Kristen McMenamy Is More Than Your Favorite Instagram Account

Today, it feels like there’s a well-established formula for a model’s Instagram feed. A curated slideshow from their latest magazine shoot or campaign? Check. An artfully constructed mirror selfie featuring an up-and-coming designer? Check. An allegedly candid holiday snap of a brightly-colored bikini set against sparkling blue waters? Check. After becoming so accustomed to these tasteful, easy-on-the-eye grids, then, scrolling through supermodel Kristen McMenamy’s Instagram feed is like jumping into a cold plunge pool. Refreshing, but—I have to warn you—bracing.

A little like McMenamy herself. At 56, McMenamy is still as exuberant, stylish, and provocative as she was when she made her name as the face of Chanel and Versace in the late ’80s and early ’90s. And while she might have joined Instagram as recently as April, her 30,000 followers make up a who’s who of fashion, with Naomi Campbell, Alessandro Michele, Marc Jacobs, Karen Elson, Inez and Vinoodh, and many, many more reliably lighting up her comments section. 

Tumbling down McMenamy’s Instagram rabbit hole, you might find a powder pink Molly Goddard ruffled cotton gown over an acid green Balenciaga cycling top; a Christopher Kane slip dress printed with an alien’s head paired with rubber Birkenstocks; a Goth-fabulous black leather Marc Jacobs coat teamed with a pair of the designer’s platform Kiki boots; or even a sunflower yellow hoodie and sweatpants set from streetwear label Palace. In one particularly memorable image, she sprawls across a velvet sofa as naked as the day she was born, with manicured talons as her only accessory. “Keep it Real!!???” McMenamy captioned the post.

It’s clear that McMenamy still lives and breathes fashion, even after almost four decades in the industry. When we connect, she’s holed up in the guest bedroom of her London home that has now become her second wardrobe. (What we wouldn’t give to have an hour or two playing dress-up in that closet.) “I am sitting on the floor because my dog has taken up the bed,” she says in her Pennsylvania twang, still present even after living in Britain for nearly 30 years. First things first: Why did she only decide to join Instagram as recently as this spring? “I didn’t want to do it for all this time because I thought it was cooler not to, to be quite honest,” says McMenamy. “All these people bragging about their lives, I don’t need to do that, blah blah blah. Then, over lockdown, I thought, ‘Wait a minute.’ My whole entire life since I was 16 has been dedicated to the world of fashion, except for when I took time out to have kids. It’s my life and it’s what I love. I’ve got a lot of clothes, and I love every single piece that I buy. Why don’t I just do that on Instagram?” 

Her (initially reluctant) collaborators on this weird and wonderful new venture were her children: Lily McMenamy, herself now a successful model and movement director, and Kristen’s two teenage sons with photographer Miles Aldridge. “My kids were like, ‘We don’t want to Instagram that mom!’” she says, before breaking out into an infectious cackle. “But they’ve got an Instagram mom now, so deal with it!”

One of the perks of being supermodel offspring is that they get paid to provide these Instagram snaps, at least. “They take three photos and they say, ‘I did it. Where’s my money?’ But it takes more to create an image than three photos! I’ve done a couple on self-timer, but selfies I hate because my arm gets in the way. I tried the mirror thing, but I can’t get it together,” she says. “I have invested in a lot of sunglasses, as I still can’t do my makeup after all these years, I just make myself look worse. Pat McGrath is sending me makeup which helps a lot, because it’s making me explore and try new things. They create a mood, and I can be punk if I want, ladylike if I want, intellectual if I want. Which I never do.”