She’s the iconic model who will forever be known as “the face of the Sixties”, but in the five decades since she first found fame as the elfin model and muse with big eyes and long lashes, Twiggy, now 68, has never fallen out of fashion.
Discovered at just 16 years old, Twiggy retired from modelling after four years, but went on to become an award-winning film and stage actress, release an album and appear as a judge on America’s Next Top Model. More recently, she has turned to design, with clothing and accessories ranges for Marks & Spencer and Specsavers.
How do you feel about ageing?
“I don’t think about my age or ageing. I know people can get depressed about being a certain age, but I don’t see the point of that; there’s nothing you can do about it and you can’t stop time passing, so you might as well celebrate it.
“As long as you’ve got your health, that’s the most important thing. I also feel very lucky to be doing the things I love and to have a lovely family – I feel as happy now as I was in my twenties.”
When you look back to the Sixties, how do you see yourself?
“Compared with today’s 16-year-olds, who appear so confident and grown-up, I was so shy, naive and unworldly. I was this funny little kid that was obsessed with fashion, who suddenly had to grow up quite quickly. Deep down, there’s still a little part of that girl within me, but I’m very different and much more confident now.
“As far as I know, I was the first working class model – until then it was only girls from posh or middle-class families. I never expected to become famous, so when it happened, I was as shocked as anybody else.
“Within three months I was in Paris working with American Vogue and Elle, and people like Sonny and Cher were throwing parties for me with Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen as guests. It was extraordinary.”
How important is work to you?
“I work hard because I enjoy it. I can pick and choose the work that I do and I only work on projects that I’m passionate about. I’m really proud of my latest collection of glasses for Specsavers – I had all of the ideas for the colours and shapes. Specs are such a fashion item now. I’ve got friends who wear them even though they don’t need to, just because they love the look.”
What has changed your life?
“Being a mother. When I was growing up, my family were everything to me and I wanted Carly to feel the same. She was my priority over my career and if doing a certain job didn’t work for her, I didn’t do it. She definitely grounded me and stopped me from becoming selfish – we went everywhere together, which is why we’re so close now.
The Sixties were known as the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll era – did you suffer any of the inappropriate behaviour that is being revealed in the media now?
“I do often think it’s amazing I got through it all unscathed, but I never, ever had anything inappropriate happen. I think that was thanks to my wonderful dad, Norman, whom I trusted and adored. When I suddenly got this overnight fame [by being named in a newspaper as the “face” of 1966] he let me leave school to model – but insisted I couldn’t go to photo shoots or jobs on my own. My boyfriend became my manager, so he accompanied me everywhere. I also have quite a good right hook – but luckily I never had to use it!
You’re celebrating your 30th wedding anniversary this year. What’s the secret of your happy relationship with Leigh?
“God knows! [Laughs] No, seriously, it’s because we’re best friends – we hit it off from our first meeting. It wasn’t our first relationship, we’d both been through one that hadn’t worked out for various reasons, so we felt lucky to find one another.
“Leigh’s such a talented and attractive man, and most importantly, he makes me laugh. He’s very romantic too – if ever he goes away he still leaves me little love notes on my pillow.”
How do you look after your health and wellbeing?
“I’m certainly not fanatical about looking after myself. I love food and cooking and eat mostly organic, but I’ve never dieted – I was 6st 7lbs when I was a teenager and I’m 8st 7lbs now.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“My parents told me, ‘Stay true to yourself’, and I think I have. I’ve never allowed myself to be forced to do things I didn’t want to do and I don’t suffer fools gladly.”