Twiggy (born Lesley Hornby; 19 September 1949) is an English model,
actress, and singer, now also known by her married name of Twiggy Lawson. In
the 1960s, at 16, she became the first prominent teenage model. She was
known for her large eyes, long eyelashes, and thin build, and is regarded as
one of the most famous models of all time. Twiggy went on to star in movies,
and appeared as a judge on the reality show America's Next Top Model. She
now models for Marks and Spencer to promote their recent rebranding, and
appears in seasonal television She commercials with others, such as Myleene
Klass, as well as other forms of media for the campaigns.
Twiggy Lawson was raised in the London suburb of Neasden, the daughter of Helen (Nellie) Lydia Hornby (née Reeman), and William Norman Hornby, a master carpenter and joiner. She got her first job as an assistant in a hairdressers where her sister Viv worked then became a counter-girl at a Woolworth's store and factory worker at a printing firm. She attended the Brondesbury and Kilburn High School in Salusbury Road, Kilburn.
Twiggy during the height of her modeling careerIn 1966, Nigel Davies noticed the young Lesley Hornby and offered her a modelling contract. She was only 16 and weighed 6½ stone (41 kg, 90 lbs). Davies advised her to go by her childhood nickname, Twiggy. After sweeping England as "The Face of '66" when her modeling pictures, taken by Barry Lategan, were made public, Twiggy arrived in New York in March 1967. It was believed that the Twiggy craze would die down within a month; however, she became an icon. Known for the high fashion mod look created by Mary Quant, Twiggy changed the world of fashion with her short-haired androgynous look. She was also famous for drawing long, fake eyelashes under her bottom lashes.
After many years of modeling, Twiggy retired, claiming "You can't be a clothes hanger for your entire life!" She embarked on an award-winning acting and singing career, including Ken Russell's 1971 film version of Sandy Wilson's musical, The Boy Friend, for which she won two Golden Globe Awards. Since then she has played a variety of roles on stage and screen, including My One and Only and as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, opposite Robert Powell, in a 1981 television production. 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" and "Please Get My Name Right" made it to no.35 in 1977.
She married the 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. She met Leigh Lawson on the film Madame Sousatzka, and married him in 1988. They reside in London. In 2003, she released another album, Midnight Blue, featuring previously unreleased material she had recorded from 1982 – 1990; the CD received glowing reviews and had duets on it with Leo Sayer and Carly Simon. Her other recordings from 1985 failed to make the charts. 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 as one of four judges. She also returned to modelling, fronting a major new television, press and billboard campaign for Marks & Spencer, a British department store chain. 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, since the show was moving to New York. She was instead replaced with 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.
Twiggy is mentioned in the Spice Girls song, "Lady is a Vamp" from their 1997 album Spiceworld. Japanese band, Pizzicato Five released a song called "Twiggy Twiggy" (aka "Twiggy vs James Bond") in the mid 1990s, and mentions Twiggy quite frequently. Twiggy was the subject of a song in the popular '60s era musical A Slice of Saturday Night. She is mentioned in the Namie Amuro song "New Look" from her 2008 single "60s 70s 80s". The 1973 David Bowie song "Drive In Saturday" contains a reference to a girl sighing like 'Twig the wonder kid.' Twiggy subsequently appeared with Bowie on the cover of his Pin Ups album. Jeordie White, member of rock/metal group Marilyn Manson, has the stage name Twiggy Ramirez, in keeping with the rule that the band's members name themselves after the first name of a celebrity and the surname of a serial killer (Twiggy, and American serial killer Richard Ramirez). Twiggy is also mentioned in the Erykah Badu song "Me".
Welsh band Manic Street Preachers released the song "4st 7lb" on their 1994 album The Holy Bible. Written from the perspective of a girl with anorexia, it includes the following lines "Legs bend, stockinged I am Twiggy / And I don't mind the horror that surrounds me". In the Onion's news-compendium parody Our Dumb Century there is a story entitled "Twiggy Popularizing Eating Disorders". Sarah Harding had a look very similar to Twiggy's in the Girls Aloud video The Promise (Girls Aloud song)
In 1966, Mattel issued a "Twiggy" doll, a Barbie-sized doll with smaller bust and hips. In 1971, Twiggy made her film debut as an extra in Ken Russell's The Devils. That same year, she had her first leading role in features as Polly in Ken Russell's adaptation of Sandy Wilson's pastiche of 1920s hit musicals The Boy Friend; initial collaboration with Tommy Tune. In 1974, she made her West End stage debut in Cinderella. That same year, she 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 1977 she made an appearance on The Muppet Show and in 1980 she made a cameo appearance in The Blues Brothers.
In 1981, Twiggy starred as Eliza Doolittle 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 Tune; earned a Tony nomination. In 1987, she played a vaudeville performer in the British television special The Little Match Girl and in 1988, she garnered 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 the ill-fated CBS sitcom Princesses.
In 1997, Twiggy acted in the London stage revival of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit and a year later, she played Gertrude Lawrence in the biographical stage musical Noel and Gertie at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, Long Island. In 1999, she returned to the New York stage as Lawrence in an off-Broadway production If Love Were All, a revised version of Noel and Gertie, directed by Lawson; what set this edition apart were its tap numbers in period style. She starred opposite Harry Groener's Coward. In 2001, she co-hosted the British magazine programme This Morning. In 2005, she served as a judge on America's Next Top Model for Cycles 5-9 and a year later, she appeared on the cover of the Icons issue of SWINDLE magazine.
This Twiggy Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub