'Perfect is boring': Grace Coddington opens up about beauty in rare interview
She lives in a world dominated by an obsession with being flawless. So it's refreshing to hear Grace Coddington, the creative director of US Vogue and Anna Wintour's right-hand woman, admit that for her, beauty is not synonymous with perfection.
Opening up about the car accident that disfigured her eyelid at the age of 26, the former model insists that she was "never considered beautiful anyway. I was a character. Not a beautiful blonde with blue eyes. Beauty is not about perfection. I prefer imperfections – it's much more interesting.
"Perfect is boring," she adds.
Speaking to The Observer in a rare interview, the 71-year-old talked about the fashion industry's penchant for skinniness, revealing that she relies on her instincts where models are concerned.
"I photograph what I think is right, and if a girl is anorexic I'm not going to feel right about it, so I wouldn't book her. But I wouldn't book one that is too fat either.
"There are people who are very guilty of working with girls who are too thin, just because the camera always makes people look that little bit fatter than real life. Some 16-year-olds go too far – they can't see what's right in front of their eyes, and it's dangerous."
Despite her concern for models under pressure to remain thin, she candidly admits that the camera favours a slimmer shape: "Some young girls have no shape whatsoever – they're like little boys, and I hate to say it, but the clothes hang well on them."
And what of the modelling industry's preference for white skin? "There are black girls I find very beautiful and there are black girls I don't find very beautiful; same with white girls, some of whom I find hideous. It's not about colour for me; it's about beauty. And fun, and character."
She also revealed her feelings towards fur, something Anna is known to be a big fan of. "I'm not happy photographing fur because I love my cats, and I cannot really separate animals and say: 'It's OK to kill those but not these.' I don't conscientiously object to fur, but if I can get around it I will. I don't seek it out."
Born in Anglesey, Wales, in 1941, Grace grew up in her parents' hotel by the sea. "Although it was bleak", she recalls, "there was beauty in its bleakness."
But around the age of 17, there was a Vogue model competition, and someone submitted her pictures. She ended up winning the Young Model section, beginning her modelling career for Vogue.
Two years after her car accident, at the age of 28, she was interviewed by British Vogue's Editor, Beatrix Miller, and she was employed as a Junior Editor. After nineteen years as Photo Editor with British Vogue, she moved to New York to work for Calvin Klein. In July 1988, she joined Anna Wintour at US Vogue.