Saturday, April 13, 2024

7 Key Takeaways from Julia Fox’s Memoir Down the Drain

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Major spoilers for Down the Drain below.

When Julia Fox was interviewed by Variety last year, she referred to her upcoming book as “a masterpiece.” And now it’s finally here. Down the Drain, released on October 10, covers a lot of ground. Though Fox is only 33, she’s lived a life. The memoir clocks in at just over 300 pages and charts Fox’s rise from her Italian origins to the streets of New York City where she would become an It Girl (and Josh Safdie’s muse). As she tells it, drugs were involved. So was sex work. Brief stints in the hospital and psych ward are chronicled, too. And her highly-publicized relationship with Kanye West is given some much-needed context.

Though her star power has quickly risen in the last few years, she makes note that she doesn’t consider herself a celebrity. As she writes in the book’s final pages, “I’m an artist in the role of a lifetime, playing Me.”

Below are some of the book’s most memorable moments.

Her childhood was filled with dysfunction.

Fox was born in Italy and later moved to New York City with her dad while her mom, brother, and grandfather stayed in Europe. The move to America came with financial strife and she says that her family relied on a small pension to get by, sometimes having to resort to drastic measures to make ends meet. Fox recalls that when they ran out of candy at home, she would drink cough syrup instead. She adds: “At night, I lie in bed and cry. I muffle the noise with my stuffed animals because I don’t want him to wake up. I’m trying my hardest to be a big girl, but I really miss my mom and my brother. And I especially miss the comfort of my grandpa.”

She began doing drugs at a very young age and has overdosed a handful of times.

When she was 11, Fox started smoking weed. When writing about the first time she got high, she recalls the “warm and fuzzy” feeling that it brought her. But she didn’t stop at marijuana. Referring to it as her “gateway drug,” she would then go on to experiment with ecstasy, angel dust, Xanax, acid, heroin, and cocaine. She also writes about her overdoses. Fox first landed in the hospital due to drugs in high school when she smoked angel dust. When she begins using heroin shortly after, her overdoses started to happen more frequently. She writes about three heroin-induced instances in the book (one of which occurred on her 20th birthday).

An ex-boyfriend stalked her from Rikers Island.

One of the most impactful relationships that Fox writes about is with a man named Ace. When she meets him at a friend’s apartment, they fall in love fast. They even get each other’s named tattooed. But Ace is a drug dealer and gets arrested. While in jail at Rikers Island, he becomes obsessed with her and calls constantly. He later hires men to follow her around New York City in order to keep tabs. Things got so bad, she writes, that she slits her wrists and threatens to kill herself if he doesn’t leave her alone. This eventually lands her in a psych ward.

She worked as a dominatrix and one of her clients became her sugar daddy.

After Fox gets arrested at a nightclub for being caught with two fake IDs, one of the requirements of her probation is that she gets a job. A listing that catches her eye on Craigslist is an ad that reads: “Dominatrix dungeon hiring.” Once she’s hired, she goes by the name Valentina. In great detail, she describes her various clients and the acts she performs with each in the dungeon. Her first experience involves a pack of Marlboro Lights and a client nicknamed “Smoking Stewart” who is fully naked aside from a black rubber mask on his face. “I watch in stunned silence as he attaches a rubber tube to the mask’s mouthpiece and explains in a distorted voice that I am to chain-smoke the cigarettes and blow the smoke through the tube, which will be in his mouth,” she writes.

One day, she gets notified that she has an “outcall” and has to travel to a man’s house. This client eventually becomes her sugar daddy who gives her the world: a Soho loft, a red Mercedes, a Birkin, and an investment in a fashion line that she has with a friend.

She’s dealt with mental illness.

Fox writes that as a teen, she was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and was prescribed lithium and Seroquel. Later, she suspects that she is also bipolar but she doesn’t receive an official diagnosis. In one scene, she explains her symptoms to a doctor. “He listens closely as I describe the excruciating level of self-awareness that plagues me,” she writes. “I admit how I dread going to bed at the end of the day, fearful of what mood will greet me the next morning. I can usually tell within the first few seconds of opening my eyes what my day is going to be like, and I’m completely powerless to it. It’s paralyzing and it’s only getting worse.”

She was high while filming Uncut Gems.

In 2019, Fox became Josh Safdie’s muse in Uncut Gems. In the book, she talks about how she got the part (Safdie wrote it specifically with her in mind) and even details some of what went down on set, which includes doing drugs. She writes that the night before the first shoot day, she got sick from some “bad pills.” But luckily for her, the scene she needed to film is one where her character had been out all night. Safdie calls her lack of sleep “method acting.” On another occasion, ahead of a scene where she has to wear lingerie in front of Adam Sandler, she sniffed “a whole bunch of Roxy’s right before.”

She reflects on her relationship with Kanye West in detail.

Though she never mentions Kanye West by name, and only refers to him as “the artist,” all the clues are there. Fox details the first time she met him when he flew her and her friends out to Miami for New Year’s. She writes about all of the things they do while together: go out to parties, play a dictionary game that involves highlighting all of the positive words, pose for a photo shoot that would later land in Interview Magazine, and give her entire wardrobe a massive overhaul. He tells her that he wants to appoint a team to style her and then hires two of her friends to dress her. “I immediately think of an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, where he did the same thing for his ex-wife in their early stages of dating,” she writes. “This all feels so surreal. I can’t believe this is my life.”

She even writes about a moment when they go to the theater to see Jeremy O. Harris’s Slave Play. Once the show is over, and before they head out to dinner, Fox receives a text from her friend to meet her in the bathroom, where she finds a slew of clothes and different outfit options organized by West. She writes: “I’m happy to see her but it’s a little strange he didn’t just tell me he didn’t like my original outfit. Without protest, I slip into the garments. The artist is left speechless as I step out of the bathroom, effortlessly transitioning into my new role as the ultimate fashion girlie. His photographer snaps photos of me all night long at the artist’s encouragement. A part of me kind of feels like a show monkey, but I’ve been performing my whole life, so what’s the big deal?”

On their second night together, while at dinner at Carbone, West asked her to be his girlfriend. But Fox instantly shut it down, claiming that it’s way too early to take their relationship public. He responds by saying that if she’s worried about him embarrassing her, he wouldn’t. He credits this to the fact that she has a son and his own mother was a single parent. “That’s odd, I think to myself,” she writes. “Would he offer me the same courtesy if I had a daughter?”

As Fox goes on to describe their relationship, much of it reads as odd and awkward. She writes that she felt “vulnerable and exposed” by the public attention and refers to West as a “master gaslighter.”

Fox writes that the last time they talked on the phone, West told her he had a “good conversation” with his soon-to-be-ex-wife (Kim Kardashian) where they discussed her past. He claims he had no idea Fox was a drug addict (although she writes that she did tell him, he just wasn’t listening). He then chastises her for embarrassing him. Later, she finds out that a million-dollar deal with an Italian denim brand (that West orchestrated) has fallen through. “It’s contingent on you being his girlfriend,” she was told. Some time after their breakup, West then tries to get her to sign an NDA, telling her that he can’t be friends with her unless she signs, and she refuses.

Headshot of Juliana Ukiomogbe

Juliana Ukiomogbe

Juliana Ukiomogbe is the Assistant Editor at ELLE. Her work has previously appeared in Interview, i-D, Teen Vogue, Nylon, and more.  

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