It’s 1pm in New York and Julia Fox is “just hanging out” wearing a grey marl sweatshirt, her back against a plain white wall. It’s a conspicuously lowkey set-up for Fox – a fashion alchemist whose improbable outfits have incorporated everything from condoms to literal flames – but there’s a hint of magic still lingering from the day before. Due to the omni-present exhaustion that comes with being a mother to a toddler, she fell asleep in her makeup and hasn’t had time to wash her face. The remnants of yesterday’s Good Morning America glam are still visible: a swipe of glitter across the eyelids, blush on the apples of her cheeks and lips that are glossed to high heaven.
The talk show taping coincides with an energetic PR campaign to promote the publication of Fox’s memoir, Down the Drain, and the addition of a new title to her already multi-hyphenated job description: published author. Now the book is finally out in the world, over 18 months after Fox announced that the “masterpiece” was in the works on the red carpet at the Vanity Fair Oscars party, and the details of the many lives she’s lived – tearaway teen, dungeon dominatrix, acting ingénue, celebrity girlfriend to name a few – are out in the world.
Understandably, Fox describes writing Down the Drain as “crash therapy” – and much like the therapeutic process, it took a while for major progress to be made. “I put off writing for a very long time, until my back was against the wall and I had to do it. I’m a big procrastinator and that’s kind of how I work, you know?” she shares. “When I did finally get down to business, I found it to be very icky, a little uncomfortable. Mentally, it was very cathartic.”
"A spiritual awakening can very much resemble a complete fucking breakdown"
Written in a confessional, first-person voice, the book races through Fox’s scrappy childhood between the streets of Upper East Side’s Yorkville and a slower pace of life in Saronno, the Italian town where her mother originates. An early lesson in the world of Julia Fox? If you want something, nobody’s going to give it to you – so you’d better beg, borrow or (more likely) steal to make it happen.
We can see the lasting impact in her DIY approach to creativity and an artistic career which has variously spanned photography, fashion design and, famously, appearing in the Safdie Brothers’ indie hit Uncut Gems, without any prior film experience. “I didn’t go and get my hair cut professionally. If I wanted my hair cut, I had to do it myself – if I wanted anything, I kind of had to learn how to do it myself, you know,” she reflects. “I’ve always been able to do a lot with very little resources and support, creating an abundance from that.”
Material scarcity helped calcify the relentless determination with which Fox smashed into the limelight, but an emotionally barren childhood had the opposite effect – detonating a self-destructive streak which tore through the first decades of her life. Starved of love and affection from parents whom she describes as often physically distant and, at times, borderline (or outright) abusive, Fox recalls in painful detail the ways she outsourced her emotional needs to a rotating cast of chaotic female friends and boyfriends who are variously dangerous, physically intimidating, or wholly inappropriate. From here, things spiral in the painfully predictable ways you might expect for a teenager with big feelings, bigger ambitions and little parental supervision. A hunger for chemical experimentation led Fox to become ensnared in drug use – most notably heroin – and she suffered a near-fatal overdose at the age of 17.
But Down the Drain is no cautionary tale. “I’d be a hypocrite if I told people not to party, because I partied from the moment I could until the moment I couldn’t anymore,” Fox levels. Her swooping eyelashes flicker upwards to the corner of the room, something she does when she’s pondering her next response – a moment of contemplation, before she snatches up her train of thought for a verbal sprint of brilliance. “Sometimes you need to go fuck shit up. You need to flush your life down the drain, and see where you come out on the other side,” she muses. “A spiritual awakening can very much resemble a complete fucking breakdown, where you’re destroying everything and afterwards you feel this calm like, ‘Wow, I’m a different person.’”
Perhaps it’s this commitment to razing down her past – with the white-hot flame of drugs, parties, love, or art – and rebuilding her life anew which makes the memoir, and Fox herself, so compelling. Up until now, she’s always been moving, shifting, pushing forward to greater things. And it seems to have worked. Through the process of looking back on her life, Fox realised that “so many of the things I prayed for came true.” But just as she never wanted to pen a morality fable, she’s keen to avoid glamourising the periods of her life which make Down the Drain such a page-turner. “I’m glad that I got off the roller coaster,” she explains. “It was really fun, I think it made for a good read, but ultimately I don’t want to live my life like that anymore. I don’t have it in me.”
Becoming a mother in 2021 is something which Fox credits as a stabilising force, describing her two-year-old son Valentino as her “anchor”. There’s also her intense female friendships, a theme running throughout her book and evidenced in her creative work to date – where collaborators, such as stylist and close friend Briana Andalore, help to define the daredevil public phenomenon which is Julia Fox. “The women in my life have been my guiding light, my biggest support,” she says. “I didn’t grow up in a home that had warm, feminine energy, so I’m very interested in cultivating those spaces.”
“As a cis woman, I feel like it's absolutely my duty to empower and uplift trans voices"
Someone with whom she has created such a sacred feminine bond is the model and artist Richie Shazam, whose story has inspired Fox to express her unequivocal support for the trans community. “As a cis woman, I feel like it’s absolutely my duty to empower and uplift trans voices and try to get people to understand that, trans, non binary or queer, at the end of the day, we are all human,” she says. “It’s a cause that’s very near and dear to my heart, my best friend in the world [Shazam] is a trans woman and I was by her side during the transition.”
Alongside her advocacy for trans issues, Fox has been outspoken about everything from addiction to misogyny. But it’s not lost on her that progressive stances like hers are being drowned out by an increasingly vocal, and powerful, global conservative contingent that’s seeking to override LGBTQIA+ rights and rollback civil liberties for women and minorities. As the mother of a young child, a young boy no less, it’s a particularly difficult time to have faith in the future. “There’s a lot of uncertainty and sometimes I’m like, ‘Oh my god, what did I even bring him into,’” she says. “It feels very unfair.”
In moments of despair like these, Fox doesn’t look to elites but to the future generations who she sees as already being invested in the same struggles she has been fighting for throughout her life. “It gives me hope to see little kids who’re like seven or eight years old at protests. They’re already so passionate about women’s rights or contraceptive rights,” she says. “When there are little boys marching with their moms, I’m like, ‘Okay, the youth is gonna save us.’”
Similarly, despite what any naysayers might say, there are bright career horizons on the cards for Fox – even if she doesn’t see herself writing a second memoir for another couple of decades. “I have a children’s book and some scripts in the works,” she explains. “I’d love to make movies and TV shows and just keep trying my hand at different things.”
And while she’s already visualising lofty future projects, for the time being, this time-strapped, sleep-deprived author clearly has one goal at the forefront of her mind: a well-deserved day off. “Being Julia Fox is a lot of fucking work. It’s a lot of bells and whistles. It’s a lot of people, a lot of attention,” she laughs. “Sometimes I don’t want that. Sometimes I just want to be anonymous and fade into a crowd for a day.”
Down the Drain is out now. Get your copy here.
This interview is taken from the November 2023 issue of GAY TIMES. Head to Apple News + for more exclusive features and interviews from the issue.