“If I could give my younger self some advice at that time, I’d tell her to enjoy the ride and don’t be afraid to ask questions,” she told us. “I was quite responsible, uptight and worried – I’d tell myself to chill out.”
Later on in her career, after a battle with drug and alcohol addiction, the Oklahoma-born model began campaigning about the darker side of the garment industry. She set up her e-commerce site, Master & Muse, which focuses on ethical fashion. Valletta has fought hard to combat slave labour in clothing factories, ensuring that her own business has trackable, measurable standards for its workers. Having spent nearly three decades in fashion, she’s seen a lot of change, good and bad – and that includes the way in which models find fame.
“I guess you can be a supermodel today just by building followers,” she told us. “You don’t necessarily have to do the work of going to Milan and then to Paris or New York, trying to find the right photographer, artist, or designer to see you. Today, you can gain a bunch of followers doing a dance in a cute bikini and suddenly, you’re a superstar. Or you could just be a beautiful girl posting pictures of yourself and get discovered that way.”
However, she refuses to dismiss the new generation of models who have found fame through Instagram. “It’s just very different – but it’s also opened up possibilities for girls who might not have been seen before.”
While the model-cum-activist has her own Instagram account, she’s not big on the social media phenomenon.
“Honestly, I don’t care for much of it,” she says. “I think it’s pretty self-indulgent. I play the game because I have to, but I’m quite conscious of what I put out there.” As you can imagine, working in the same industry for such a long time means Valletta has accrued a strong set of friends whom she compares to “family”. Kate Moss, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Shalom Harlow and Linda Evangelista were all part of her close circle.
“We’re like family,” she says. “We don’t see each every other very often – some of them might not even be modelling anymore or are doing different things – but of course we still see each other. We’re just usually in different parts of the world.”
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The idea of friendship is what her latest fashion campaign is founded upon. Valetta stars in The Outnet’s autumn/winter 2017 advert with her friend and fellow 90s model Missy Rayder.
“It’s such a nice theme,” says Valetta. “And it was really great to see Missy again – we’ve been friends for years and I hadn’t seen her in ages, so it was great to catch up. We didn’t have to be pretend to like each other – it felt nice and authentic.”
In an industry that’s known for being ageist, growing older has only been an asset for Valetta – both professionally and personally.
“With age comes wisdom and a high sex drive,” she laughs. “And the wisdom to enjoy it.”
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From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK