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Julia Fox Wants Fame on Her Own Terms

Last week, the downtown diva discussed her memoir "Down the Drain" on stage at Metrograph. Can she be both a New York icon and a Hollywood star?

1:48 PM EDT on October 31, 2023

(Jeremy Liebman / Metrograph)

Julia Fox never comes downtown anymore, she said on the stage at Metrograph last Thursday, in Chinatown. By her side sat the designer and model Richie Shazam, and they were there to discuss Fox's new memoir, "Down the Drain." Fox said she has been fully embracing the uptown "writer life," reading scripts, singing karaoke in her apartment, and raising her son Valentino.

"Down the Drain" is quite good, a breezy and colloquial read. That's a relief, because, as Fox revealed at Metrograph, when she told Variety in a red carpet interview last year that the book, though unfinished, was a "masterpiece," it was not just unfinished, but she hadn't written a single word. That pronouncement reminds you of Fox's fellow It Girl cum memoirist Caroline Calloway. (The two are…friends? In a tense, at times mocking interview between the two and the actress Niki Takesh from 2021, Calloway mused that she thought it would take three to six years for her to finish her own memoir "Scammer." Fox and Takesh balked at that long timeline. "No, Caroline," Fox urged. "Three to six months, honey.") 

Fox attributed her relative proficiency at Actually Writing to one of the women to whom "Down the Drain" is dedicated, the late actress Katharine Pettijohn, who had screenwriting ambitions. "We would lock ourselves in a closet and write for hours and hours," Fox said of the two. Fox said she and Pettijohn met when Pettijohn tried to steal money for coke out of her bag, and Fox "whooped her ass." Afterwards, Fox said, they were inseparable.

Fox is not the philosopher Calloway is (her pronouncements tend to be platitudes—"I was ridiculed for being different," stuff like that). "Down the Drain" is best when she lets the details of her life flow out of her, from her Yorkville-via-Milan childhood to her life as a downtown designer and drug addict to becoming the muse of Josh Safdie in a little movie called, say it with me, "Uncut Gems." The book feels like it was written in a single setting (Fox says she single-handedly wrote and edited the book). Sometimes, Fox tries to retrofit some feminist analysis onto her story, but most times she forgets to, and is thrillingly herself: a force of nature, convinced of her own destiny in stardom, sometimes even villainous, the most outrageous example of the latter being the time she filled an enema bag with her own piss and shit and dribbled it into the locker of a fellow dominatrix who was bullying her. The memoir lays bare the journey Fox made to her breakthrough acting role: addiction, a strained relationship with her parents, abusive relationships, and overdoses so common she can distinguish the ones where she "sees the light" and the one where she suddenly didn't, which shocked her into sobriety. 

(Jeremy Liebman / Metrograph)

The glitzy world of 2010s downtown didn't take to her right away. As her memoir documents, time and again, Fox nears escape velocity that will bring her out of the provinciality of her downtown stardom, only to be frustrated by her addictions, or being made to look like a crazy bitch by some rich dilettante "cosplaying as an artist or a DJ"; or some abusive dickhead who kicks holes in the wall of her apartment; or Max Levai, the art dealer who recently got into a fight in the Hamptons, who would kick her out of Happy Ending, the bar she invested in and send her cease and desists, but let her abusive boyfriend still hang around. When she was picked for "Uncut Gems," she writes that Safdie had to change the character's name to Julia, to stop executives from recasting the role that was written for her.

Her talents at protecting herself are improvisational: When someone plans to leak revenge porn from her time as a dominatrix, she beats them to the punch by calling up a writer for i-D and pitching a story, and making an artbook about being a former dominatrix overnight. Often, as she writes in "Down the Drain," she powers through on vengeful spirit alone, swearing to "get them back," "them" being by turns a rival dominatrix who's picking on her, an ex, trust fund kids, or her parents. 

Of course, not every iconoclast will get their revenge on a shithead boyfriend when they’re tapped on the shoulder and told that an A-list actor wants her to come to his table, or receive a cherry-red Mercedes Benz and rent and an investment in their fashion line from a lovestruck Indian billionaire, or an invite to party on a private jet with a different billionaire.

Something Fox and Calloway have in common is the friction between the kind of person they had to be to capture local attention in New York and the kind of person who tends to succeed within the strictures of bonafide A-List stardom. 

"When I first did 'Uncut Gems,' suddenly I had publicists and agents and all these people, and they didn't want Briana [Andalore] to style me," Fox said on stage at Metrograph. "Because they thought she was too editorial, and not Hollywood enough." 

"At the time I just felt so lucky to even be there, so I was like, 'Okay, I guess I'll just do what they say.' But my instincts were always to go with Briana. Anyone that's starting out, really go with your gut," Fox said. "These people, they might love you. They mean well, they really do, but unfortunately you're you for a reason. You're there because you represent the future, and maybe they're a little bit too stuck in—I don't want to be rude, because I still love these people…"

"They're not tapped in," Shazam offered. "They're not tapped in," Fox nodded. 

At the bar afterwards, her book publicist told me "Down the Drain" is not the extent of Fox's literary ambitions. I'm excited to see where she goes next—a novel? A memoir about her life as an A-lister, mostly glossed over in "Down the Drain?" She has the potential to be one of the great celebrity memoirists. Fox is clearly the kind of artist we're seeing more of nowadays, a futurist that defies categorization—writer, actor, designer, no one label seems to fit. 

In fact, Fox started the book talk off by singing a new pop song she wrote with producer Ben Draghi, Shazam's boyfriend, wailing a chant of "I'm a bitch, I'm a girl, I'm a mother, I'm a whore!" We don't get a lot of celebrities like Julia Fox anymore, whose star quality emerges from their honesty, who make fame ragged and fun. But can she be Hollywood without sanding down her New York edge? “I'm so over Julia Fox,” Fox said on stage. I'm not.

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