Looking back over the last 44 years of her fabulous career, Twiggy, the world’s first boldface supermodel and now 60 years old, says “It was just so weird. I was this funny little kid from working-class London. It could have gone horribly wrong.”
Twiggy’s rise to the modeling world was phenomenal. She grew up to a carpenter dad and factory worker mom. She was also considered short for modeling at the height of 5′6″. Worst, she was waif – no boobs and no hips unlike the fuller-figure models that were popular during her time.
“Whether you’re thin, fat, small, dark, blond, redhead, you wanna be something else. I wanted a fairy godmother to make me look like Marilyn Monroe. I had no boobs, no hips, and I wanted it desperately.
“I didn’t plan to be a model. I thought the world had gone stark raving mad. I was used to being teased at school for being so skinny and I thought I was really funny looking, but I was obsessed with clothes.”
But while working in a hair salon as an assistant on Saturdays, she had the opportunity to model for the salon in a series of photos that featured androgynous hair looks. The pictures were spotted by a salon client who wrote for the Daily Express, which then had her across two pages of the publication. It was the beginning of her modeling career. Soon enough, she conquered London and America and later changed the world of fashion as the iconic Twiggy – the supermodel with the waif figure, long legs, boyish bob, and huge eyes painted with tiny lower lashes – her twigs.
After four years, Twiggy retired from modeling and moved on to stage, films, TV and singing (where she won two Golden Globes and a Tony nomination). Opting to move on to other careers in the entertainment and fashion industry, she would joke, “You can’t be a clothes hanger for your entire life.”
But despite the short-lived modeling career, the ultra-skinny look that Twiggy started had remained dominant in fashion.
“It was debated when I hit the headlines and I always came out and said that I was very healthy, which I was, and always ate, which I do. I love my food. I just come from a lineage. My dad was very slim, so it’s kind of in the genes really.
“They ask for these girls. It’s gotta stop. I don’t know how you go about it, so the debate goes on. The agencies have to protect these girls.”
What made Twiggy a lasting icon even for today’s generation (and “until her dying day and beyond,” in the words of film director and writer Ken Russell) were her teen innocence and solid parental supervision. These important aspects of her life have separated her from those who have succumbed to the destructive aspects of her era like drugs and sexual exploitations of young models.
“My dad was always a very strong presence in my life. He instilled a kind of being down to earth, being sensible, especially when this whole thing happened to me.”