What Living the Life of the World’s First Supermodel Is Like
A fragile schoolgirl with a boyish hairstyle named Twiggy became the first model from the working class and the face of the 1960s. Some people adored her, some hated her, blaming her for starting a generation of anorexics. Having worked in the fashion sphere for only 4 years, she “retired” and started a different career. She released a music album that went silver and acted in dozens of movies, even receiving 2 Golden Globe awards. With all this under her belt, she has proven that an unusual appearance is not her only asset.
Bright Side is going to share with you the story of one of the most recognizable models, who refused to be a “clothes hanger” for the rest of her life.
It all started with a haircut.
It was her friend, who brought Lesley Hornby (the future Twiggy), who no one knew at the time, to a popular hairdresser named Leonard who was searching for a model who wanted a new hairstyle. “Her hair was long, untidy, and ratty when Justin brought her in. We had a long discussion on what to do with her,” the hairdresser recalled later.
He dyed her hair and cut it in a boyish style. Leonard hung her photo in the hall, while the future celebrity went back to school. One of the hairdresser’s other clients, the fashion editor at the Daily Express, noticed the photo and asked who that girl was and how to get in touch with her. Lesley was interviewed and they promised to make a note about her. 3 weeks later, a newspaper edition was published where the blue-eyed shy blonde was called, “The Face of 1966.”
Twiggy got on the cover of Vogue and Tatler just one year after her career started. Many people found her look unusual and catching, while photographers kept saying that the cameras loved her. Her portfolio included photos shot by the legendary Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, and Cecil Beaton. She also became the first supermodel whose wax figure appeared in Madame Tussaud’s, as well as the first internationally known name in modeling.
The model who doesn’t like high heels and mini skirts
Her sudden fame and the desire of the best magazines in the world to work with her seemed strange to Lesley. Her mother worked at a plant, her father was a carpenter at Marks & Spencer. It’s unlikely that this 16-year-old girl thought she would ever work with Marks & Spencer as a creator of an exclusive collection that saved the brand in difficult times.
The model didn’t really like “mini” style clothing, however, she made it a mass product. She appreciated comfort, freedom, modest femininity, and low-heeled shoes. She started her own clothing line for teens called “Twiggy Dresses” in 1966. The unusual styles were made in acid colors and a variety of prints.
Twiggy was commercially successful as a brand because she appeared in the fashion market at the right time, when the new generation needed its own ideal, different from the beauties of post-war times.
Why the girl with the non-model appearance became the face of the 1960s
The nickname Twiggy comes from her weight, which was only 90 lbs. Clothes would hang on her like on a hanger and they had to be fixed with pins that would always stick into her skin.
She thought that the world around her had gone crazy by considering her beautiful. In her opinion, all she had was long legs and eyelashes. In order to create an expressive look, Twiggy would always stick on 3 pairs of false eyelashes. The makeup procedure took 3 hours, but it made her look unique.
She wanted to be a fashion model, but kept hearing that she was too short (5’4″) and her body was too slim (her measurements were
“I was really fed up about that weight thing. As a kid, I used to stuff my bra with tissues. I still get blamed for models being anorexic, but I’ve always eaten like a horse!”Twiggy, Evening Standard
In the 1960s, women became more emancipated, they had their own money and the opportunity to spend it. The youth was bored in the stores their mother used to buy clothes in — and they wanted original and affordable fashion. That’s how stores like “Biba” started to appear where you could get a good look without spending your whole salary.
In magazines, girls wanted to see someone who looked like them but a little bit better. Twiggy was natural and unusual and she perfectly matched this role. The photographer who took her first professional photos wrote in his diary, “Today I’ve met the icon of the future.”
Once the 17-year-old celebrity was in the USA and the taxi driver said to her, looking at her through the rear-view mirror, “Hey, you’re that funny little Twiggy girl from England.” Having gotten an affirmative answer, he continued, “Well, you’ve got a pretty face, but you’re no Marilyn Monroe.”
Perhaps, it was this “compliment” that made Lesley really think about what she was going to do in the future and motivated her to try out acting and singing.
“Retirement” and the career of an actress
Twiggy and Robert Powell in the television production of Pygmalion, 1981.
Having worked in the fashion industry for 4 years, Twiggy decided to quit. She didn’t want to stay a “clothes hanger” for her entire life.
She managed to get 2 Golden Globe Awards for her role in The Boy Friend without having any education in the acting sphere. Before the shooting started, the MGM company set a condition — if she manages to learn how to act, dance, and sing within 6 weeks (!), the movie will be shot. And Twiggy did it.
One might say that a musical movie is not a serious thing, while a role that requires good acting and long dialogues would need a professional actress. When Twiggy got the role of Eliza Doolittle in the television production of Pygmalion, people had their doubts, “Will she be able to do it at all?”
Lesley’s filmography includes various works: thrillers, horrors, and comedies. She starred in both feature films and TV shows. She even played Charlie Chaplin’s mother in the television movie Young Charlie Chaplin.
Twiggy and Robin Williams in the comedy Club Paradise, 1986
Twiggy’s personal life was pretty complicated. According to her, the guy she had been dating for 7 years, who was also her manager, ripped her off by appropriating part of her money and buying himself expensive cars and suits.
Her first husband Michael Witney had problems with alcohol addiction that Twiggy wasn’t aware of at the beginning. After 6 years of marriage, her husband died of a heart attack. They had a common daughter.
In 1984, she met Leigh Lawson in a restaurant and they started to see each other. But this time the experienced woman was in no rush — they got married 4 years later, in 1988. Lesley and Lawson have been together for 30 years already.
Twiggy with her husband, daughter Carly, and son Jason
The most important thing for Twiggy is her family. She is always excited when she talks about her grandkids, she calls her relationship with her daughter really close, and she loves cooking. Leigh Lawson makes the joke saying that he got grandkids, but lost his wife. Kids usually visit them on Sundays. The couple spends their Friday evenings watching movies.
Life doesn’t end after 60.
Lesley Lawson released her clothing collection in Marks & Spencer, claiming that things shouldn’t be divided by age. After the advertising campaign, sales have grown, and marketers came up with a new term — “the Twiggy effect” — because any business or deal she’s ever started has become successful.
Twiggy always takes part in various projects. She starts clothing lines, she creates bedroom decor collections, cosmetics products, and even designs glasses. She also supports campaigns for fighting cancer, opposes animal abuse and the use of fur, and she is actively involved in charity.
People used to say she would only be around in the fashion world for 2 weeks. Nevertheless, her fame hasn’t faded, even half a century later. In 2019, Twiggy received the Order of the British Empire for her services to fashion, to the arts, and to charity. Prince Charles himself presented her with the award.
What do you think of Twiggy and her life? We would be glad to hear from you in the comments!