The Twiggy Phenomenon
A British tabloid called her "the Face of '66," but it was early the next year that Twiggy became a global phenomenon, launching her own label in February and making her New York debut in March 1967. Here, on the 50th anniversary of Twiggymania, is a 30-slide portrait of the Cockney waif turned supermodel.
1967 Modeling Stats
HEIGHT: 5' 6"
WEIGHT: 91 pounds
TWIGGY'S TAKE: "It's not what you'd call a figure, is it?"
Working Class Hero
"I can't talk posh," said the Cockney model, whose real name was Lesley Hornby ("Twiggy" grew out of "Twigs," an earlier nickname). Her dad was a carpenter, her mum a factory worker, and when her career took off—at the height of the Mod subculture in swinging '60s London—she still lived with her parents. "I think I was the first working-class model," she later noted.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
The Twiggy Diet
Don't assume she was anorexic. Twiggy was actually a chowhound with the metabolism to get away with it. Her favorite dessert: a chocolate-covered ice cream concoction that a London restaurant named "Bananas Twiggy." As she later said, "Back in the '60s, there was a car sticker that read, 'Forget Oxfam, Feed Twiggy,' but I ate like a horse."
Photo by Bert Stern/Condé Nast via Getty Images
Eye of the Beholder
Twiggy on being ""discovered":
"At 16, I was a funny, skinny little thing, all eyelashes and legs. And then suddenly people told me it was gorgeous. I thought they had gone mad."
Photo: Getty Images
The Famous Haircut
At first Twiggy resisted the idea of a short haircut—she wanted to look like Jean Shrimpton—but she was talked into modeling a new look for the chic London hairdresser Leonard of Mayfair. Then fashion editor Dierdre McSharry saw one of Twiggy's headshots on display in Leonard's salon. McSharry promptly did a feature for the Daily Express, introducing "the Cockney kid with a face to launch a thousand shapes ... and she's only 16!"
Closely cropped and lightened, that boyish hairstyle completed the androgynous look that became Twiggy's trademark. When she went to New York, Leonard flew across the Atlantic to give her a trim.
Twiggy herself created another essential part of her look, applying false eyelashes to her upper eyelids and penciling on thick eyelashes below. Her inspiration: a friend's rag doll, which had thick painted-on lashes.
She went everywhere with her manager-boyfriend, Justin de Villeneuve. Born Nigel Jonathan Davies, he was a hairdresser known as Christian St. Forget before he met Twiggy, but there were other jobs on his résumé. According to her 1997 autobiography "Twiggy in Black and White," he'd also been a welterweight boxer (as "Tiger" Davies), a bouncer, a bookie's debt collector and "frontman for 'auctioneers' selling fake watches."
Twiggy and Justin
Twiggy describes Justin as "very flamboyant" and a "twentieth-century dandy" as well as a car enthusiast and a womanizer (though she wasn't aware of that until later). Ten years apart in age, they met when he was 25 and she just 15.
Launching her own fashion label in London on February 16, 1967.
Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
On the Runway
Twiggy models a slitted minidress and necktie from her signature collection.
In 1967, she appeared on the cover of Vogue three times. Diana Vreeland, the magazine's editor in chief, played a central role in bringing Twiggy to the U.S.
Spirit of the Age
Twiggy on the Zeitgeist:
"The '60s were a time when ordinary people could do extraordinary things."
So Which One Is Which?
With Kerstin Lindberg, winner of a Twiggy look-alike contest. The competition was held in Stockholm, and 16-year-old Lindberg got first prize—a trip to London and the chance to meet her idol.
Licensed and Twiggy-endorsed products ranged from pens and lunch boxes to false eyelashes and makeup ("for those great big Twiggy eyes"), Mattel even produced a Twiggy Barbie doll.
Her daily rate for modeling ranged from $120 to $240—on the high end for 1967—but Twiggy made considerably more than that on her licensing deals and advertising. Orders for Twiggy dresses reached $1 million. Without knowing how to drive, she did TV commercials for the Ford Mustang and the Mini—and got to keep the latter car. In Japan, a jewelry company gave her a string of black pearls, which she would wear as a belt.
Modeling a pinstripe suit from her signature collection. In the U.S., rumor had it that Twiggy was actually a boy.
Photo by Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
She's Leaving Home
In London, just before heading to the States. As a minor, Twiggy had difficulty getting a passport. According to her autobiography, she had to appear in court with her parents and "swear that I was going to America on my own volition and that Justin wasn't a white slave trader."
Photo by George Wilkes/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Coming to America
Soon after arriving in the U.S., she filmed an NBC documentary, was chased by fans in Bloomingdale's ("You'd think I was the Beatles") and appeared on "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson." She also did a TV interview with Woody Allen, who embarrassed her by pressing her to name her favorite philosopher.
At the Automat
An iconic photo by Melvin Sokolsky, who shot Twiggy soon after she landed in New York. At the time, Sokolsky worked with a young stylist named Ali MacGraw, who went on to star in 1969's "Goodbye Columbus."
On her experience of New York:
"The madness showed no signs of letting up. People would even stand up and clap when I went into a restaurant. It had all the qualities of a dream: surreal and without logic."
The Happiest Place on Earth
While in America, Twiggy said she wanted to meet Muhammad Ali and to visit Disneyland. Justin nixed the idea of a get-together with Ali, who was in legal trouble at the time for refusing to be drafted into the U.S. Army. But Twiggy got her second wish.
Feeling Like a Kid Again
Twiggy savors a Popsicle between rides.
With Sonny and Cher
To welcome Twiggy to Hollywood, Sonny and Cher hosted a Mod garden party at the Beverly Hills home of Jack and Sally Hanson, co-owners of a local fashion boutique called Jax and discotheque known as the Daisy.
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The Vinegar Works
The menu at the Beverly Hills party included hot dogs, hamburgers and chili—plus fish and chips, to make the guest of honor feel at home.
Photo: Getty Images
Among the guests were Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Eva Marie Saint and Marlo Thomas. Steve McQueen pulled up in a Jaguar XK-E and asked Twiggy to dance. She politely declined. ("I was just too shy to say yes," she later recalled.) A Chicago Tribune reporter overheard Twiggy tell Cher, "I luv Hollywood, but I miss me mum and dad."
Too much fun. It's time to go home.
Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images
Before the fledgling supermodel's career got off the ground, British magazine editor Prudence Glynn bluntly told her that she had no hope of being hired because she wasn't with an established modeling agency—and that no agency would consider her because she was too short. A year later, Twiggy and Glynn crossed paths in a London restaurant. On her way out, the editor passed by Twiggy's table and candidly admitted, "I goofed."
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
"You can't be a clothes hanger for your entire life," said Twiggy, who went on to star in movies (starting with 1971's "The Boy Friend," shown here), plays (like "Cinderella" and "Blithe Spirit") and TV shows (from "Absolutely Fabulous" to "America's Next Top Model"). Along the way, she released nine albums. Twiggy and her manager-boyfriend broke up in 1973, the same year she appeared on the cover of David Bowie's "Pin Ups"—in a photo of her and Bowie taken by Justin.
She may not have been able to come up with the name of a philosopher for Woody Allen, but Twiggy does have a philosophy of her own:
"I've always loved life, and I've never known what's ahead. I love not knowing what might be round the corner. I love serendipity."
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