Leslie 'Twiggy' Hornby

"At 17 Leslie Hornby took hold of the world. At 21 she let it go, she was the original waif, a 60’s phenomenon a superstar. She was Twiggy" (Vogue). Leslie Hornby was the revolutionary woman who changed the idea of beauty in the eyes of the fashion industry and the entire world. Twiggy exemplified the androgynous mod look that swept America as it had Britain and much of Europe in the 1960’s. She healthily maintained a 5 ft 6 1/2 inch 90 lb body. Based on her thin figure, a nickname of "Twiggy" was derived. Twiggy’s popularity not only produced many people who tried to look like her but also drastically increased the hourly wages of models. She paved the way for current top models like Kate Moss, Elle MacPherson, and Linda Evangelista.

Twiggy was major trendsetter in America during the sixties even though she was born in England. She was found by Nigel Davies in a salon, while working as a shampoo girl. He saw her potential and immediately took her to get a haircut at a Mr. Leonard’s trendy salon in London. Mr. Leonard put her picture in his shop window, and a short time later that picture was featured in the London Daily Express with a caption that read "This is the face of 1966" (Wilson). Davies, who preferred to be called Justin De Villeneuve, was quite an interesting character with his past resume containing ex-model, ex-antique dealer, and ex-hairdresser. After he discovered her, he (age 25) became Twiggy’s (age 15) agent and boyfriend. He took her to Paris and a short while after her popularity grew, she was put on the cover of Elle Magazine, as well as Paris Match and the British edition of Vogue. During Twiggy’s peak success in Europe, De Villeneuve set up Twiggy Enterprises Ltd. where he gathered a line of clothes, false eyelashes, cosmetics, dolls, and posters all endorsed by Twiggy. The business brought in millions. Since Twiggy was so young, Justin ran the entire business. She only had to agree to what she liked and put her name on it. The thought of a Model taking advantage of her success to start an enterprise was completely revolutionary. Once again Twiggy paved the way for models like Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Kate Moss, and Naomi Campbell all of which opened highly successful restaurants, and made exercise tapes, clothes, calendars, posters, and many other products. The enterprising aspect of being a top model was started by Twiggy and that influence is commonly seen in the business world today.

Twiggy’s next step in her career was to travel to the United States. Twiggy’s success soared when she made her first visit to America. On March 20,1967 the second she stepped off the plane she was swarmed by fans, and was candy to the media’s eyes. She was like a fever that spread. Everyone wanted a piece of her. Her pictures were everywhere. Twiggy’s popularity allowed her to charge revolutionary high prices an hour. She charged as much as $240 an hour opposed to a 50’s top model like Suzy Parker who only received about $40 an hour (Century of Models). Once again Twiggy set the standard for 90’s top models to earn outrageous sums of money. For example, the 90’s Twiggy (Kate Moss) earns about 26.3 million dollars a year.

One reason for Twiggy’s great success was that the public had never seen anyone like her. She had a completely new look that took the entire world by surprise. During the 40’s, long limbed, and sophisticated was the trend. In the 50’s, a more curvaceous womanly look (Marilyn Monroe) was in. Twiggy set the 60’s waiflike standard. What a leap from Marilyn to Twiggy. They were almost completely opposite. Twiggy’s influence is still seen on today’s runways and television. The current day Twiggy is Kate Moss. Her figure is strikingly similar (Twiggy 31-22-32, Moss 33-22-35) (Century of Models).

Remarkably, Twiggy’s favorite thing to eat was ice cream, bananas and hot fudge, she doesn’t drink or smoke but "eats like a horse" (Time). Twiggy is one of those girls who has an extremely high metabolism and is healthy but just cannot gain weight. As a child, her mother was very worried about Leslie’s thinness and took her to see many doctors. The doctors concluded that the thinness was just a result of her body type and couldn’t be helped. When asked what she thought of her figure as "the thing of the future" she replied "it’s not really what you call a figure, is it" (Wilson)? Twiggy, as well as thousands of other teenagers, went through years of thinking of themselves as ugly. She couldn’t stand her thinness, but as she became popular she began to like it (Twiggy). Ironically, the thin frame that she hated was the thing that drove many girls and women to hate their bodies as well. They saw all the pictures of thin Twiggy and aspired to look like that, but when they discovered it was not easily achieved it drove women to physical hate. This physical hate drove and still drives women to anorexia, bulimia, alcohol and drug abuse which leads us to one of the major differences between Twiggy and Moss. Twiggy obtained her figure while remaining healthy, but Moss obtains her figure by resorting to drugs and alcohol abuse.

The average 90’s woman is approximately 5’5 and weighs 150 lbs. Today fashion models on average are close to six feet tall and weigh barely 120 pounds. That is too skinny to be healthy. Over three-fourths of professional models have body weights below normal (Women’s Health Weekly). A quarter of professional models meet the weight criteria for anorexia nervosa, a life threatening disease (Women’s Health Weekly). This current obsession with anorexia and bulimia glorifies the disease by putting these models on the front covers of magazines. Magazine ads featuring the skinny female fashion models have an immediate negative impact on a woman’s self esteem according to the University of Toronto study published in the International Journal of eating disorders. The fashion industry should rethink how it portrays the female body so more women can feel comfortable about themselves and not be pushed towards eating disorders. People need to realize that you don’t have to be skinny to be healthy, or have a perfect body, or a conventional face to have a great life. From Twiggy to Kate Moss, the fashion industry has been attached to idealizing such extreme slenderness, encouraging real women to hate their bodies and at extreme, develop anorexia or bulimia. If these models are exemplars of ideal beauty, then the measure for women is that to be beautiful, starvation level is required. It appears that the media and the fashion industry would have the public believe that ultra thinness symbolizes beauty when in reality, the standard represents infertility, and premature death. The public has to realize that Twiggy was different. Her slenderness was natural, and everyone should not set their physical goals to that of hers, because it is physically impossible.

Twiggy is revolutionary. She is the pivotal woman who changed the image of the ideal woman, and the face and body of fashion models. Her popularity allowed her to drastically increase a models income. She showed the world that models no longer were just a pretty face but also shrewd businesswomen with enterprises of their own. Twiggy paved the way for the top models of today, and will always be remembered. Her body matched Diana Vreeland's description of the perfect contemporary woman: "the straightest legs, knees like little peaches, tiny narrow supple feet, rounded arms, and beautiful wrists and throat. She was both modern and romantic. She was perfect." (Vogue).