Saturday, March 31, 2012

ICON INTERVIEW: Twiggy Is Romantically Yours

TwiggyCover of TwiggyBy George R Vaughan

The changing tastes and demands of audiences and the entertainment industry seem to have left Twiggy untouched.

Since she first hit the headlines as a teenager in the mid-sixties, Twiggy has sashayed from one success to another, continually reinventing herself and always remaining ahead of the game.

Vogue cover girl, globally successful model, movie star, accomplished performer, Broadway and theatre star, and the face of the M&S brand, she has touched on almost every aspect of entertainment, gaining in stature every inch of the way.

As her new album - her first in over a decade - Romantically Yours, hits the stores we meet to talk about this release.

"It all came about the way many things in this industry develop; by accident. It certainly wasn't meticulously planned," she smiles. "I had been talking in a fairly relaxed way about doing something in the studio and then EMI approached me, keen to take up the idea. We decided to go with the theme of classic songs, songs that people from all generations might enjoy and I set about picking my favourites".

"Initially I chose 50! But eventually I managed to whittle it down to 12 tracks. My biggest requirement, aside from liking the songs, was that they were all romantic songs that other people could relate to, with timeless classics very much the focal point."

The album gave Twiggy the chance to perform with her daughter, Carly on the Neil Young track Only Love Can Break Your Heart.

"I thought it would be a memorable thing to do and when I suggested the idea to Carly she said she would do it if she liked the song. Fortunately we found one we both loved!"

Twiggy started work on the album in the autumn of 2010 and the initial plan was to release it in time for Mother's Day.

"It was a great idea but I was so busy it meant that I couldn't get everything done in time so our next option was to make it a Christmas release here in the UK. It did give me an opportunity to tweak the album and grow with it. I also wanted to do some filming for it."

From fashion icon to international music artist seems quite a clever journey.

"I'd like to say I was clever and can take credit for it myself but that wasn't how it happened. I do think it is important to evolve and adapt but after five years in the fashion industry, going from an unknown Londoner to Vogue cover girl, it was thanks to the lovely Ken Russell that I made the transition from magazines to movies".

"It was totally his idea. He had me in mind for the lead in The Boyfriend and he sent me off to singing and dancing lessons. The studio was understandably nervous but Ken was not for turning and he surrounded me with some fabulously talented people, which helped my learning experience and the project got the green light".

"I owe him a great deal for his perseverance and he will be sorely missed. There are few visionaries like Ken left in the industry."

The Boyfriend earned Twiggy two Golden Globe Awards that led to further film projects and also a TV show. She also released a number of albums and scored chart success with her single "Here I Go Again".

However, having tasted critical and commercial success with acting and music, the early 80s saw her come to the attention of Broadway when she was enticed to America, to star in My One and Only.

"Film is one thing but the live experience was a whole new dimension and for me it was nerve-racking at first. We did an initial run in Boston, which was wonderful but the Broadway opening night is something I do not remember to this day because I was so nervous. But performing on stage in a hit musical is one of the greatest professional experiences of my life."

Throughout her career Twiggy has enjoyed a very warm relationship with the US and from her first American Vogue front cover in 1967 to her business ventures today, it is a country she retains close links with.

"I love America and the American people. They have always been very warm and generous to me as an artist and I have kept a very strong connection with the country. I have friends on both the East and West coasts - and a few in-between - and I'm back and forth to New York regularly. I think I am what's known as a Nylon!"

"I did a period as a judge on America's Next Top Model and have a clothing business on the Home Shopping Network in America so it's like a second home to me. Only the other week I got a call from some friends in LA who told me they saw a 20 foot poster of me from the 70s on the side of a building and it made me smile".

"Of course, the fashion business was the industry that gave me my big break and without that, well, I wouldn't be here talking to you," she grins.

Does that mean she considers herself less the Londoner and more cosmopolitan these days?

"No, I'm a London girl at heart and I like nothing more than coming home from wherever I am and closing my door on the world and just relaxing with my husband."

And how does someone like Twiggy unwind?

"I like being a wife and mum - although my children are all grown up now - and I like doing normal things, cooking, sewing and I have become absolutely obsessed with jigsaw puzzles. I also still keep up my tap dancing - it's a fun alternative to the gym and helps keep me fit".

"I have a passion for animal welfare and support the cause of animals whenever I can as they don't have a voice so they need someone to speak up for them. Also, supporting the fight against breast cancer is high on my agenda and I am always happy to help in this cause where I can."

The New Year sees little let up in her schedule, as Twiggy will be preparing for the big launch of Romantically Yours in the States.

"It comes out around the 1st February - just in time for Valentine's Day - and my husband and I have our clothing business to keep an eye on."

So, what advice does she have for anyone who is thinking of forging a career in music, film or fashion today?

"It's tough out there. The music industry has moved away from physical sales and down the route of digital, which certainly makes sense but it does take a little of the personality out of the experience. I loved the whole feeling of buying and appreciating an album".

"As for fashion, well fashion is meant to change and evolve so I guess in answer to your question, if you are keen on pursuing a career in any of these fields be prepared to work hard and to expect the unexpected because really, nobody knows anything for sure."

Of course I couldn't close without mentioning those famous M&S adverts.

"They were really fun to do and I think you can see that in the finished product. I got to meet and work with some wonderful people. We have some exciting new plans to work with M&S in the future."

I came away from the interview impressed Twiggy's unassuming and generous nature. Here is an extraordinary woman unconcerned about celebrity for its own sake. Here is a woman who has achieved what she wanted through hard work but also always ready to acknowledge the part others have played in her success.

Now that is iconic.

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