Twiggy on being made a Dame: Mum and Dad would have been so proud

The Sixties model went on to have a successful career as an actress.
The Sixties model went on to have a successful career as an actress.

Twiggy joked that it has been “purgatory” keeping the news of being made a Dame a secret.

The model, born Lesley Hornby, has been awarded the title in the Queen’s New Year Honours list for her services to fashion, the arts and charity.

The 69-year-old told the Press Association: “It’s wonderful, but it makes me giggle.

“When we wake up every morning we turn to each other, my husband (Leigh Lawson) and I, and we just giggle. So it’s a very nice, warm feeling, and obviously I am very honoured.

“The hardest thing has been keeping it a secret, because we’ve known for about three-and-a-half weeks”.

Brought up in Neasden, north-west London, her success story started when she was just 16 and it is often claimed she was the world’s first supermodel.

Dubbed “The Face of ’66” by the Daily Express, her four-year modelling career left its mark on the industry and her boyish, elfin look inspired a generation of girls.

She told PA: “I’m a very proud Brit, I feel I’m an ambassador for Britain, I always have (felt I am one), because I think it’s the best country in the world and I travel the world all the time and I’m known throughout the world and, you know, being British is one of my things.”

She turned to acting and musical theatre after modelling, and also went on to launch a music career.

It was Ken Russell’s 1971 film The Boy Friend which gained her a foothold in the acting world. The musical comedy, an adaptation of the theatre musical of the same name, won Twiggy two Golden Globe awards, for best newcomer and best actress in a musical/comedy respectively.

Consent Opening Night – London
Twiggy and husband Leigh Lawson (Ian West/PA)

Talking about her career, she credits Russell, her mentor, with being a key player in her success.

She said: “Really it was meeting very important people in my life, like Ken Russell, who saw something in me and turned me into an actress and a performer and did The Boy Friend with me. Because I probably wouldn’t have pursued that sort of path had it not been for his belief in me.”

Another name she references is acclaimed American theatre director and producer Thomas “Tommy” Tune, who cast her in the Broadway show My One And Only.

In 1983 she made her Broadway debut and was later nominated in the “Oscars” of the theatre world, The Tonys, for her role.

She said: “Also Tommy Tune who put me on Broadway with him in My One And Only, and his belief (in me).

“You know, I think that happens in careers – you meet people in life who become your mentors and, to me, Ken Russell was my big mentor because he kind of changed my career. I was only 19-and-a-half so I’d only modelled for four years and suddenly I changed careers and went into performing.”

Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition Preview Party 2017 – London
Twiggy has been made a Dame in the Queen’s New Year Honours (Matt Crossick/PA)

Her Broadway turn is still a highlight in her more than five decades-long career.

“Because when the whole thing happened to me at 16 … I had very little control of that in the beginning,” she said, adding: “I was discovered, it was a whirlwind and it was amazing and wonderful and bizarre. I kind of went with it.

“If I could pick one thing (as a highlight), it was appearing on Broadway in My One And Only that I’m the proudest of professionally because I didn’t think I could do that, going out in front of 2,000 people every night singing and dancing.

“If somebody had said ‘You’re going to do that for two years’ I’d have said ‘You’re crazy’. But it was amazing, because I did do it and we were a smash hit show and I got nominated for a Tony award so that was beyond my expectations and the fact I proved to myself I could do it was amazing to me.”

In the past few years she has returned to modelling, appearing in adverts for Marks & Spencer.

In 2011 she released an album titled Romantically Yours, which featured a duet with her friend, Canadian singer Bryan Adams.

Prior to that, in the 1970s, she sang on television alongside acclaimed musicians like Bing Crosby and Bryan Ferry, and also released a string of singles.

Twiggy photo exhibition
A picture of Twiggy taken in 1967 which was part of Twiggy: A Life In Photographs, an exhibition to mark her 60th birthday (National Portrait Gallery/PA)

Looking back, she said she has no regrets in her life, but added: “My only sadness with this is my mum and dad aren’t here to know.

“They’d have been so proud. My dad (Norman) was, we were a real working-class family, he was from Lancashire, in Bolton, and my mum (Nell) was a real Cockney and I think they’d have been so proud. But hopefully they are looking down and they know.”