Twiggy (née Lesley Hornby) was born in Neasden, London on 19 September 1949. Her inspiring modelling career began when she had her hair coloured and cropped short in Mayfair at the ‘House of Leonard’ in January 1966. She states: “I was in the salon for about seven hours and they were cutting and colouring it, it was all extremely exciting for me. He was brilliant; I went from this mouse like brown to the colour which I have kept now.” After this drastic transformation, a photo shoot occurred in which Barry Lategan produced the photos for the ‘Face of ‘66’. He stated that “She appeared with this short hair cut which was an extraordinary transformation in her because her face came out more prominently and she’s got a beautifully modelled face, totally well proportioned and there was something very new to me because she had painted her own eyelashes below her eyes and this was something no one had been doing or had done, she sat in front of the camera and it was dazzling...” The results of this photo shoot were displayed in the salon as per usual and when Deidre McSharry of the Daily Express saw these photos, Twiggy was named the ‘Face of ‘66’ which ultimately launched her internationally renowned career as the world’s first supermodel. She was just 16 years old and at only 5’6” with an androgynous look, she began paving the way for more daring fashion trends.
In 1966, the first year of her career, she managed to record and release ‘Beautiful Dreams’, a single which was distributed around the world as well as releasing her range of ‘Twiggy Dresses’ which were eventually released throughout the whole world. In 1967 Bert Stern made 3 documentaries about her promotional trip to New York for the ABC network and a documentary was also made in the UK by the television network Granada about Twiggy’s home life and her modelling for Vogue. She published her own magazine in the US titled ‘Twiggy: Her Mod Mod Teen World’ and Mattel released the ‘Twiggy Barbie Doll’. In 1968, Twiggy’s career was flourishing and she made a promotional visit to Japan where she featured in a fashion show at the Budokwai Stadium and filmed commercials for Toyota and Choco Flakes. In 1969, the final year of her modelling career, she sang and danced in an advert for Diet Rite Cola as well as featuring on ‘This Is Your Life’. Near the end of 1969, she was cast by Ken Russell in his film version of ‘The Boy Friend’ which prompts Twiggy to terminate her modelling career stating “You can’t be a clothes hanger for your entire life!”
After ending her modelling career, she then went on to become a successful actress in film, stage and television which started with her winning 2 Golden Globe awards (New Star of the Year-Actress and Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy) for her role as Polly Browne in ‘The Boy Friend’. In 1974 she made her West End stage debut in Cinderella and hosted her own British television series ‘Twiggs’ which was later renamed Twiggy. In 1975, she sang at the Royal Albert Hall in a live performance of Roger Glover’s ‘The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast’ which was filmed by Toby Klinger and was later released in 1976 to cinemas. In November 1976, she sang the Beatles ‘In My Life’ on the Muppet Show after which she signed on to Mercury records and released the albums ‘Twiggy’ (which peaked in the UK charts at No. 33, giving Twiggy a silver disc) and ‘Please Get My Name Right’ (which peaked at No. 37 in 1977) and many others since which include a range of styles including pop, rock, disco, country and show tunes.
In 1980, Twiggy made a cameo appearance in ‘The Blues Brothers’ and in 1981, she starred as Eliza Doolittle in the Yorkshire TV production of Pygmalion. In 1983, she made her Broadway debut in the George Gershwin musical ‘My One and Only’ which ran for two years for which she earned a Tony nomination for. In 1986, she acted in the comedy ‘Club Paradise’ and in 1987 and 1988 she landed roles in ‘The Little Match Girl’ and ‘Madame Sousatzka’ respectively. In 1989 she played Hannah Chaplin, the mother of Charles Chaplin, in the British television movie ‘Young Charlie Chaplin’.
In 1991, she co-starred in the CBS sitcom ‘Princesses’ which was her first role in an American network dramatic television series. In 1997, Twiggy acted in the Chichester Festival Theatre version of ‘Blithe Spirit’. In 1998, she had a role in ‘Noel and Gertie’ at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, Long Island and in 1999 she acted in a revised version of ‘Noel and Gertie’ named ‘If Love Were All’ in New York which included tap numbers in period style.
In the 1990’s Twiggy launched her career as a TV presenter and interviewer with her own ITV series ‘Twiggy’s People’ which involved her interviewing many famous faces such as Dustin Hoffman, Lauren Bacall, Tom Jones, Joan Rivers, Eric Idle and Tim Curry. In 2001, she began her second television series ‘Take Time with Twiggy’ on ITV which involved her interviewing stars such as Lulu, Ken Russell and Frederick Forsyth as well as co-hosting ‘This Morning’. In 2003, she released the album ‘Midnight Blue’. In 2005 she became a judge for ‘America’s Next Top Model’ and stayed as a judge for cycles 5-9. She also returned to modelling for Marks and Spencer which has resulted in recently renewed interest for the store and in 2007, Twiggy’s album which she recorded in 1979, ‘Heaven In My Eyes’ was released.
Twiggy also does a lot of philanthropic work. She supports the campaign ‘Fashion Targets Breast Cancer’ alongside the likes of Alan Carr, Natalie Imbruglia, Anna Friel and Edith Bowman as well as being an avid anti-fur campaigner.
More recently, Twiggy has started a fashion line for the US based shopping channel HSN which is the ‘Twiggy London Collection’ and has also started a fashion blog to discuss the line. She has also coined the term the ‘Twiggy effect’ as a way of explaining the way that older women are now still staying fashionable. In 2011, Twiggy released her first album in 12 years ‘Romantically Yours’ which is a collection of pop and easy listening tracks which includes vocals from her daughter Carly.
Needless to say, throughout her whole life, she has graced many magazine covers such as Vogue and Queen and she will most likely continue to do so in later life!