“It was not my first record,” Camille Rowe says, bursting into laughter. The French-American actor and model is talking about being the muse for Fine Line, her ex-boyfriend Harry Styles’s 2019 album. While she may be kidding, she’s also telling the truth.
Who can blame Styles—or the other directors, photographers, and musicians for whom Rowe has been a muse? But Styles “was not an easy person to date in terms of the attention it brings,” Rowe admits. She hopes to be known on her own terms.
There is something inexplicably cool about 33-year-old Rowe. It doesn’t hurt that she’s beautiful and always wearing something vintage and envy-worthy, or that her accent, which is sampled in Styles’s song “Cherry,” seamlessly crosses between French and American.
Born in Paris to an American mother and a French father, Rowe now splits her time between her birthplace and Los Angeles. When we talk over Zoom (before the start of the SAG strike), she’s just returned from an afternoon by the pool at the Chateau Marmont. Smiling, Rowe flips her camera around to show me her backyard full of palm trees, overlooking lush green hills.
Rowe spent her childhood in Ville-d’Avray, a suburb 15 minutes outside of Paris, and grew up with her older half-brother and half-sister, as well as her younger sister. Her mother was a model and Moulin Rouge dancer, and her father was a restaurateur. “Growing up in restaurants, you learn about humans,” Rowe says.
After graduating from Lycée International de Sevres, she enrolled in the American University of Paris to study film. At age 18, during her first year, she was discovered by a model scout at a café in the Marais. “He’s still my mother’s agent,” Rowe explains.
Her first job was as a shoe-fit model for Louis Vuitton, during Marc Jacobs’s run as the brand’s head designer. Rowe went to the design studio after classes and did her homework while shoes were made on her feet. “I was very happy just doing that because it was really good pocket money.”
Then, in 2010, Bruce Weber cast Rowe in an Abercrombie & Fitch campaign. Life changed. “He would come to Paris to shoot French Vogue, and he would be like, ‘Camille, come,’ and he would put me in the pages as well,” recalls Rowe.
“Growing up in restaurants, you learn about humans.”
The following year, at 21, Rowe booked her first job in New York City: a Strokes music video. Months later, she became the face of Chloé fragrance. With her career soaring, she decided to drop out of school and move to New York.
Modeling wasn’t Rowe’s end goal. “I was never like, ‘This is like my life calling. I’m going to be a model forever,’” she explains. “It’s lonely.” She always dreamed of acting. Her first role was in Romain Gavras’s debut film, Our Day Will Come (Notre Jour Viendra), when she was 19. “I was on set for a day, but I got to make out with Vincent Cassel.”
By 2016, when Rowe booked the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which she acknowledges was a “really big deal” for her career, she “wasn’t really into [modeling] anymore. My head wasn’t in it.” Rowe recalls being unhappy and unhealthy, coping with the loss of a close friend and Donald Trump’s presidential election while preparing for the show. “It was just a really weird, shitty time. When I see the photographs, I can tell how unhappy I am. I’m not myself.”
After Victoria’s Secret, she turned her attention to acting. Her first major part was in Guillaume Canet’s 2017 film, Rock’n Roll. Canet crafted the part specifically for Rowe, having seen a series of videos of her on British Vogue’s YouTube channel, where she chats about French-girl style and wellness.
“I started acting late—in my mid- to late 20s, and I was really excited to hit my 30s,” she says, explaining that the roles are better. “I’m just so sick of playing younger.”
Now Rowe is awaiting the release of two new movies. Olmo Schnabel’s directorial debut, Pet Shop Boys, which is premiering at the Venice Film Festival, in September. In it, she stars alongside Willem Dafoe. “He’s brilliant and so generous,” Rowe says. In October, Night of the Hunted, a political thriller about a sociopathic sniper and his target, played by Rowe, comes out. “The subject matter was fucked up, and it was only night shoots for a month. Six p.m. to nine a.m. every day.”
It would not be an interview with Rowe—the epitome of French-girl style—without mentioning fashion. Thankfully for all of us, Rowe has a few fashion collaborations on the way, including one with Reformation that comes out this fall.
“I have just always wanted to try everything, do two million things at the same time,” she says. Rowe leaves me with one last career option: “Maybe I should have a pen name and write erotic literature.” She’s kidding, but we hope she isn’t.
Pet Shop Boys will premiere at the Venice International Film Festival on September 3
Night of the Hunted hits theaters on October 23
Clara Molot is an Associate Editor at AIR MAIL