seriously, it was not a natural transition, not for fashion people, not for people in the cinema world. I felt like I had to climb over many walls to get there – when you are doing something that other people don’t get, don’t understand, and don’t think is possible. Other people would say it’s not possible and you just kind of have to make believe that it really is until it finally becomes reality. So yes, it was natural for me, but I felt that I have to work more and more than others to prove that I am passionate about it. Honestly, I know now that they get it, but I don’t really care. And I think I never cared about it because I had to accomplish it for myself. It was more important for me to believe in it than for others. And I never wait to have the approval of somebody else. It could be my parents, it could be anybody. No one has the authority to make me change my dreams.
TCR: Having been in the public eye for so long, did you have to be vigilant about protecting your private life, or nourishing some kind of life outside of work that no one else could see?
LC: Certainly, because from the time I am 16 years old I was working every day. At the time, I didn’t protect myself, I just jumped on it. But I learned as time went on to be more wise, that there were places I could hide. I could actually be very shy in real life, but I honestly never had much of a problem with the fame part of it. I just always felt that, at least for me, it was a part of the game. I didn’t take it too seriously, which felt like a healthy way to deal with it.
Maison Margiela jacket, Nguyēn Hoang Tu rollneck, Carine Gilson dress, DROMe shoes, Chanel Coco Crush ring
Left: Ernest W Baker shirt & trousers, Celine jacket, Ann Demeulemeester shoes, model’s own ring Right: Y/Project jacket, top & skirt, Nguyēn Hoang Tu rollneck, DROMe shoes, Chanel Coco Crush rings
Laetitia: Byredo suit & shirt, Dries Van Noten tie Leo: Byredo suit & shirt, Dries Van Noten tie, Ann Demeulemeester shoes
TCR: What will 2020 be like for you? Are you someone who enjoys having tons of projects lined up and planned out?
LC: Yes, I am. Right now I have a few different projects happening and I’m actually, right this moment, shooting two movies at the same time. After that, I will be returning to the theatre which is where I most love to be. Beyond that, there is something more intimate that I would love to write, so I’m going to try and go for it. I’m trying to put that all together now, so we’ll see.
TCR: You are something of a French icon at this point. Does it feel strange that people think of you as being quintessentially French?
LC: [laughs] Well, I am French. I am. But I never thought of myself as be- ing defined in that way, almost like a character or something. I don’t mind it, but I’ve always moved around in the world and I never wanted to be viewed as simply the image of something. As a person, and specifically as a woman, I never wanted to be identified only in those kinds of terms. When people relate to me in some way, I don’t think it has as much to do with being French as it does with just naturally being who you are, with your personality.
TCR: You have collaborated with many of the greatest and most iconic photographers and designers in the world. Do you find that the fashion industry has changed radically since when you first started, or that our standards of beauty have evolved since then?
LC: It is interesting, I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about it this way because I think things are always moving, always changing, and if you don’t accept it you can crash like a bad airplane. A friend of mine described it once like if you want to always be a part of the times, you basically have to float on the sea. I think he’s right. Things are always changing and moving, and you move along with it. So, of course things change and it’s completely different, but I think that’s a good thing. All you can do is try and be authentic and true. I continue to meet so many amazing people in this world, particularly this upcoming generation of kids coming into the business, who are so much more self-aware and spiritual. Sometimes I’m working with very young people and they are so excited and so happy, it feels very positive and inspiring. It is definitely different now in so many ways, but there are always going to be people doing new and creative things. I don’t like it when people say that everything is over. I don’t believe in that. There is always the possibility to make something beautiful, something new.
Alexander McQueen dress, Maison Margiela shoes, Eres bra & underwear, Chanel Coco Crush rings ’s own ring