Twiggy (born Lesley Hornby; 19 September 1949) is an English model, actress, and singer, now also known by her married name of Twiggy Lawson. At 16, she became the first prominent teenage model. She was known for her androgynous looks, large eyes, long eyelashes, and thin build. In 1966, she was named the “The Face of 1966” by the Daily Express and voted British Woman of the Year. By 1967, Twiggy had modeled in France, Japan, and the U.S., and landed on the covers of Vogue and The Tatler. Her fame had spread worldwide.
After modeling, Twiggy went on to enjoy a successful career as a screen, stage, and television actress. She has hosted her own series, Twiggy’s People, in which she interviewed celebrities, and also appeared as a judge on the reality show America’s Next Top Model. Her 1998 autobiography, Twiggy in Black and White, entered the bestseller lists. Since 2005, she has modeled for Marks and Spencer, most recently to promote their recent rebranding, appearing in TV adverts and print media, alongside Myleene Klass, Erin O’Connor, Lily Cole and others.
Twiggy Lawson was brought up in the northwest London suburb of Neasden, the daughter of Helen (Nellie) Lydia Hornby (née Reeman), a factory worker for a printing firm, and William Norman Hornby, a master carpenter and joiner. Twiggy’s mother taught her to sew from a young age, and she used this talent to make her own clothing. She attended the Brondesbury and Kilburn High School in Salusbury Road, Kilburn. Twiggy is the youngest of three sisters. Shirley is 15 years older, and Vivien is seven years older.
Twiggy married American actor Michael Witney in 1977. They had one daughter, Carly, born in 1978. That marriage ended with his sudden death in 1983 from a heart attack. Twiggy met her second husband, Leigh Lawson, in 1984. In 1988 they worked on the film Madame Sousatzka, and married that year in Sag Harbor, Long Island. Lawson adopted Twiggy’s daughter, Carly, who took on his surname. The couple resides in London.
In her official site, she describes herself as being an ardent supporter of breast cancer research, animal welfare, and anti-fur campaigns.
Twiggy is best remembered as one of the first international supermodels and a fashion icon of the 1960s and 70s. Her greatest influence is Jean Shrimpton, whom Twiggy considers to be the world’s first supermodel. Twiggy has also been described as the successor to Jean Shrimpton. In January 1966, young Lesley Hornby had her hair colored and cut short in Mayfair at The House of Leonard, owned by celebrity hairdresser Leonard. The hair stylist was looking for models on whom to try out his new crop haircut and he styled her hair in preparation for a few test head shots. A professional photographer Barry Lategan took several photos for Leonard, which the hairdresser hung in his salon. Deidre McSharry, a fashion journalist from the Daily Express, saw the images and asked to meet the young girl. McSharry arranged to have more photos taken. A few weeks later the publication featured an article and images of Hornby, declaring her “The Face of ’66.” In it, the copy read: “The Cockney Kid with a face to launch a thousand shapes … and she’s only 16! – The Daily Express, 23 February 1966.
Lesley’s career quickly took off. She was 5’6″ tall (short for a model), weighed a mere 6½ stone (41 kg, 91 lbs) and had a thin, boyish 31-22-32 figure. Her hairdresser boyfriend, Nigel Davies, became her manager, changed his name to Justin de Villeneuve, and persuaded her to change her name to Twiggy (from “Twigs”, her childhood nickname). De Villeneuve credits himself for Twiggy’s discovery and her modeling success, and his version of events is often quoted in other biographies. Ten years her senior, he managed her lucrative career for seven years, overseeing her finances and enterprises during her heyday as a model.
Twiggy was soon seen in all the leading fashion magazines, commanding fees of £80 an hour, bringing out her own line of clothes called “Twiggy Dresses” in 1967, and taking the fashion world by storm. “I hated what I looked like,” she said once, “so I thought everyone had gone stark raving mad.” Twiggy’s androgynous look centered on three qualities: her stick thin figure, a boyishly short haircut and strikingly dark eyelashes. Describing how she obtained her prominent eyelashes, now known as Twiggys, she said, “Back then I was layering three pairs of false eyelashes over my own and would paint extra ‘twigs’ on my skin underneath.”
One month after the Daily Express article, Twiggy posed for her first shoot for Vogue. A year later, she had appeared in 13 separate fashion shoots in international Vogue editions. Twiggy arrived in New York in March 1967 at JFK airport, an event covered by the press. The New Yorker, Life and Newsweek reported on the Twiggy “phenomenon” in 1967, with the New Yorker devoting nearly 100 pages to the subject.” That year she became an international sensation, modeling in France, Japan, and America, and landing the cover of Paris Vogue in May, the cover of US Vogue three times, in April, July and November, and the cover of British Vogue in October. In 1967, an editorial on p. 63 of the March 15 edition of Vogue described her as an “extravaganza that makes the look of the sixties.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2009 catalogue of Style: Model as Muse Embodying Fashion states that “Twiggy’s adolescent physique was the perfect frame for the androgynous styles that began to emerge in the 1960s. The trend was manifested in a number of templates: sweet A-line dresses with collars and neckties, suits and dresses that took their details from military uniforms, or, in the case of Yves Saint Laurent, and explicit transposition of the male tuxedo to women. Simultaneously, under the rubric of ‘unisex,’ designs that were minimalistic, including Nehru suits and space-agey jumpsuits, were proposed by designers such as Pierre Cardin and Andre Courreges, and, most famously in the U.S.A., by Rudi Gernreich.” Twiggy has been photographed by such noted photographers as Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon, Melvin Sokolsky, Ronald Traeger, Bert Stern, Norman Parkinson, Annie Leibovitz and Steven Meisel.
Twiggy and the magazines featuring her image polarised critics from the start. Her boyishly thin image was criticized as, and is still blamed for, promoting an “unhealthy” body ideal for women. “Twiggy came along at a time when teen-age spending power was never greater,” said Su Dalgleish, fashion correspondent for the London Daily Mail. “With that underdeveloped, boyish figure, she is an idol to the 14- and 15-year-old kids. She makes virtue of all the terrible things of gawky, miserable, adolescence.” At the height of her fame, Mark Cohen, president of Leeds women’s shop had an even harsher view: “Her legs remind me of two painted worms.” Yet Twiggy had her supporters. Diana Vreeland of Vogue stated, “She’s no flash in the pan. She is the mini-girl in the mini-era. She’s delicious looking.” In recent years Twiggy has spoken out against the trend of waif-thin models, explaining that her own thin weight as a teenager was natural: “I was very skinny, but that was just my natural build. I always ate sensibly – being thin was in my genes.”
After four years of modeling, Twiggy retired in 1970, claiming “You can’t be a clothes hanger for your entire life!” She broke off with Justin de Villeneuve, who had been overseeing her business affairs since 1966, and released him from his duties as her manager, claiming in later years that “her career had more to do with that famous picture of her with those funny painted eyelashes, which appeared in the Daily Express under the headline ‘The Face of 66′” than with his promotional efforts.
Twiggy embarked on an award-winning acting and singing career, starring in a variety of roles on stage and screen, and recording albums. In 1971, she made her film debut as an extra in Ken Russell’s The Devils. The same year, she performed her first leading role in features as Polly Browne in Ken Russell’s adaptation of Sandy Wilson’s pastiche of 1920s hit musicals The Boy Friend. This marked her initial collaboration with Tommy Tune, and won her two Golden Globe Awards in 1972 (New Star of the Year – Actress and Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy). In 1974, she made her West End stage debut in Cinderella, and made a second feature, the thriller W; co-starred with future husband Michael Whitney, and hosted her own British television series, Twiggs (later renamed Twiggy).
In October 1975, she sang at the live performance of Roger Glover’s The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast album at the Royal Albert Hall. The concert was filmed and produced by Tony Klinger and released to theaters in 1976.
In November, 1976 she made an appearance on The Muppet Show, in which she sang “In My Life,” a Beatles song. In 1976, Twiggy signed to Mercury records and released the albums Twiggy and Please Get My Name Right, discs that contained both pop and country tunes. Twiggy sold very well, peaking on the UK charts at no.33, and gave Twiggy a silver disc for good sales. The album contains Twiggy’s top twenty hit single, “Here I Go Again”. “Please Get My Name Right” made it to no.35 in 1977.
In 1980 Twiggy made a cameo appearance in The Blues Brothers. She starred as Eliza Doolittle in 1981 opposite Robert Powell in the Yorkshire TV production of Pygmalion and in 1983, she made her Broadway debut in the musical, My One and Only, starring and co-staged by Tommy Tune, for which she earned a Tony nomination. In 1986 She played opposite to Robin Williams In the comedy “Club Paradise”. In 1987, she played a vaudeville performer in the British television special The Little Match Girl and in 1988, she appeared in a supporting role in Madame Sousatzka opposite second husband Leigh Lawson. In 1989, she was cast as Hannah Chaplin, mother to Charles, in the British television movie Young Charlie Chaplin; aired in the United States on PBS’ Wonderworks.
In 1991, she co-starred in her first American television series, the short-lived CBS sitcom Princesses. Of eight episodes completed, only five aired. In 1997, Twiggy acted in the Chichester Festival Theatre revival of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. A year later, she played Gertrude Lawrence in the biographical stage revue Noel and Gertie at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, Long Island. In 1999, she returned to the New York stage in an off-Broadway production If Love Were All, a revised version of Noel and Gertie, written and directed by Leigh Lawson; what set this edition apart were its tap numbers in period style. She starred as Gertrude Lawrence opposite Harry Groener’s Noel Coward.
In 2001, Twiggy co-hosted the British magazine programme This Morning. In 2003, she released another album, Midnight Blue. Seventeen of the CD’s 20 tracks had previously unreleased material from 1982–1990, including a duet with Leo Sayer, ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’ & a cover of the Stones’ ‘Ruby Tuesday’. Feel Emotion and Diamond have both been released onto CD format since. In 2005, she joined the cast of the television show America’s Next Top Model for Cycles 5-9 as one of four judges, and a year later, she appeared on the cover of the Icons issue of SWINDLE magazine. She also returned to modeling, fronting a major television, press and billboard campaign for Marks & Spencer, the British department store chain. Her involvement in the advertising campaign has been credited for reviving Marks and Spencer’s fortunes. In 2006, she portrayed herself as a nineteen-year-old in the radio play Elevenses with Twiggy for BBC Radio 4′s Afternoon Play series. She did not return to America’s Next Top Model in its tenth season due to scheduling conflicts. Her replacement was model Paulina Porizkova.
Also in 2007, Sepia Records released a previously shelved album that Twiggy recorded in 1979, produced by Donna Summer and Juergen Koppers. Heaven In My Eyes ["Discotheque"] contains the eight original tracks due to be released, plus four remixes by The Outsider. The album was also made available on iTunes. She is signed to London agency Models 1. In 2008, she supported the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign in support of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, alongside fellow celebrities — comedian Alan Carr, singer Natalie Imbruglia, actress Anna Friel and DJ & presenter Edith Bowman.
In the Summer of 2009, beauty company Olay debuted its “Definity Eye Cream” campaign depicting Twiggy.