What you are about to read may be shocking, upsetting and sordid. It also happens to be honest, vulnerable and inspiring. But what else did you expect from Julia Fox? The 33-year-old figure that is personally responsible for the 435.5 million chaotic, controversial and viral-worthy soundbites currently making the rounds over TikTok—all accrued from interviews on the red carpet and beyond. This one shouldn’t be any different, right?
I connect with Fox at the close of New York Fashion Week. She’s back in her flat, bare-faced and bleach-brow’d, sporting a plain white tank—a slight departure from the array of “outrageous” outfits page six (amongst other press outlets) blasted across the internet just a few days prior. Granted, it’s what the world anticipates from a woman who quickly established a daring take on designer wear. Yet the media frenzy evoked by Fox doesn’t stop at her fashion (or body?) choices. With a past underscored by biting narratives on her pop culture supremacy, an exponential rise to the silver screen, dating prolific – though often toxic – men, and a history of agonising substance abuse, Fox’s name has embarked on a “Rollacoaster” all of its own. Or, perhaps more fitting, it’s gone up and Down The Drain?
Set to write up her journey, her way, Down The Drain– Fox’s autobiographical memoir – introduces us to the person behind the headlines. From her turbulent childhood tossing her between the borders of Italy and New York City, a tumultuous relationship with her parents that nurtured co-dependent habits with friends, working as a dominatrix at 18 years old, entanglements with either rich, possessive, abusive (or all of the above) men, to sex experiences, drug addictions, near-fatal Heroin overdoses and the unexpected deaths of her closest friends and family, Fox recounts the series of her life as sincerely as one would during a catch up with a best friend. Perhaps this is due to Fox’s commitment to remaining unapologetically herself; or an attempt to right the false narratives swirling in the ether. Or, as I am about to find out, it’s because the story wasn’t written for us at all.
“I feel like it was definitely for the younger version of myself that dreamed about being where I am today but knew how hard it would be,” she explains. Her face lights up at the mention of the book, which I had devoured in one sitting a few days before our call. “I’m honestly so nervous about it,” she frets after learning this information. Needless to say, the nerves are unwarranted. “I love to hear that, thank you!” She eases back onto a wall with her legs crossed. “That makes me feel a lot better because none of my friends have read it so I’m just so scared that it’s bad.” *Queue references to a masterpiece.* “It was something I always wanted to do,” she continues. “I always dreamt of writing a book one day. Not even necessarily a memoir, I just wanted to be a published author. That was what I would tell people as a kid when they’d ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I would pray about it a lot.”
For a while, those prayers went unanswered. “I had been in discussions with other publications and editors prior for many years, but it always fell through or didn’t work out,” she clarifies. “I kind of gave up on it a little bit. I was trying to be optimistic about it, but there was a point in time when I questioned whether any of this would happen for me. So now that it did, I feel like I’m validating that young girl that had this dream.” That young girl had, as luck would have it, documented plenty of material spanning a 10-year period, in the hopes it would one day hit shelves. “My memory was definitely more fresh when I was 23 now that I’m 33, so that was super helpful,” she laughs. “I guess I weirdly do have a good memory but it’s always for really innocuous, unimportant things. Then I forget about the really big stuff...which is obviously one of my survival mechanisms. So for the stuff I couldn’t 100% remember, I had to fill it in with what I assumed those feelings were whilst still maintaining my integrity to the truth. I did have to take a lot of creative liberties, I changed a lot of names and places, but ultimately that was to protect the people who didn’t sign up for this, whilst still conveying the same message. And the message is true.”
Though written for her younger self, the message scribing each page of Down The Drainis more than an immortalisation of Fox’s past. “Even though it is definitely a pretty wild ride, it’s not that unique.” I pause to see if she is joking, yet she remains firm. “I feel like so many people – specifically women and girls – will be able to relate to an aspect of it or have been through something similar. I just want to lead by example and be someone who can say, ‘Look, you can go through all this stuff and not let it define you. You define you. You can decide your path.’ I want people to know you don’t have to give people who have trespassed that path any agency over your existence. I don’t want you to let those people win and have that over you. I hold my own narrative, it’s in my hands. Not the people who fucked me over or abused me. Also, I’m not perfect. I think that’s important to note, too. As women there is so much pressure on us to be perfect, but there’s no such thing.” The fact that Fox and I would end up in tears some 15 minutes later proves a testament to that.
The first stop on our tour of her memoir memories lands us in 1996 New York City, where a young Fox grappled with a basic knowledge of the English language and an even more difficult dynamic between herself and her father. “There was actually a moment that I didn’t put in the book, unfortunately, I tried to but I couldn’t find a place where it made sense...but there was a time when I was in my 20s and walking down the street with my dad and out of nowhere he looked like he was crying and he apologised for not being a great parent.” Dedicating an acknowledgement page to her father, Fox began penning Down The Drainwith the same matter-of-fact authenticity that she is infamous for—but this time, it came with a warning. “Please, whatever you do, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK,” the copy reads to him, a notable detour from her usual censor-less candour. “At the end of the day, nothing is going to change the past,” she notes on her decision to keep her accounts away from her parents. “They’re just not the kind of people where I think it would be beneficial to try, which is sad. I’ve already tried.”
Fox assures me that reconciliation was never the motive for her memoir. Partly because “for some people, living in denial and living within the narrative you tell yourself is just easier and more convenient”, but also because becoming a parent herself allowed a space for sympathy. “Some people aren’t just strong enough to handle the truth, and it’s not my place to educate them on that. I have to move on with my life.” Having committed her pain to paper, she soon realised, “I’ve forgiven everyone, but I’ve forgiven them for myself. It’s too exhausting for me to harbour resentment and hatred or anything like that. I had let that anger eat away at me for so long that it almost killed me. My own rage was devouring me. It didn’t get me anywhere, and it certainly didn’t make me happy. And now my dad is such an amazing grandpa that he makes up for everything.” Determined to start a chapter of healing, she explains, “It was simultaneously very painful but very cathartic and therapeutic to write, and ultimately I think it was good and I needed to do it. Not just on a professional level, but also an emotional one to kind of comb through everything and make reason of it.”
Fox found further tangles in her timeline when it came to her friends. With every chapter of her book came a new name and confidant—someone who she could cling to in the absence of her family. “I felt like I was looking for the closeness I didn’t have in my home life with other people,” she reflects on the many intense yet fleeting friendships she writes of. “A lot of the time, the people I would surround myself with were of similar backgrounds to me—you just naturally gravitate towards people like that. For me, that was girls from broken homes and/or with limited contact with their families. I feel like when you are in that position, you subconsciously or indirectly put a lot of pressure on that person and each other to fulfil the feelings of loss and abandonment on a fundamental or cellular level.” Sharing intimate details of her friendships – some desirable, some detrimental – I wonder if Fox fears the backlash of those whose stories are embedded within her book. “Even though I was very truthful and honest, I omitted a lot. I didn’t spill the full tea. So if someone wants to get mad at me I’ll just be very quick to remind them that I could have poured the full tea, and then it would really be over.” Luckily for them, however, Fox promises to maintain her sympathetic self...for the most part.
“If they fuck with me they will be in the sequel...WITHOUT a name change! But honestly, I think that I was fair. I didn’t write this book out of spite—that’s the last thing I would do. I feel like success is the best revenge, and I have been able to be successful up until now. So what more can I ask for? I’m not into petty revenge. I don’t do that shit anymore. Even though my really good friend used to call me the Patron Saint of Vengeance...” At this point, I reference a scene in the book involving some destroyed heels, an enema, some faeces and a locker (if you haven’t already, read chapter six for context), causing Fox to cup her face and laugh. “Look, when I do get my revenge, they are so sophisticated and convoluted and you can tell I’ve been obsessively thinking about it. But then again, now that I’m a mum, I’m too tired.” That being said, I wouldn’t suggest coming for Fox’s Jimmy Choo’s anytime soon.
But just as Fox toys with a pendulum between the dark and the light in her writing, so do the chronicles of her life. “I don’t know if I ever processed the loss of my friendships,” she reflects— not just of the colleague that burnt her patent leather heels. “I just used to get into a lot of friendships that were more consuming than having a boyfriend. They would be more profound than my romantic relationships. One of the byproducts of that – of attracting these broken, damaged people – is that they all have their demons.” With the vast majority of her friends being inextricably linked to her experiences with drugs, she continues, “A few of my besties have succumbed to that and passed away. So it’s a lot, with me knowing that I am almost cut from the same cloth as them, and they’re dead.” Suffice to say, becoming a mother saved Fox in more ways than one.
“I used to have a lot of shame around being a ‘junkie’ or whatever people used to say about me,” she explains when I ask if it was hard for her to divulge her experience with substance abuse. “But now I know what an insane situation the opioid epidemic has been, I know it’s not my fault. This is a real fucking problem and there are pharmaceutical industries at play...there are so many big forces surrounding it and I am just a casualty—and so are many others. Everyone has somebody that is facing this struggle, this fucking never-ending, horrible, lonely, shameful struggle.” Determined to demonstrate that addiction is a real disease, Fox spares no detail recounting the times she fell victim to it—something which almost took her life altogether. “For me, a lot of people talk about it as if it’s a choice. There were times when I would say, ‘I am NOT using today,’ and I would really believe it. I’d feel so empowered by it. Then it would just feel like I was in the passenger seat of my own body and someone else was in the driver’s seat and making those decisions. I’d be like, ‘No! Stop! We’re not supposed to do this!’ Then boom, done. The next thing you know, I’m high.”
Motherhood soon set Fox on the straight-and-narrow, which put her under even more pressure to not expose herself to anything she can’t control herself around. “Men is one thing for me, drugs is another, codependent friendships is another, I know I can’t go down those roads anymore. In a way, my son has been my saving grace.” But just as the joy of her life brought her clarity, so did a tragedy: the passing of her best friend, Gianna. Tears prickle Fox’s eyes at the mention of her name—a contagious cry that catches me off-guard as someone who has also lost family and friends far too prematurely. “I have a picture of her right here,” she says between snivels, panning the camera to her wall where Gianna’s face takes centre stage. “I feel like she was such a big reason why I went through with my pregnancy. They’re weirdly connected in a way, and my son knows who his Auntie Gianna is which is amazing. I always say, ‘Damn, if she only stuck around she would be absolutely living right now and enjoying the fruits of my fame more than anyone. She would be milking it and having the time of her life.’ I just feel like it's such a fucking shame. I try to make sense of it but it doesn’t. One of the ways I honour her is never using drugs, I haven’t used any since she passed away.”
More rehearsed than anyone on their obstacle course of vices, Fox soon found herself dodging another on a rather public platform: men. “I just want to point out that all the wrong kind of people, when they first present themselves, are the best fucking people. There’s a saying that’s like, ‘The devil shows up in everything your projection of perfection is.’ They’re charming, exciting, funny, they’re oftentimes very sensitive and broken people, so they understand you on a deeper level than most others. It’s important to keep that awareness. I’m more careful of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. The ones who pretend that nothing is wrong with them on the outside. So I’m not surprised that so many women – myself included – get into those relationships because it’s only until later that everything comes out. And by that point, you’re in love.” Establishing herself as the standard-bearer for slaying demons, I question what caused Fox to finally snap out of her toxic love spell. “As cheesy as it is, my son,” she answers with no hesitation. “The relationship I have with my son really validates me and gives me everything I want. He’s so funny, he’s like my mini-me. So with dating, it would just cut into my time with him, and I don’t want anything to cut into our time.”
Having combatted toxic relationships with men, substance and friendships, I ask Fox the most important question of all. How is she now? “I definitely feel depressed, but not sad,” she ponders. “I get depressed, but I feel like anyone who is intelligent, like, how are you NOT depressed?!” Often portrayed as a caricature of herself—devoid of all the layers that make her, her, you could say Down The Drainhas led us to the “real” Julia Fox. “I don’t feel pressured to play up to that version of myself, I guess it’s a bit of a front and a mask that I wear when I’m feeling vulnerable. I feel like if people saw what my life was really like they’d be like, ‘Wow, that’s very different from the crazy outfits.’ But I live such a regular life now that if I am going to go out and get dressed up I might as well go out and wear something crazy—it’s just what I do for kicks now.”
Closing the book of a life filled with highs and lows, triumphs and turmoil, Fox is now setting up the draft for her future. “Success is an insatiable thing, I think you’ll always end up chasing it. But my ultimate goal in life is to write screenplays, develop scripts, do TV shows and movies and be a bit more behind-the-scenes and let the work speak for itself,” she says. “I just want to be known as an artist with many different mediums.”
At the beginning of her book, a young version of Fox sits in her Grandpa’s house in Italy and states, “I want to be rich.” To end our call, I ask if she has any new wants in life.
She lets out a weighted sigh and smiles.
“Right now, I just want to be happy.”
Photography by Emmie America
Fashion by Briana Andalore
Words by Ella West
Editorial Director Charlotte Morton
Editor Ella West
Art Director Harry Fitzgerald
Hair by John Novotnyat Opus Beauty
Makeup by Julian Stoller at Opus Beauty
Nails by Juan Alvear at Opus Beauty
Lighting Director Taylor Schantz
Set Design Laura Hughes
Retouching by Yelena Popova
Fashion Assistants Gabriela Mia Fonteand Alexandra Harris
Executive Producer May Lin Le Goff
Production Coordinator @ncovrt
Production Assistant Angel Ismael
Production Director Benjamin Crank
Producer Isabella Coleman
Production Assistant Lola Randall
Set Design Assistant Lily Leonard