TWIGGY (1949-)

Twiggy This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 260
  • Subject No: 260
  • Broadcast live: Wed 10 Dec 1969
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Venue: Euston Road Studios
  • Series: 10
  • Edition: 4

on the guest list...

  • Justin de Villeneuve
  • Cathy McGowan
  • Billy Walker
  • David Bailey
  • Patti Harrison
  • Michael Fish
  • Marjorie Proops
  • Norman - father
  • Nell - mother
  • Mr Singer
  • Shirley - sister
  • Vivien - sister
  • Brett - dog
  • Barry Lategan
  • Leonard
  • Duke of Bedford
  • Polly James
  • Mr Bloomberg
  • Hal Poole
  • Mary Hopkin

production team...

  • Researcher: unknown
  • Writers: Tom Brennand, Roy Bottomley
  • Director: Margery Baker
  • Producer: Robert Tyrrell
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

A Fashionable Life

from catwalk to all things artistic

The Night of 1000 Lives

a celebration of a thousand editions

This is his life …

Irish magazine RTE Guide reveals some behind-the-scenes secrets

Biggest night of all for the big red book

Press coverage for The Night of 1000 Lives

Marjorie Proops

Twiggy This Is Your Life Twiggy This Is Your Life

Photographs of Twiggy This Is Your Life

Twiggy's Autobiography

Twiggy recalls her experience of This Is Your Life in her autobiography...

Early in December 1969 I got the genuine surprise of my life. Mum, dad and Justin knew about it, but I had no suspicion whatever that all this planning was going on. When I looked back later, I could remember all kinds of peculiar hints: I'd answer the phone some days and it would just go dead, and sometimes if I walked into the room one of them would hang up the phone very fast, and I'd say, 'Who's that?' and my mum would say, 'Wrong number.'

The first thing I knew was that a few days before it happened, Justin told me that we were going to make a film for Japanese television. It was going to be a documentary, he said, and they wanted to start filming on Tuesday, with a shot of us driving down Charlotte Mews where Justin had a studio. They had asked if they could shoot us at five o'clock. I said, why couldn't it be at another time, five o'clock was such a peculiar time to start, but Justin said he'd agreed the time and that was that.

So I said I would stay at home all day knitting, at Twickenham, and Justin said he would pick me up at four thirty to get to the mews at dead on five. So naturally he was getting into a dreadful panic when he found me still sitting knitting in my dressing gown at that time. He said 'Put something nice on.' I said, 'Don't worry, I won't look horrible,' although I couldn't understand the fuss, just for Japanese television.

Justin and I managed to arrive at the mews on time, and, as I learned later, the signal for the start was that a girl standing on the corner of the mews would wave a white hankie. Well, just near her was another girl who was very pretty and attractive, and I said to Justin, 'Did you see that girl?' And he said, thinking I'd spotted the hankie, 'No, no, nothing, I never saw anybody,' full of guilt.

Since it was December it was really dark by this time and the mews was ablaze with arc lamps and the camera crew, and people hanging out of windows all around – and I thought, funny – all this fuss just for a little Japanese film. I actually said to Justin, 'They're not Japanese,' meaning the crew, and he said very quickly, 'Oh, yeah, they've hired an English crew.'

Suddenly, when the doors into the mews opened, I could see a whole crowd of my friends drinking champagne. Then I thought, This isn't a bloody film for Japanese TV! And I wouldn't get out of the car.

'What is this, Justin, why won't you tell me?'

'Just come on out,' he said, and pulled me out.

And there was Eamonn Andrews walking towards me with a book under his arm, and he said:

'Hello, Justin de Villeneuve, we're glad you made it through the traffic because tonight...' and I turned to Justin and pinched him and said, 'You rotten thing...' 'Lesley Hornby, better known as Twiggy, This Is Your Life!'

First we stayed and had a drink with all the people who had come to be there – Cathy McGowan, Billy Walker, David Bailey, Patti Harrison, Michael Fish, Marjorie Proops. Then we were whisked to the studio where all the people who they were going to bring on were locked into another room. I thoroughly enjoyed the programme, it was the funniest thing ever. I'd often thought that the programme was fixed but apparently if the subject does find out they cancel the whole show. I really hadn't a clue.

They called me the most famous fashion model in the world and said I'd captured the best of the spirit of young Britain in the sixties. Marje Proops said I personified the late sixties and brought the look of the late sixties to every ordinary girl's doorstep. 'She could be anyone's daughter,' she said. I thought that was a very true thing to say because the whole point about my modelling success was that girls thought that with a bit of luck they could be me.

They brought on my old schoolteacher, Mr Singer, at Bridge Road Primary School, who was one of those really special teachers. He loved the kids and he brought along to the programme a drawing I had done of a school trip to the Isle of Wight. I'm sure Mr Singer was the reason why I loved school in those days. He even came to see me in Cinderella last year.

They also brought along some of my old schoolfriends from Brondesbury and Kilburn to recall that we used to club together to buy Vogue. Then they brought on that old fur coat that my dad bought for me in the Portobello for a few quid, and my two sisters and the dog. Barry Lategan came on to say that he remembered me as a very mousy little thing, very unsophisticated with straggly hair. Leonard came on to talk about my hair – and then they even flew over the Duke of Bedford specially from Brazil. And as he came in he lifted up his trousers and said, 'Look, I'm wearing your socks,' and he had on the shocking pink cashmere socks that I'd bought him for his fiftieth birthday. I love the Duke of Bedford. He's so unaffected and natural. My sister was sitting next to him on the coach going to the programme, and she said to him, 'I thought you'd have had a Rolls,' and he said, 'I have, but some bugger's pinched it!'

And Polly James, who was appearing in Anne of Green Gables, who said that when I came to see the show I laughed my famous laugh so loudly that all her best lines were lost. Polly also said that when I first invited her to dinner she said she mustn't have a late night, and I'd said what did she mean by late, and she said, 'Well, three in the morning,' and I said, 'Blimey, I'm in bed by 10.30 every night!' Mr Bloomberg came on to say what a hard bargain we'd driven over the Twiggy dresses. 'She insisted on the right to throw out any design that she didn't approve of personally,' he said. 'Not everybody wanted to make a deal like that, but you couldn't shake either she or Justin.'

And then they brought on dear Hal Poole, flown over specially from New York, whose biceps were bigger than my waist. And there was Mary Hopkin, who was introduced as my discovery because I'd introduced her to Paul McCartney after seeing her on Opportunity Knocks. Finally, they showed the Diet-Rite Cola commercial to show how I'd recently become a dancer as well. It was a lovely evening. It was exactly the right moment to do it, too, because I was winding down the modelling bit then and a whole new career seemed to be just beginning.

I really didn't know anything about the programme, and I'd like to tell that story because a lot of people think that it's a put-on and it's all rehearsed and everything. But it wasn't like that at all. Mary McNally, the researcher, had telephoned my mum in the beginning and told her it would have to be kept a dead secret from me. It wasn't until the very last moment that I realised. In fact I had a thought that it must be Justin's life they were doing. The hysterical thing was, they had to try and get my dog, Brett, on to the programme and he was at home with me all day. Mum and dad had had to go to rehearsals all day: she had said, quite casually in the morning, 'I'm going to work with dad today, he's dropping me in the West End,' and even though that was very peculiar I didn't suspect. So my poor dad had to be driven back home in a Rolls Royce to pick up the dog and when they arrived, Justin and I were just walking out of the front door: a moment later and he would have walked into me and I would have found my dad picking up the dog and whisking him off in a chauffeur-driven Rolls! So the timing was really Keystone Cops.

Twiggy's Autobiography

Twiggy recalls a similar experience of This Is Your Life in her autobiography, In Black and White...

By choice my modelling career only lasted four years.

And although it's what everyone still seems to remember about Twiggy, in terms of my life, it's only a small part.

Amazingly, when I was only twenty, even before I did The Boyfriend, Thames Television did a This Is Your Life on me.

For some reason Marje Proops, the Daily Mirror's famous agony aunt, was brought on to explain my appeal.

She said I had 'brought the look of the sixties to every ordinary girl's doorsteps. She could be anybody's daughter.'

Surprise Of Your Life book

Presenter Eamonn Andrews and producer Jack Crawshaw recall this edition of This Is Your Life in their book, Surprise Of Your Life...

We planned to see out the decade they called the Swinging Sixties with a party peopled with names that spelled success. But, as the champagne corks popped in the trendy London mews studio, the guest of honour was sitting at her mum's house in Twickenham wearing her dressing gown and getting on with her knitting. And it took a fast-talking, fast-driving manager to get her to the party on time. The star guest was Twiggy and her manager, Justin de Villeneuve. Justin knew about the party, but Twiggy didn't.

To help me surprise Twiggy, Justin had told her that she was wanted for a documentary being made by a Japanese film company. Part of the film would require them to draw up at the studio in his Lamborghini.

Such a request was nothing out of the ordinary for the young model whose success, perhaps more than any other person's, had symbolised the spirit of young Britain in the 1960's. Her baby face and boyish hairstyle had turned wafer thin Lesley Hornby into Twiggy, the most famous fashion model in the world. Magazine covers carried her picture from London to San Francisco to Tokyo.

She had travelled the globe and had as they say, captured the hearts of millions spilling out her youthful charm in refreshing Cockney chat. Twiggy took the look of the late 60's to every ordinary girl's doorstep and was described as the girl who could be anyone's daughter.

But what a daughter. At 14, her dad, Norman, had bought her a fur coat for £5 in the Portobello Road. At 19, she bought Norman and her mum Nell a house in Twickenham with the River Thames at the bottom of the garden.

It was to that same house that Justin drove to collect Twiggy for the surprise of her life. But when Justin arrived, expecting her to be ready to face the Japanese film cameras, he found her still not ready and still knitting.

Twiggy had visited Japan with Justin two years before and had been given a tumultuous welcome. Now Justin had to remind her of this to impress upon Twiggy the urgency of the appointment he had agreed with their Japanese friends.

On the way to Twickenham, Justin had been able to keep in contact with our unit, parked near his studio in Charlotte Mews, via the radio in his Lamborghini.

I was waiting with the other guests when we got the message that Justin had arrived at the house right on time. After that we were in his hands. And we were literally in his hands when he left the house, well behind schedule, but with Twiggy now looking every inch the sought-after model.

As the clocks ticked beyond his expected arrival time, we began to get nervous. Without the use of radio on the return trip we had had to resort to positioning Mary McAnally at the end of the mews to wave (discreetly) a white handkerchief as a last resort signal that the car was approaching.

When the signal came, we lowered the lights and I took up my position behind the door. Justin roared to a halt, but as he opened the car door, Twiggy caught a glimpse of some of the guests.

Having been told nothing about the party, she hesitated and then, to my horror, I could see, through a crack in the door, that she was refusing to get out of the car.

So before she had a chance to turn on those delicate heels I broke cover and approached her with the book, and told her: "Lesley Hornby, better known as Twiggy, This Is Your Life".

Roy Bottomley This Is Your Life book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

Twiggy was our chosen subject on 10 December 1969 - the plan being to fade out on the 'Swinging Sixties' with its fashion icon, named in 1966 'the Face of the Sixties'.

But as the drinks flowed at the party where we'd planned to surprise her, one face was missing - Twiggy's

The girl born Lesley Hornby, in Neasden, was at the Twickenham home of her parents, Norman and Nell, doing her knitting.

We sent her then manager and mentor, former hairdresser Justin de Villeneuve - in his Lamborghini - to bring her to the party 'for Japanese film cameras' at Justin's mews house in town.

There was a final moment of panic when it looked as though she was refusing to get out of the car and enter the party. Eamonn pounced before she could change her mind, so we could tell the story of the most famous fashion model in the world.

Series 10 subjects

Des O'Connor | Bobby Charlton | Harry Driver | Twiggy | Honor Blackman | The Beverley Sisters | John Fairfax | Henry Cooper
Jackie Stewart | Jimmy Savile | Arthur Dooley | Wendy Craig | Tony Jacklin | Charlie Cairoli | Richard Evans | Alfie Bass
Jack Good | Joe Mercer | Ronnie Corbett | Colin Milburn | Frankie Vaughan | Lorna Ridgway | Val Doonican
Johnny Speight | Reg Varney | Harold French