Twiggy’s success story began in 1965 when Nigel Davies – a jack-of-all-trades who had worked as a bookie’s office boy, amateur boxer, antique salesman, interior designer and a hairdresser at Vidal Sassoon’s Bond Street salon – spotted carpenter’s daughter Lesley Hornby at his brother’s beauty shop where she worked as a Saturday “shampoo girl”.
Nigel immediately spotted the modelling potential of the fifteen-year-old and set about completely changing her appearance.
The very first thing to go was her name. From Lesley Hornby it became simply ‘Twiggy’.
His name was also changed to add a dash of class to what he was positive would be the triumph of Twiggy. Accordingly, Nigel Davies was tossed in favour of Justin de Villeneuve.
An entirely new look was created for 5-foot-6 Twiggy. Justin saw to it that her original mousey-brown hair was barbered and changed to blonde. Eye makeup was “in” with three pairs of false lashes as well as painstakingly painted lower lashes.
The fresh young looks of “figureless” Twiggy (31-22-32) burst on to the fashion scene in 1966 when the Daily Express nominated her ‘face of the year’.
Twiggy made the “skinny look” fashionable, and young girls all over the Western world went on crash diets to slim down and look ‘fashionable’.
In her heyday – between the ages of 18 and 20 – Twiggy was the world’s most photographed model who made a minimum pay of US$2500 a week – plus all expenses.
Born and reared in the working-class district of Neasden, London, Twiggy went to the same schools as her neighbours. As a girl, she had the distinction of being called such cherished nicknames as “Sticks” and “Oxfam” by her classmates.
After modelling, Twiggy went on to enjoy a successful career as a screen, stage and television actress.
Though untrained in acting, Twiggy made it to the silver screen in 1971 due to director Ken Russell’s persistence. He wanted her for The Boyfriend and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
The warm reception to that film launched her acting career.
Twiggy married American actor Michael Witney in 1977. They had a daughter, Carly, born in 1978. The marriage ended with his sudden death in 1983 from a heart attack in New York.
Twiggy met Leigh Lawson in 1984. In 1988 they worked on the film Madame Sousatzka, and married that year in Sag Harbor, Long Island.
Lawson adopted Twiggy’s daughter, who took on his surname.