create a fascinating personal brand: lessons from Kate Moss



Hello people!

What I said, more or less:

A “hostile brand” is a brand that doesn’t bend over backwards trying to be accessible or “mainstream”. It plays up its differences as advantages and has an edgy, challenging quality. People tend to love or hate them. People also use them as identity markers: to engage with this brand makes a specific statement about who you are, or who you want to be.

Kate Moss is a cool example of this and someone we can take some lessons from.

#1. Cultivate your differences.

When Moss emerged on the modeling scene in the early 90s, she was beautiful — and different. Too short, too skinny, crooked legs, crooked tooth. In a sea of Glamazon sameness, your eye went to her. Because she was different. Because she intrigued. Because her very presence was a rebellion against that Glamazon ideal we were getting so tired of.

Moss also cultivated a very different sense of style, which she would become famous for. So:

#2. Cultivate your distinct voice.

Your ‘voice’ is your worldview, personality, the collective way you express yourself to the world. Kate speaks to the world through her sense of style, which has been hugely influential and widely imitated. Kate’s style seems effortless, like she was born with it, but over the years a lot of thought and work went into its very deliberate development.

#3. Rebel against something.

Kate brought in the era of heroin chic, which in many ways was a rebellion against the excess and materialism of the ’80s. Find something that offends you, pisses you off, and see how you can develop your brand against that, so that you represent something bigger than yourself. (For example — and I forgot to include this in the video clip — Mini Coopers aren’t just these cute funny cars, but a statement against gas-guzzling SUV culture. The brand deliberately positioned itself as such.)

4. Evolve.

Kate’s style has changed over the years, which has kept her fresh and interesting. She takes risks, pushes boundaries, remains interesting. But she never violated rule #5….

5. Always remember who you really are.

Through Kate’s evolution of style, she has remained “recognizably Kate”: she has stayed true to her “brand DNA”, those essential defining characteristics, that ‘voice’, that uniqueness. Give up your uniqueness, you give up your identity. She has never tried to whitewash herself for the masses.

6. Be authentic.

Ah, that word again! But yes, be authentic. Kate got away with a major cocaine scandal a few years ago because she has always been authentic. She has always been edgy, a bit transgressive, a bad girl; she never presented herself as pure and virginal, a role model. She was a just a model, period. We were willing to overlook her flaws because she never pretended not to have them, and her career bounced back stronger than ever.

7. Find your fascination triggers.

Sally Hogshead wrote a really cool book called Fascinate in which she identifies the seven qualities we are hardwired to respond to: lust, mystique, vice, alarm, power, prestige, trust. At some point in her career, Kate Moss has triggered all of them. Love her or hate her, you know who she is. She fascinates.

Everyone naturally gravitates to two of these ‘fascination’ traits in the way that they relate to the world, and grab attention. Find yours, and learn how to take advantage of them.

8. Be comfortable with controversy.

Hostile brands are strong, unapologetic, and controversial: people tend to love or hate them. In her book, Hogshead makes the point that the more fascinating a brand or person is, the more controversial they tend to be. (Which also means that if everybody likes you…you’re probably not that fascinating.) These are the brands that challenge our worldview in some way, that provoke us, that get under our skin. Even if we can’t stand them (Donald Trump, anyone?), we can’t help but pay attention.

So don’t be afraid to be who you are. Turn up the volume. Stand for something. Say, “love me or leave me.”

Just be sure that you do it with style.

For further reading, check out

Sally Hogshead and her book FASCINATE: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion & Captivation

DIFFERENT: Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon

Jan 23, 2011

10 comments · Add Yours

yes. yes yes yes yes.

the banal may be the best thing for photography, endlessly fascinating.

not in writing. not in life. not always mainstream because past the tipping point is very little that is authentic.


i LOVE that you said, “if you’re well-liked, well, maybe you’re not that interesting.”
yes! fabulous. one of my favorite sentences EVER.
thanks for the info on the book, too – i will look into that.
thanks, justine!
~ julie


I never expected to learn that much about modeling (or a model) in my entire life!

Very good stuff, Justine. Thanks.


Perfect timing. I just wrote a post about controversy I apparently cause. And readers told me essentially the same thing – controversial allows us to support diversity. Or, be who you are, don’t expect everyone to like you, can carry on. I now also understand that my triggers are prestige, trust, and lust. Lust, at least, for my goods. Which I gladly satisfy.


Justine, you are so on target. Thank you!

Personal branding is so “money” in creative writing. I should know. My parallel career track for the past forty years has been as a successful marketing and sales person AND as a writer of creative short fiction.

“Nothing happens until you sell something” has always been the mantra of successful brand-sellers. And the best of the best are selling their unique edge, their above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty customer service or whatever it is that separates them from the average. The white bread. The uncultivated.

Re 1. I have always prided myself in being unique in worldview and cultural taste. Where many men in general and male writers in particular might find their comfort zone in violent sport or other ego-driven activities, I prefer to be swept up in glorious classical music, in photography, foreign cinema and visual art in general. As I have alluded to before, my LongShortStories are taken directly from the cinematic part of my brain.

Re 2. Several of my readers have commented about my unique voice expressed in my short fiction. It is not a clone of other writers. It is mine and mine alone. Honed over many years of experience in business, growing up with a driven artistic musician-parent,
and always held up for review, for comparison, for analysis.

Re 3. “Rebel Without a Cause” was a life-changing film for the young me. I grew up in a home where we were forced to maintain a perfect social exterior, while inside, the family was often in turmoil. I knew that if I didn’t strike out for myself I would drown. I struck back at the world through my craft, my writing, my artistic edginess. It has served me well to this day.

Re 4 & 5. The cultural evolution of Wayne C. Long can be guaged by how I have engaged the issues that we face as human beings, done battle with them on my computer screen, and have come out of the tunnel a stronger, more well-rounded husband, father, grandfather and writer. I am proud of my uniqueness that people have come to rely on and hold up to their own world in pride.

Re 6. I revel in my authenticity and am humbled in the knowledge that “of my own self, I can do nothing.” My Creator is my model. I am but the good servant, the good listener he has tapped to be a scribe in his marketplace.

Re 7. My stories reveal my fascination for how power corrupts; how surface beauty betrays; how money tragically bites the heel of its possessor; and how the meek of this world shall inherit richness in the most unassuming and peculiar ways. I stick to my core belief that real love is ageless, timeless, and always just around the corner for those who wait. And trust, ahh, that must be earned. There is no shortcut or quick fix to obtaining or regaining someone’s trust. Dues must be paid.

Re 8. I have been educated in the school of hard knocks and in the crucible of the documentary film. I have taken to heart the lessons put forth by other daring fact-finders and have made their methods my own. I care about humanity and it shows. I take on unpopular causes. I feed on controversy.

So branding is something I am very familiar with. I know its power and its pitfalls. I know the loneliness of taking a stand and the exhaltation of seeing my hard work come into its own. I have witnessed the birth of my own offspring, LongShortStories, and as its nurturer and creative gatekeeper, I know that my “baby” is something special. She has designer genes!

Thanks again, Justine, for your challenge to greatness in every new issue you post.



Re 8.


Thanks Justine! I rooted for Kate when others were disparaging her. I remember Nicole Kidman stood by her also. (Me and Nicole! Haha!) Your article answered the question for me of why I create controversy wherever I go. Brought up in an era that shouted– What will people think? — now, thank you Justine, I will REVEL in who I am!


Everybody, thanks for your comments.

When you let go of this idea that you need to please everybody, it’s incredibly liberating. I find that the most important idea I keep coming back to is this: know who you are, and I guess part of knowing who you are is knowing who you aren’t. Especially if you do get caught up in controversy, it’s so vital to know what you believe and why you’re taking that stand in the first place. So this whole process of ‘branding’ can actually be a rather fascinating exercise in self-examination, self-development.


Exactly so, Justine. This post came at a time when I experienced banishment from the local library’s writing group — not by the group, by the leader who didn’t like what I was writing. I felt shame. After reading your post I felt proud, liberated. You have great wisdom and I thank you for sharing it. (I send your blog to my writer friends.)


Great article! Very inspiring to a new writer.

Margie – you are a Queen!


I think Miley Cyrus is following all of these rules. Whatever you think of her! It’s a ridiculous act / personal brand, and it fascinates everyone. And for that she’s insanely successful. Plus she has cool hair.



  1. Don’t Waste Your Time Trying to “Find” Your Voice. Create it. | A Hut Of Questions

Add your comment