Being a celebrity sounds like hell on earth. The public oscillates between adoration and hatred, and asks for too much. We want celebrities to impossibly gorgeous, for their bodies to never change, for them to be ready and willing at any moment to pose for a photo, for them to be aspirational yet confessional. (Not to mention wanting the to stay relevant for decades or bare their soul into their art, only to then be expected to talk endlessly about that art.)
A lot of celebrities are bad at being celebrities, and that is okay. Shailene Woodley, you deserve a life filled with only palo santo and good vibes. Austin Buter, nobody cares that you embraced method acting for your role as Elvis. Katie Perry, I’m not sure anyone noticed you retired. All of this is okay! I’ll still rewatch Big Little Lies and get down to “I Kissed a Girl.” (Though I don’t need to watch Elvis again.)
But some celebrities know what the job entails, which pretty much boils down to giving us sh*t to talk about. Spectacle has always been a means of escape. As much as the art celebrities make is distraction, so are celebrities themselves. We don’t read US Weekly for the writing; we read it to see celebrities behave in strange ways. We read it to distract us from everything else in the world.
Julia Fox is a perfect celebrity because she knows what the job entails: providing an endless stream of low-stakes drama, intrigue, and levity. Fox’s approach to celebrity is more akin to performance art than self-promotion. After all, being a capital-C celebrity might be the greatest role she’s played. By now, Fox’s own story is well-mythologized: A downtown New York art girl and former dominatrix who had a gallery exhibition with art made from her own blood; the next logical step was acting in a high-wire Safdie Brothers film. She’s been in a handful of projects since Uncut Gems, including a Steven Soderbergh film, but she’s also become famous to the level that I can hear my parents muttering at the TV: Who is Julia Fox?
This, of course, happened only after her relationship with one of the world’s most (in)famous men, Kanye West, catapulted her into the most mainstream of fames. Fox recently spoke about her relationship with the rapper in an interview with High Snobiety, where she unveiled the curtain behind those weeks when she got a master class in how to capture and keep the world’s attention. Ye gifting Fox and her friends Birkin bags at Lucien? Catnip!
“He was the first person that I ever saw call the paparazzi or stage situations. I would’ve never done that,” Fox said in the interview. “Self-promotion. Shameless. Don’t be ashamed to call the paparazzi. When I would hear about celebrities doing that, I used to be snobby about it. ‘What losers. LOL.’ But now I’m like, ‘No, that’s how it works.’ It’s not the most flattering thing to admit. But it’s the f*cking truth — and they all do it.”
Now, images of Fox wearing outrageous DIY getups while doing innocuous things proliferates my feeds. It is a joy and a delight to see Fox grocery shop in her underwear or pull off objectively awful makeup or explain how to bleach your eyebrows at home, or carry a bag made of real human hair to an Oscars after-party. Fox has the perfect grasp on celebrity; she knows that spectacle is both essential and not serious. Her work is reminiscent of the mid-2000s heyday of tabloid culture that got us so addicted to celebrity gossip in the first place.
Perhaps Charli XCX said it best: “I just think Julia gets it…I just think she’s f*cking smart. She gives us what we want. She works the paparazzi like Paris Hilton did in the 2000s. She gives us viral quotes. She’s funny. I just think she’s truly seizing the moment with no fear.”