Lesley Lawson (née Hornby) widely known by the nickname Twiggy, is an English model, actress and singer. In the mid-1960s, she became a prominent British teenage model of swinging sixties London with others such as Penelope Tree.
Twiggy was initially known for her thin build (thus her nickname) and her androgynous look consisting of large eyes, long eyelashes, and short hair. In 1966, she was named "The Face of 1966" by the Daily Express and voted British Woman of the Year. By 1967, Twiggy had modelled in France, Japan, and the U.S., and landed on the covers of Vogue and The Tatler. Her fame had spread worldwide.
After modelling, 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 modelled for Marks and Spencer, most recently to promote their recent rebranding, appearing in television advertisements and print media, alongside Myleene Klass, Erin O'Connor, Lily Cole and others. In 2012, she worked alongside Marks & Spencer's designers to launch an exclusive clothing collection for the M&S Woman range.
Early life[edit | edit source]
She was born Lesley Hornby, and was brought up in the northwest London suburb of Neasden. She was the third daughter of Nellie Lydia (née Reeman), a factory worker for a printing firm, and William Norman Hornby, a master carpenter and joiner from Lancashire. Her paternal grandfather was Jewish. Their first daughter, Shirley, had been born fifteen years earlier; their second, Vivien, had been born seven years earlier.
Twiggy's mother taught her to sew from an early age. She used this skill to make her own clothing. She attended the Brondesbury and Kilburn High School in Salusbury Road, London.
Twiggy's great great grandmother, Grace Meadows, then living under her maiden name Grace Gillies, died in a stampede of shoppers at a bargain sale at Messrs McIllroys store in Mare Street In Hackney in 1897. This event made the news at the time.
Personal life[edit | edit source]
Twiggy married American actor Michael Witney in 1977. They had a daughter, Carly, born in 1978. The marriage ended with his sudden death in 1983 from a heart attack. Twiggy met 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, who took his surname. The couple reside in London, and also own a home in Southold, Suffolk.
In her official site, she describes herself as being an ardent supporter of breast cancer research, animal welfare and anti-fur campaigns.
Twiggy was one of the celebrities, including Tom Hiddleston, Jo Brand, E. L. James and Rachel Riley, to design and sign her own card for the UK-based charity Thomas Coram Foundation for Children. The campaign was launched by crafting company Stampin’ Up! UK and the cards were auctioned off on eBay during May 2014.
Modelling career (1965-70)[edit | edit source]
1965-67[edit | edit source]
Twiggy is best remembered as one of the first international supermodels and a fashion icon of the 1960s. 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 Shrimpton. In January 1966, young Lesley Hornby had her hair coloured and cut short in London at Leonard of Mayfair, 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. Deirdre 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".
Hornby's career quickly took off. She was short for a model at 5'6" (167 cm), weighed eight stone (51 kg; 112 lbs) and had a 31-23-32 figure, "with a new kind of streamlined, androgynous sex appeal" 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 modelling 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 look centred 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 Twiggy's, 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.
1967-70[edit | edit source]
Twiggy arrived in New York in March 1967 at Kennedy 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, modelling in France, Japan and America, and landing the cover of Paris Vogue in May, the cover of U.S. Vogue three times, in April, July and November, and the cover of British Vogue in October. In 1967, an editorial on page 63 of the 15 March edition of Vogue described her as an "extravaganza that makes the look of the sixties" Twiggy was, according to feminist critic Linda Delibero, "the most visible commodity Britain produced that year, and [America] generously complied with the hype, scarfing up skinny little Twiggy pens, Twiggy lunch boxes, Twiggy lashes, an assortment of Twiggy-endorsed cosmetics".
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's 2009 catalogue of Style: Model as Muse Embodying Fashion stated 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, an 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.
Reaction[edit | edit source]
Twiggy and the magazines featuring her image polarised critics from the start. Her boyishly thin image was criticised 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 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."
On 10 December 1969, despite being 20 years old, she was selected as the special guest for one of the first editions of the UK television series This Is Your Life.
Stage, film, television and singing career[edit | edit source]
1970-79[edit | edit source]
After four years of modelling, Twiggy retired in 1970, stating "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 then 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). Also in 1971, Twiggy released the single "Zoo de Zoo Zong", written by Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, and credited to Twiggy and Friends. In 1974, she made her West End stage debut in Cinderella; made a second feature, the thriller W (co-starring with her future husband Michael Witney); and hosted her own British television series, Twiggs (later renamed Twiggy).
In 1973, she appeared with David Bowie on the cover of his seventh album, Pin Ups. which entered the UK chart on 3 November 1973 and stayed there for 21 weeks, peaking at No. 1.
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 cinemas 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. A single "A Woman in Love" failed to chart for Twiggy in 1977, but was a hit for the Three Degrees in 1978.
In 1978, the television distribution arm of American International Pictures, in an effort to gain additional syndication value in the U.S. to the LWT rock music series Supersonic, repackaged the musical performances with Twiggy replacing Mike Mansfield's introductions. The new series was titled Twiggy's Jukebox, and ran in most of the major television markets in the U.S. during the 1978–79 TV season. Coincidentally, Twiggy herself had performed "Here I Go Again" and "Vanilla Olay" on Supersonic in September 1976, and these performances were included in the refurbished programme. After the initial season, Twiggy left the series, and American International Television continued Jukebox with Britt Ekland as host, using standard music videos rather than clips from Supersonic.
She appeared in "There Goes the Bride" with Tom Smothers in 1979.
1980-99[edit | edit source]
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. 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. She played opposite Robin Williams in the 1986 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 network dramatic television series, the short-lived CBS sitcom Princesses. Of eight episodes completed, only five aired. (Princesses co-star, Fran Drescher, later spent some time with Twiggy and her family in England while developing Drescher's hit series The Nanny, even modeling character Maxwell Sheffield on Twiggy's husband Leigh Lawson.)
In 1993, she appeared alongside Mark Hamill in the short segment "Eye" from the made-for-cable horror anthology, Body Bags.
In 1997, Twiggy acted in the Chichester Festival Theatre revival of Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit. A year later, she played Gertrude Lawrence in the biographical stage revue Noel and Gertie at Bay Street Theatre 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 Noël Coward.
2000-09[edit | edit source]
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", and 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 modelling, 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 OUTpsiDER". 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. Accusations of airbrushing created a stir with the media and public. A website campaign set up by Jo Swinson, the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP, attracted 700 individual complaints. Procter & Gamble admitted to minor retouching and replaced the image. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced that the ad gave a "misleading" impression, but that no further action was required because the image had already been withdrawn. Its announcement said:
"However, we considered that the post-production re-touching of this ad, specifically in the eye area, could give consumers a misleading impression of the effect the product could achieve. We considered that the combination of references to 'younger looking eyes', including the claim 'reduces the look of wrinkles and dark circles for brighter, younger looking eyes', and post-production re-touching of Twiggy's image around the eye area, was likely to mislead."
Later career[edit | edit source]
2010-present[edit | edit source]
Twiggy remains in the forefront of fashion for women of her age. She was one of the few famous celebrities to survive being cut from the Marks & Spencer fashion team in 2009–2010, when Dannii Minogue joined her for the spring/summer women's wear campaign. She also started an HSN fashion line called the "Twiggy London" collection, and has begun a fashion blog to discuss the line. Women in their 60s and 70s are remaining stylish today, and this trend has been termed the "Twiggy effect".
On 21 November 2011 Twiggy released Romantically Yours, her first album in 12 years, through EMI. A collection of pop and easy listening standards spanning several generations, the album features versions of such compositions as "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered", "Blue Moon", "My Funny Valentine", "Someone to Watch over Me" and "They Can't Take That Away from Me". The album also includes a guest vocal appearance by Twiggy's daughter Carly Lawson on Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart", a guitar solo by Bryan Adams, and a version of Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting" featuring duet vocals with the American songwriter himself. Romantically Yours was produced by James McMillan, whose résumé includes playing trumpet for Sade and James Brown.