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Julia Fox Perfects the Art of the Overshare With Her New Memoir, Down the Drain

6 minute read

Julia Fox has made a name for herself by telling it all. It's something she’s done so cannily that it’s set her apart even in an era defined by oversharing. The model and actor, who first burst into mainstream consciousness as the bombshell breakout star of the 2019 Safdie Brothers film Uncut Gems, has never shied away from telling her unvarnished truth, whether on her podcast Forbidden Fruits or on TikTok, where she may detail for her 1.7 million followers anecdotes from a high-profile romance or offer a down-to-earth tour of her relatively modest New York City apartment.

Now, with her new memoir, Down the Drain, Fox makes a case for herself as one of her generation’s most authentic storytellers, cutting through niche fame and viral moments with a clarion voice and a worldly-wise sensibility honed from the thrills and near-death experiences she’s witnessed during her 33 years of life.

When Fox was introduced to audiences in Uncut Gems, it was in a role inspired by herself (the character’s name was even Julia) and her influence as a NYC “It” girl. She became an undeniable fixture in the zeitgeist when she embarked on a brief, highly publicized, and sartorially daring relationship in 2022 with Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West. But these events pale in comparison to the chaotic whirlwind of a life Fox lived before she became a public figure.

Born in Italy, Fox writes that she felt destined for fame from day one, even if it wasn’t what she would have chosen. “I think back to what the nurse said to my mom the day I was born,” she recalls thinking ahead of the Uncut Gems release. “‘With eyes like this and a name like Julia Fox, she’s going to be a movie star!’ It feels like it’s my destiny, but I’m so afraid to be wrong.” Fox’s early life reads like a cautionary tale. It's a harrowing one that she relays matter-of-factly, without appeals for sympathy. She bounces between being a latchkey kid in New York City with a father she recalls as mostly absent and living with her affectionate grandfather and her mother, who she remembers as emotionally distant, in her home country.

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She learns early on how to fend for herself—she shoplifts and filches from her father’s wallet to buy necessities and have some semblance of security. She compartmentalizes in order to endure her parents’ tumultuous relationship and its toxic (and, what she says was, at times, violent) trickle-down into their lackadaisical parenting. She searches for proxies for the love she craves in the deep, complex, and codependent friendships she forges with other girls and their mothers. As she enters adolescence, she finds salvation in a heady mix of sex, drugs, and reckless behavior, a formula that brings her both ample adventure and devastation as she comes of age in downtown New York.

It could be tempting to rubberneck at the memoir’s dizzying array of salacious moments, which Fox recounts with a winsome combination of humor, gusto, and insouciance—how many people can say that they were permanently banned from Bloomingdale’s by the age of 12? That they were a teenage runaway, a dominatrix, and a sugar baby before they were 20? From getting her first kiss from a 26-year-old at the age of 11 to the night in high school when she does ecstasy for the first time, accepts a marriage proposal from her drug dealer, and gets his name tattooed on her wrist, Fox’s recollections are obviously sensational. But what makes them truly compelling is the way she grounds them in the gritty and, at times, ugly realities of her life. Benders and parties, passionate romances and deep friendships, are flanked by messy betrayals, abusive relationships, miscarriages, arrests, and overdoses. And as much as Fox is driven by her vices, she’s also motivated by her survival, her ambition, and her creative instincts—she uses the money she earns as a sex worker and later as a sugar baby to not only fund her life, but that of her best friends, and to start a fashion line and pursue her ambitions as a multimedia artist.

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As she revisits each scenario, Fox is strikingly straightforward, taking accountability for her own role in the havoc wreaked or damage done like a true antiheroine. Her writing is vulnerable, funny, and compassionate; of a possessive and abusive ex, she writes: “I realize that he’s also a victim of his upbringing. He can’t help being violent. It’s all we know.” She is earnestly delighted about how her new status as an avant garde fashion icon—a style transformation spurred by her time with Kanye—and the disappearance of her famous curves after she lost weight due to the scrutiny around that relationship, seems to disappoint men and excite women: “They say they love my authenticity and describe me as ‘real,’” she writes. “They tell me I’m ‘a sex symbol for women,’ which is the highest form of compliment one could ever hope to receive.”

Fox uses the memoir’s macabre title—which comes from a warning from her concerned and extremely wealthy former sugar daddy who tells her she's "throwing your whole life down the drain"—to lay bare the increasing turbulence of her life as she exited her twenties. The phrase sticks with her as her destructive impulses ratchet up to multiple, pivotal turning points: the fatal overdoses of two close friends, the suicide of another, her brief marriage and subsequent divorce, the birth of her son, Valentino, and her decision to swear off opiates.

With this unfiltered authenticity, Fox’s true appeal as both a writer and a persona is apparent—the memoir is a practice in radical transparency. While other high-profile memoir writers might carefully construct their narratives in the service of maintaining a calculated public image, Fox takes an unflinching look back at both the exhilarating and painful moments of her life, one that she has chronicled as only she can. Fox has been incredulous, insulted even, that people have assumed that she used a ghostwriter to write her memoir, and rightly so—this is the tale of a woman who’s made an art form of telling her story to the masses. “I’m not a celebrity and I don’t claim that title,” she writes in the closing chapter of the book. “I’m the artist in the role of a lifetime, playing Me.”

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com