Highsnobiety’s Honors Week is a celebration of the women — particularly the trans and BIPOC women — who have pushed our culture forward. This Women’s History Month, we’ve tapped six guest curators to go deep on the issues they care about and to spotlight their favorite women and nonbinary creators. In our final installment, artist and photographer Richie Shazam interviews Julia Fox.
Only three years ago, Richie Shazam curated the “R.I.P Julia Fox” exhibition, eulogizing — if only metaphorically — the enigmatic Downtown Manhattan persona who had snuck into clubs with a fake ID at 14 and narrowly escaped an early death by overdose at 17. A lot has changed for Fox in those three years.
In 2019, she made her feature film debut in Uncut Gems, with an electrifying performance alongside Adam Sandler. Having metamorphized periodically as teenage-dominatrix, artist, designer, and poet, the Downtown polymath reemerged to newfound fame in the Safdie brothers’ latest movie.
A lot has changed in the world over the past few years, too. A global pandemic irrevocably altered her native New York, while historic protest movements confronted centuries of structural oppression. It was with all of these forces at play that Fox gave birth to a baby boy named Valentino.
For our final installment of Honors Week, we asked Richie Shazam, the person who perhaps knows her best of all, to speak to Fox about how she plans to break the patriarchal cycle with Valentino, protecting trans women and sex workers, prison abolition, and femme empowerment.
Richie Shazam: What causes matter to you?
Julia Fox: Number one is absolutely police reform. I am so sickened and furious at the way police have historically conducted themselves. I think the system in which they operate needs to be 100 percent dismantled and rebuilt on a foundation that is not rooted in racism, misogyny, and sexism.
There need to be better background checks, more educational requirements, better training, mental health evaluations, and, most importantly, they need to be held accountable when they break the law. Settlements in court should come directly out of the police budget as well. Why do the citizens have to pay when they fuck up? It’s not fair.
Number two is prison reform. Privatized prisons should be illegal. Nobody should be profiting off people in prison! The way that prisons are operated is modern-day slavery. Prisons should be a place of rehabilitation, with programs in place where people can get the help they need so that once they are released, they can be productive and contributing members to society. This can be achieved through educational programs, psychological support, proper health care, substance abuse meetings, and classes to learn marketable skills. The current recidivism rate is a clear demonstration that the current system is not working, but why would they want it to when they are directly profiting from it?
Number three is mental health awareness. So many sick people are treated as criminals. Why is a schizophrenic person, or a drug addict who got arrested for stealing, ending up in the same prison as a violent offender? It doesn’t make any sense. We need to remove the stigma on mental health and come to terms with the fact that almost everyone has dealt with mental illness. People afflicted need support and kindness, not punishment.
RS: What do you think you represent?
JF: I hope that I represent that “anything is possible.” I have lived so many lives and at times I have fallen pretty hard. But I always got up and I always told myself to give it time — that, in time, everything would fix itself and I’d be able to continue on and make my dreams come true.
It’s so important not to compare your journey to anyone else’s. Everyone is on a different path. Everyone has different lessons to learn. Some people get there at 20 and some get there at 40; as long as you just never stop pushing, it will happen for you! I just want to see everyone around me achieve their potential and fulfill their destiny.
RS: “Femme empowerment” — What does that mean to you?
JF: Less stigma and more protection for trans women and sex workers. More representation across the femme spectrum. More women bosses. More women in positions of power and authority to make decisions. Give us the space and agency to tell stories how we see fit.
RS: How about sisterly bonds — the importance of friendship and unconditional love?
JF: It’s everything to me. My friends are my chosen family and the people I prefer to give my energy to. I’ve had the same friends for decades and we are more like sisters at this point. We trust each other and we are honest with each other and hold each other accountable when we fuck up. If I didn’t have my girls, I would be so lost.
They are my sounding board and my life support and one of the things I am most grateful for in my life. We might not speak for days at a time but when one of us is in need, we’ll drop everything we’re doing and run to the rescue. That type of support is priceless. It’s so important in life to take time to cultivate and nurture these types of warm relationships, especially growing up in a city like New York where everyone is so career-driven and cold.
RS: What are your creative inspirations?
JF: Anyone that has taken an unconventional path to get to where they were going. I never learned anything worthwhile the easy way or in a classroom. The world was my teacher and my life is my biggest inspiration. I love a rags-to-riches story. Those are the ones that get me excited and the ones that resonate with me the most, mostly because they are similar to mine.
RS: Thoughts on the current state of beauty?
JF: I really love seeing the diversity being represented across all platforms. I get emotional when I see the girl who never thought she would ever make it end up on the cover of a magazine or on the big screen. There is so much more color nowadays and it’s so inspiring. It opens the doors for so many more narratives other than the same played-out ones we were so used to seeing. I can’t wait to see where this goes.
RS: In this past year, what were the moments of most significance?
JF: Definitely marching for Black trans lives in Brooklyn. I was secretly in tears the whole time and in awe of how many people showed up! I was so honored to be a part of such a historical moment. I was pregnant and it was hot as fuck and we were marching for hours, but the energy was so charged and electric. I didn’t even feel the physical discomfort.
Another moment that stands out was acting in Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move. I was six to seven months pregnant and alone in Detroit for a month — but I was fortunate enough to be able to have worked through a pandemic when so many others were not able to. For this, I was super grateful. I love the energy of being on set, and even being in proximity to Steven was a dream come true in itself. He is as iconic as they come. The stars really aligned for me with that one.
Then, of course, giving birth to my beautiful healthy baby boy and becoming a mom and tackling all the aspects of it that nobody really talks about. In the future, I want to be more vocal about what it means to be a mom and specifically a boy mom. I want to highlight all the lessons I will teach him at a young age so that the patriarchal cycle we have been in for centuries doesn’t repeat itself.
I don’t want to create another oppressive white man. I want to teach him to respect and accept all people. I want him to realize his privilege and never use it as a weapon, but rather as a means to help others more marginalized to have the opportunities that he was inherently born with.
RS: Envisionment of our society post-pandemic — Roaring ’20s?
JF: I want everyone to turn the fuck up! I feel like so many people have been struggling, so I just really hope that people get out there and live their best lives. Nothing is off-limits, nothing is off the table. We have a lot of making up to do!
RS: Who are some femme-identifying designers you love?
JF: My faves are Charlotte Knowles, Marine Serre, Kim Shui, Medea, Jiwinaia, Bea Bongiasca, Tia Adeola, Gogo Graham, Mowalola, Daisy, Orseund Iris, Susan Alexandra, Amina Muaddi, Miuccia Prada, and Donatella Versace, among many more.