Last night, Amber Valletta — model/actor/activist/entrepreneur/all-around wonderful human — hosted the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and FIT Foundation‘s 2019 Awards Gala at the American Museum of Natural History. The black-tie fundraiser brought in over $1 million dollars, which will be used to enhance programs, develop new initiatives, and provide scholarship funds to the college’s most promising students.
Valletta stopped on the red carpet to talk to The Daily and, given that this was a school fundraiser, we couldn’t help but ask:
Did you ever play hooky?
Did you ever get busted?
“Yes! This is really bad. Because I lived in Oklahoma, my boyfriend and I went out in the country and—I can’t believe I’m telling you this—looked for cow patties to see if mushrooms were growing around them. Thank god we didn’t find any, because what if they had been poisonous? And back then there was no internet, so you couldn’t pull up a picture of Psilocybin magic mushrooms. It was just like, your friend told you what they looked like [and off you went] like idiots. After that, we had lunch and went to the mall. I had my cousin call [school] and get me out.”
Did your parents punish you?
“Yeah. My mom was such a turkey. I came to pick her up from work [that afternoon] and she made up this whole lie that there was a gang fight at my school and that the SWAT team was called in. And I was like, “Oh, yeah, I think I heard something.” And then she just turned around and was like, “You weren’t in school today, were you?” My dad was a federal investigator and he was out looking for me all day, apparently, and couldn’t find me. I even fooled the quasi-FBI!”
Of course, the conversation wasn’t all ‘shrooms and truancy. The theme of the event was “Innovation in Sustainability,” a topic that is close to Valletta’s heart. “My mom was an activist and when I was a kid in Oklahoma, she stopped a nuclear power plant from being built,” Valetta said on the red carpet. “I loved nature, because that was what I grew up in, and then I saw my mother’s activism [and it changed my perspective].”
Although Valletta is probably best known as a model, her fashion career hasn’t always meshed well with her values as an environmental advocate. “I felt a disconnect in fashion from what I believed in and what I was experiencing,” she said. “So when I walked away from modeling to act and then, when I came back, I was trying to figure out what that meant and I realized very quickly that I needed to match my values to what I was doing. At the time, there was a lot of talk about the climate crisis, well, climate change — although I’d say we’re in a crisis now — and that was kind of the beginning for me, almost a decade ago. Then I had an aha moment when I was figuring out my business, Master and Muse. I was trying to decide whether I should produce [my own pieces] or be a store. I didn’t want to produce clothing the way it’s typically been done — the old model of doing business — so I decided to sell other people’s things and give face and voice to those who are already making responsible fashion.”