Vogue CS in English

Julia Fox: People never really believed in me

Actress, former dominatrix, star of the New York art scene and fashion icon. Julia Fox is the sweetest antihero you could imagine. Life is a series of images and characters.
Foto: Irvin Rivera/Contour by Getty Images for IMDb
Julia Fox na předávání cen Independent Spirit Awards v Santa Monice, 6. března 2022

How are you today, how was your day?

I'm fine! I don't have to be on set until 3:00, so I'm enjoying my time off.

Can you talk about what you're filming right now?

Yeah, I'm shooting a film called The Coach, it's directed by Tony Kaye, he's such a mad scientist, a brilliant director. When I heard that he was going to direct the movie, I immediately said I was in. 

What's your role?

I play the love interest of the main character, he's a fitness trainer who we're trying to push his invention to become famous and fulfill his American dream. It's a very complicated story, I don't want to give too much away, but you have a lot to look forward to. The script was written by Vito Schnabel, who also stars in the film for the first time.

The shoot for Vogue CS was inspired by old Italian cinema. I know you spent part of your childhood in Italy, your mom is Italian and your dad is American, right? How did Italy influence you?

That's right. Honestly thank God for my years in Italy, now in retrospect, I feel like those were the years when you develop the most. My whole family lived in a one-bedroom apartment, we were all crammed in, but it never felt like that, I never felt like we were poor there, life wasn't hectic. Everything around was deserted but full of love and lots of good food.

Was there anything you didn't like about living in Italy?

I lived there as a very young girl and then I went back from New York for two years for school when I was 14. I didn't like it at all because, by that time I was too American for Italy, I felt much more mature than girls my age. I was raised by pop culture and the streets of New York, where I did whatever I wanted. It was a pretty adult life for my age.
I had nipple piercings and came back to Italy where girls didn't shave their legs and wear underwear like my grandmother. I remember being 14 and thinking, "What the hell are you doing? Where are your thongs?!" I felt like a grown woman, but I still didn't know who I was.

Were you as free in Italy then as you were in New York?

Yes, I was used to it, and the fact that I was always unguarded made me think that there was no point in changing anything. But the thing is, compared to America, it's much easier to get alcohol and buy cigarettes in a vending machine, and that's what I loved about Italy, haha.
That's a big difference. Every time one of my American friends is in Europe, they are surprised by the fact that young people here drink and smoke a lot. 
It used to be totally normal for us and the bars in Italy didn't close until the last person left! We stayed in clubs until 8 am and we were all around 15 years old. I was much worse at this in Italy than I was in New York. Everything I couldn't do in America, I did there. So it was crazy sometimes.
(At this point Julia pulls out her vape and unobtrusively blows smoke out of the frame - ed.)

Do you have a specific story to tell us?

I lost my virginity in Italy, and fell in love for the first time. My first love was from Venice. We had sex behind churches, rode around the countryside drunk on motorbikes, and crashed a few cars. We weren't afraid of anything.

That sounds kind of fun, haha.

It was! We were brats, but still in the country, not afraid to get muddy, take care of animals, and play with lizards, snakes, and spiders. I'm definitely braver for it. For that, I am grateful to Italy and its nature.

Have you ever been to Prague?

I have, I love Prague. One time, my friends and I took a trip through the cities of Central Europe. I went to a techno show in Prague, I really enjoyed it. You definitely know how to have fun. The parties here are fun, always in some creepy abandoned building where you dance for 24 hours straight. I love it.

You've talked many times about your past as a dominatrix in New York. at a BDSM club, about how you didn't mind working as a dominatrix, but you always knew there was something bigger waiting for you in the world. Did you have that feeling as a child? A hunch that one day you'd be famous?

Yes, I was. I didn't know what it was, I didn't even want to be famous, but I always knew I would be, and for a long time, I even rejected it. I was very afraid of becoming the woman I knew I was supposed to be and all the consequences that would bring. I had to learn how to come to terms with myself and the potential I had. That's one of the scariest things a person has to face. We often get stuck in comfort and what we know well. Some people live their whole lives like that. I could never do that.

You've been known for a while, but now probably more than ever. I once heard you say in an interview, "I think celebrities have an obligation to just do their duty." How do you deal with fame now? Is it limiting for you in any way?

It's not, I'm doing absolutely everything I did before. It's just a matter of which path one chooses. As humans we're terribly adaptable, I've just learned how to move differently in public spaces - in a way that doesn't draw unnecessary attention to myself. I'm pushing a stroller down the street, I'm getting a smoothie, I'm wearing something inconspicuous, and sometimes people still want to take pictures with me. But mostly they respect my personal boundaries.

Have you had any unpleasant encounters with fans? We know there's a lot going on online, but what about in real life?

Absolutely. But the thing is, I've always had these encounters. Men have left messages on my car or on my bike basket. Things like, "I'm watching you, I like you a lot, I know who you are." Even before I was famous, I was a big name in New York. People here always knew who Julia Fox was. I remember the police in the neighborhood knew my name. You could ask anybody in this town and they'd confirm it. I've always wondered what you're after, why you're so interested in me. I didn't want to be myself, I wanted to disappear.

It's probably also because you've communicated a lot about yourself through your art projects. Your photography books have exposed people to the dark, intimate side of your life. Maybe they just feel like they know you - from their perspective, it's like you're friends.

That's true, and I'm honestly excited if I can be that imaginary friend to at least a few people. But I would also encourage everyone to try and make some real friends, haha.

Even though you're very famous now, you always seem to want to stay part of the culture you grew up in - with the people on the street. Somehow I can't imagine you hiding out in Beverly Hills.

Never. I'd rather kill myself. Authenticity is the most important thing to me. If I'm to represent the community that raised me, I must remain a part of it. L.A.'s fine, I like coming here once in a while, it's such a sunny bubble where everyone's nice, but every time I'm here I start to miss the unpredictability of New York, that feeling of starting the day and not knowing where the city will take you. 
Foto: Getty Images
Kanye West a Julia Fox na přehlídce Schiaparelli Haute Couture jaro - léto 2022 v Paříži, 24. ledna 2022
Foto: Rachpoot/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images
Julia Fox v Los Angeles, 24. března 2022
Foto: Getty Images
Kanye West a Julia Fox v Paříži, 23. ledna 2022

Would you say that being a celebrity is basically just playing a role in everyday life?

Absolutely. I became most famous for my role in the movie Uncut Gems. Then the pandemic hit, I had a baby, I broke up with my partner, I was really devastated, and then I got a text from Kanye. I think by that time, Kanye and I were both in a frame of mind where our main goal was to make our exes jealous. But the whole time I was dating Kanye, I was like, this is for me, I like people taking pictures of me, I like being the center of attention. But it's so unnatural, you have to treat it like a role. So when Kanye and I broke it off, I was like, what now? Should I stop? Absolutely not. I'm gonna keep going, I'm gonna keep acting and I'm gonna keep doing all the things that I enjoy. Kanye has always supported me in that, and I'm grateful for that.

How would you describe your whole experience at Paris Fashion Week with Kanye?

Stressful. Everything was happening so fast at the time, I was on autopilot. I was taking advice on what to do and trying to keep up. And when it got to be too much, I just said I was done.

Did Kanye push you to try harder, reach your potential, be more yourself?

Yeah, it's only now that I finally feel like I'm able to use everything that's in me. I used to be more comfortable, trying to hide in relationships, pretending that I was enough. It was easier than admitting there was something more waiting for me and I had to strive for it. Kanye thought I was lazy, he always used to say: "The cool kids are always the laziest." Haha. It's just about capitalizing on my skills and trying to find my purpose in the world. I think I'm here to tell stories, to help people who need it, to not be afraid to shout out who they are out loud. I've always been an advocate for the underdog, but I've also made mistakes and been the one to mock them. I was bullied at school and at home, and unfortunately, this was reflected in the fact that at one time I took my anger out on others. But I quickly realized that we were in the same boat. The outsiders are my team and we have to help each other.
To be given this opportunity to be on the cover of Vogue is incredible, I would never have dared to dream of it before. People never really believed in me. Either I was just a pretty girl at first glance, or I was the weirdo that everyone was afraid of.

How important is fashion to you?

Very important. The reactions from people to how I present myself motivate me to push the existing boundaries even more.

You also opened LaQuan Smith's show as a model at New York Fashion Week. How did that feel? Were you nervous? Were you practicing your walk?

I had fun. I practiced the walk in front of my friends and then on the spot, but I have to say that once the show starts, everything you've practiced goes out of your head and you're just trying to survive, haha.

Did you have any coveted iconic pieces while growing up?

I always wanted a Chanel bag. There was a vintage luxury fashion store near our apartment. I saw a $250 Chanel bag there and begged and cajoled my dad to buy it for me. I got it when I graduated from high school. That was probably the first expensive thing I ever had.

Which of the fashion people you met in Paris impressed you the most?

Donatella Versace! There were a lot of people there, but you know, I'm usually pretty stoned at all these events so I don't remember that much, haha.

Is it the stress? Does it help you be less nervous?

It does, but it's not so much because of the stress, it's more that it makes almost every situation better and more fun, so why wouldn't I do it. At the end of the day, I just want to enjoy it and have fun.

When you were twenty-three, you and your friend had a fashion label called Franziska Fox. Is there any chance you'll relaunch the brand?

I don't know yet, my friend Brianna Andalore is my stylist now, so we're still working together. It would be cool to try again now that we're older, we know how to do it, and we're more disciplined. We didn't know what we were doing before, but we still did pretty well. The funniest thing is that we were selling our stuff at the Dash store, which is owned by Kim Kardashian's family. A lot of celebrities were wearing our stuff. One time Joan Rivers put one of our skirts on her head on the fashion police - it was a skirt with holes in the side. That shot ended up on the cover of the Daily News. A friend of mine who was in jail at the time called to let us know, haha.

What do you think of all the memes that are being made about you?

I love them! I hope they never stop. I wasn't sure what was going on at first, but I got it right away. The most important thing is to be able to make fun of yourself - people who take themselves too seriously will have a terrible life. You have to be able to laugh no matter what. And they're quality memes! People are incredibly creative, I love what they can come up with for audio of my interview and make fun of something that's going on in their lives. It connects us all. And about that interview where I say I'm Kanye's muse... Haha, it's perfect, now I've become everyone's muse.

This one was the best! The world needs these pop culture moments.

You see? I'm done.

Did you look up to any pop culture personalities when you were growing up?

I was. I swear, the only person in the world I would say I'm a true fan of is Kurt Cobain. I used to be obsessed with him, doing rituals to bring him back to life and get him to marry me. I was, like, ten years old then.

You're one of the faces of the new Supreme campaign. How did that happen?

I got a message one day: "Hey, would you like to be part of the Supreme campaign? Harmony Korine is shooting it." Of course I said yes right away. As a New York girl, Supreme is such an important brand to me. The day the campaign came out and there were posters all over the streets, we tried to rip one down and take it home. And across the street we saw a group of girls at a coffee shop waving at me with the same poster they had just stolen too, haha.

You're very much associated with hip hop and rap culture, because of Kanye and because of Supreme. But what kind of music do you actually listen to?

It's gonna come down to this. If we're going to karaoke, it's gonna be something old-school, something your parents would listen to, classic rock-pop songs from the '90s. But if I'm at home and I'm going out, it's usually stuff like Drake or Future.

There's a viral video on TikTok of you painting yourself and listening to Lana Del Rey...

I know! I know! Haha! I should be more active on TikTok, I love how creative people are there. And actually, I've always wanted to make a magazine with no one famous, no cool products. Just normal people that we'd randomly select to give them a space to tell their story. TikTok strikes me as the same concept in a digital version. I enjoy following people and their lives, it's fascinating.

People really like you there!

I love all of you! You are our future, you understand what's going on. I've always said that when kids think you're cool, you know you're really cool. You know what's hot, and you have so much information available. I think people today are fully-formed individuals much earlier than we used to be.

Will we see more projects in the future that you wrote or directed yourself? Your short film The Fantasy Girls was released. Are you working on anything else now?

Definitely. The Fantasy Girls came about during a road trip with friends that we take quite often - we just drive somewhere, stop somewhere, get some sponges, and then drive on. We usually end up in some crazy place. This time we ended up in Reno, Nevada, where we happened to run into a group of young girls on the street, started talking to them, and when they told us about themselves, The Fantasy Girls began to form.

You said you've never even had one acting class. Do you think working as a dominatrix has helped you in any way with your ability to pretend and act?

I'm sure, it's basically just improvising on the spot, a few times a day. You only get one chance and you can't mess it up. Everyone I've ever worked with on a film has always stressed how quickly I can adapt to a situation - and that's exactly it. As a dominatrix, sometimes I'd have to play one role for sixteen hours straight. I was eighteen when I started doing it. For example, I spent the whole night with a man who wanted to wear diapers and I had to pretend to be his strict mother. In the morning, I'd pack up and go to school. All in all, I worked there for about six months, never told anyone. But during that time I quit several times, thinking I'd never have to go back. But it always happened again eventually. I was ashamed, but it motivated me to try harder, it taught me humility.

What are your plans for the future?

I have a few things planned, a couple of films, some TV projects and I'm always working on my book. I love acting, but mostly I want to work with people who are on the same page. I'm not in this world to please anyone or to make people like me, that's not my goal. I'm here to find people who are weird, different, maybe even a little offensive to society. I want us to find each other, support each other and share our crazy ideas together - that's what I live for. I'm not looking for love, partnership or peace. I'm all about inspiration. I have an unstoppable desire to create and I will continue to do that, but most of all I want to be a good mother to my son, that's the most important thing to me.

Can we take a picture together via zoom?

Absolutely, give me a minute!
(Julia takes off the sweatshirt she's been wearing the whole time, leaving her black bra on. She gets up from the chair and runs into the next room.)
I think I need some more sunglasses...
(Shows a drawer full of sunglasses - ed.)
Which ones? These are cool. But there's no good light, I have to go outside.
(She goes out on the balcony and poses.)
How do I look?


Editor: Zdeněk Marek