The shoot breaks and Abbey pulls off those huge McQueen shoes, lights a cigarette and downs some coffee. “Do you live in London?” she asks me in her soft Aussie accent. “I’d move there tomorrow, I love it — but the weather sucks.” She’s something of a lunatic, Abbey. Next she’s telling me how a model should always carry a spare thong in her bag, and how her pet lizard, which is called Annie Hall, likes to sit on her shoulder when she goes down the pub: “A lizard is a perfect pet for a model,” she says. “They only need feeding once a fortnight. And I’m always travelling, so it’s perfect. If I had a dog, it would drop dead of starvation.”
Then she shows me her tattoos: “I’ve got one on the palm of my hand, a peace sign on my finger, a little owl, and two new ones on the side of my stomach. I had them done in white ink so I can still model — it means they’re invisible.” Then there’s her secret tattoo, hidden on the inside of her bottom lip; an amateur pin-and-ink job. It’s supposed to say “truth” but reads more like “bacon”. If you get bored with the tattoos, there are always the piercings — 10 of them in total: nipple, nose, belly and seven in her ears. Don’t they hurt?
“I find the pain fascinating,” she riffs. “I enjoy putting myself through it, which is weird because I’m scared of needles. It probably comes from when I was four and dying of meningitis and had to have two spinal taps. I was always in hospital as a kid: I had a tumour on my knee, lots of broken bones. I loved climbing trees.”
So was she popular with the boys? “Well, I’ve always swung both ways, so it’s a bit different for me. I don’t call myself bisexual: I’m just experimental. I was always looking for somebody to sweep me off my feet, but then I got bored after two months and was on to the next.” Abbey’s currently into men, one in particular, Matt, who is “hot, and a singer in a rock band”.
This “experimental” side helped fuel rumours that Abbey was sleeping with a fellow model, the lesbian Freja Behar. She refuses to comment, but admits she “didn’t have to act that much” in a now infamous sex-inspired shoot she did with Behar for the French magazine Purple. This explicit spread, where both girls posed in various cod Sapphic tableaux and varying states of undress for the photographer Terry Richardson (kissing in bras, without bras, in panties, boobies out) caused outrage in the blogosphere, where Richardson was accused of cajoling the girls for his own sexual satisfaction.
“Terry doesn’t force girls to do anything they don’t want to. He puts you in a G-string in a pile of mud because you want to do it. You touch yourself because you want to. For me, that shoot was the truth about how things were between us both, and I felt good doing it. I’m not ashamed of it — why should I be?”
Does Abbey ever have a sense of shame? “I once wet myself in bed and my boyfriend at the time woke up wet through,” she says. “I’ve done all kinds of embarrassing things like that, but there’s no room for embarrassment or shame, life’s just one big joke. It’s because I have no sense of shame that I’m always willing to give things a go: I’ve ridden horses naked into the sea, I’ve climbed rocks, all kinds of things. That’s why I do this job. I’m always looking for the next door to open.” And when it does, you can bet this girl will jump straight through.