They call me 'Twiggy'


In 1966, a sixteen-year-old gamine girl with an urchin haircut and a nickname of "Twiggy" become one of the most iconic models of all time. She turns sixty in September and The National Portrait Gallery are celebrating her birthday with a photographic biography of her life.

Twiggy's - aka Lesley Hornby - androgynous waif-like look, combined with the classic sixties design style of Mary Quant, took the modelling world by storm and helped changed the face of fashion. A year after she was spotted, Twiggy fever had crossed the Atlantic. There were Twiggy dolls, false eyelashes, and an eponymous magazine.

Appearing in all the leading magazines across her career, she has been photographed by Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon, Melvin Sokolsky, Ronald Traeger, Bert Stern and Norman Parkinson amongst others.

"Over my career I’ve had the privilege of working with many great photographers," Twiggy says. "I’m very excited to see so many of these portraits coming together at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s really interesting to see how fashion photography and portraiture have evolved throughout my career. I hope that this display and book will give people the opportunity to see these pictures that have captured definitive moments in my career."

Growing discontented with just modelling, in 1970 Twiggy turned to acting and subverted the stereotype of models-turned-actors succeeding solely for their looks. For her performance in The Boyfriend (1971), she was awarded two Golden Globes - Most Promising Newcomer and Best Actress in a Musical. She has since appeared in many plays and musicals and was also nominated for a Tony award.

Twiggy’s modelling career was re-launched with the successful Marks and Spencer advertising campaign in 2005, where she appears alongside leading supermodels of the noughties Erin O'Connor and Lily Cole. She’s also appeared as a judge on the US reality show America's Next Top Model opposite Tyra Banks, and has designed a clothing line for Littlewoods.

The exhibition begins on her sixtieth birthday on the 19th September and runs until March 2010. The display encompasses Twiggy’s life in portraits, from early shots by Lategan to the present day. There will also be a book released which features pictures from the exhibition as well as her private collection of photographs and a current retrospective in her own words.

The North London girl came from working on the counter at Woolworths, and her iconic status has not only outlived the store, but also the tired notion that beauty equals youth.