When Mark met Gaga and Rihanna

Mark Ellen: The man with the best job ever

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Out this Thursday, writer Mark Ellen's autobiography details a life spent interviewing music industry A-listers - here, he talks about the two most memorable, both ELLE cover stars

"I’ve spent too much of the last 30 years interviewing icons – in fact, my memoir’s called ‘Rock Stars Stole My Life!’ – but two of the book’s key moments came from my work for the mighty ELLE. And for good reason – they were the most colourful, glamorous, over-the-top episodes of the lot.

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The first was a cover shoot with Lady Gaga in a warehouse in Manhattan’s Upper West Side in October 2011. Acres of exotic dresses, wigs, hats, gloves, shoes and jewellery were laid out for her inspection. Juice-bar operatives hurled fruit into blenders. Steamed fish and tofu came at us from every angle. As we waited, tension was softly diffused by camp buffoonery from the fashion menfolk – ‘Oh. My. Actual. God!’ one declared theatrically. ‘We’re out of summer berries! Stay calm, people! Stay focused!’

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The Garg herself – adorable and fabulously bright – eventually sprang from a lift with her entourage, changed into a pair of wobbling stacks, a cropped platinum wig and transparent green veil and threw shapes in the teeth of a wind-machine while the Pet Shop Boys, Soft Cell and Blondie pumped from the speakers behind her. Pausing occasionally to pull on a Marlboro Light and check the shots in the monitor – ‘We look great!’ she trilled. ‘We look like a *sexy watermelon*!’ - she then charged back to Wardrobe, pausing to hitch up her dress and flash the video cameras.

The second was a shoot in Paris in 2012 where the fascinating Rihanna tottered out on perilous heels which tore two gashes in the backdrop, sparking a fit of hand-on-mouth giggles. Incredibly, she let me watch from just a few feet away – she was luminously pretty, a shower of blue stars tattooed down her neck and back, a thin gold chain across her navel, and she sang along softly to Miguel and the Pointer Sisters. Photographer Mariano Vivanco’s running commentary dissolved her into more fond laughter - ‘One-two-three-hold-it … *amazing*! I’m yours, Rihanna! Look it this shot, baby, these pictures are FOREVER!’

She pointed to one of his reference snaps of Twiggy sitting on a cushion and said, ‘let’s try that!’ Mariano cracked up: ‘Not in *your* short skirt!’

by Mark Ellen is in hardback, audio and eBook formats from May 8 (Hodder)

Read about this month's ELLE Book Club pick here

Read the ELLE Fashion Director's top book club picks here

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