When Twiggy's career took off at a head-spinning rate back in 1966, it was her family who kept the 16-year-old grounded.
The model, actor, singer and all-round cultural icon chatted warmly with Ryan Tubridy today about the people she’s met, the places she’s been and how she’s channeling all that good stuff into her new podcast, Tea with Twiggy.
Discovered at the age of 16, things moved very fast for Lesley Hornby (Twiggy's given name). The teenager who made her own clothes, and crafted her signature look using three sets of false eyelashes was on the cover of American Vogue at 17. It all could have been too much, but Twiggy says she knew her family had her back:
"We’ve all met a few who’ve gone a kind of… gone off the deep end. I mean, I revert back to my family, it has to have begun then. My dad was from Lancashire, North of England. He was very sensible. Real sensible Northern lad. Both my sisters and myself are very much like my dad."
Twiggy was the youngest of three, with sisters 7 and 15 years older than her. She says they looked out for her, especially since her mother was sometimes hospitalized, having suffered from a mental illness that Twiggy thinks might be better understood nowadays:
"I think she was probably bipolar, I think we’d think that today. We didn’t know what it was in those days. So dad was very protective of her, as we all were. For many years she’d be fine and then she’d suddenly have a depression come upon her."
When spectacular opportunities came Twiggy’s way, she says her dad applied his North of England wisdom to the situation:
"I can vaguely remember, you know, years ago when I was probably jetting off to New York and I was all over the papers and everything, my dad saying to me, you know, 'Don’t let this go to your ‘ed Lesley.’ And you know he was right."
Invariably, Twiggy still gets asked a lot about her status as THE face of the 1960s. At the time, Twiggy says she couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, but she now thinks it came down to something quite simple:
"When I look back at the pictures, I think it was because I looked so different. I didn't look like the models before me, they were all very elegant and very sophisticated looking."
"Suddenly in London in the so-called 'Swinging Sixties', youth was the big thing. Big designers were designing for teenage girls and those models didn't fit the clothes, if you know what I mean. They needed somebody like me, it just happened to be me. I didn't look like anybody else."
Speaking about her unique look, Ryan asked Twiggy about her iconic lashes.
"I got very good at it. I would wear three pairs of false eyelashes on the top - one on top of the other - and then I would draw the line in the arch of my eye and shade it. Then I would draw, what became known as 'twiggies' under my eye, the fake-looking eyelashes under the eye.
"It used to take me about an hour and a half to do because in those days we didn't have make up artists. When I was working, I would get up at 6 in the morning to do my eye make-up."
Twiggy’s podcast is pitched as an intimate chat over a cup of tea with actors, directors and performers who just happen to be some of Twiggy’s best friends, including Joanna Lumley, Lynda La Plante and Elaine Paige. There’s also a bonus episode featuring an NHS nurse.
The model is a huge cheerleader for health workers, as she told Ryan: "I just said it would be lovely to talk to somebody to thank them for what they’ve been doing, because it is extraordinary. I mean they really are… you know I think they should all be given a pay rise. I think they are so brave, you know. I just can’t believe what they do. "
If you want to hear more about Twiggy’s movie career, including her cameo in The Blues Brothers, why she’s not keen on plastic surgery and what Prince Charles said to her after she was made a Dame, you can listen to the full interview with Ryan Tubridy here.
Tea with Twiggy can be found on all the usual podcast platforms.