Tali Lennox, the (Almost) Accidental ‘It’ Girl

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Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Before she moved to New York in September, Tali Lennox was your classic child-of-a-British-musician semi-celebrity. The 20-year-old, who bears a striking resemblance to her mother, Annie Lennox, appeared on the February cover of Tatler in a green and white checkered Louis Vuitton dress seated atop a motorcycle. In September, the Daily Mail singled her out as a “style icon” in England alongside Harry Styles, after they both attended a Burberry Prorsum show during London Fashion Week. Other British magazines, like Elle and Vogue, were interested in making her into something, but she moved to New York before the momentum had fully taken hold. Here, she pops up on Billy Farrell and Patrick McMullan, but “If I stayed in London,” she says, “I probably would have gotten more work. I’ve never wanted to be thought of as an ‘It' girl, someone who rides on the coattails of my mother.” 

Instead, the daughter of Eurythmics lead singer and film producer Uri Fruchtmann joined in on a grand downtown tradition: British gals-about-town who’ve decamped here from London to pursue some combination of modeling (Alexa Chung), art (Poppy de Villeneuve), television presenting (Peaches Geldof), acting (Daisey Lowe), or some combination therein. As she bounces around between these disciplines, figuring out her purpose, Lennox insists that she pays for everything herself, without any support from her family.

Over dinner at Westville, she's clad in leather overalls and a pink fur bomber and is going a mile a minute explaining her early career trajectory, as she douses her market veggie plate with heaps of spicy mustard. At 17, she dropped out of high school to pursue modeling full time. “My mom was like, ‘go, do it, have an adventure,’ and my dad told me I could leave school only if I went to therapy.” Her only reservation at the time, she says, “was that I’ve never looked in the mirror and thought I was that amazing-looking,” she says. That didn’t stop her from doing a topless photo for Love, Katie Grand’s late-aughts style bible, which was her first brush with some level of fame: “A girl at school apparently sent it around to all the boys going ‘Oh my god! I can't believe she's done this!,’” Lennox didn’t get the drama. “It’s so unsexy — I look like a boy with boobs.”

Despite these early insecurities, her first season at it (spring 2011), she walked in the Acne, Christopher Kane, Prada, and Miu Miu shows, and went on to appear in campaigns for Topshop and Burberry. But instead of chugging full steam ahead, she sat subsequent seasons of fashion week out to figure out which non-modeling-related activities might pique her interest (while she stayed on the boards at Next Model Management). This season, she's been spending quite a bit of time in her East Village one-bedroom making art. “I like to do really realistic paintings, which requires so much focus; like if I have to go to the bathroom or change a song, I can’t, I’m so in it.” One of her pieces was just bought by Lorraine Kirke, mother of Girls actress Jemima, who owns the clothing boutique Geminola.

Lennox also took a few acting classes earlier this winter at the Susan Batson studio, though she is doubtful that this is her calling. “We had to do an exercise and were told to think of a time when we suffered, and all these people were sobbing, and I was like, ‘I’ve gotten over all those experiences.’” She'd also like to learn how to use a video camera and plans to give documentary filmmaking a shot (“I love talking to people, hearing people's stories; I love honest things.”) She thinks that having a talk show would be fun (“like a less commercial Conversation With Amanda de Cadanet"). She may also start a blog. Though don't expect things to get too personal. She recently started writing an online diary for a fashion magazine, "but was later like, 'I cannot publish any of this'; I was way too honest. Maybe I'll write a memoir when I'm 60, but right now, it's not a good idea.” That’s because Lennox is refreshingly unguarded for someone working in fashion; she did some oversharing during our interview about past boyfriends and current crushes, which led to several pleading e-mails begging me not to print any names.

“I'm throwing spaghetti all over the wall to see what sticks,” she explains.

At the same time, without doing much to attract it, she's starting to get the kind of attention she ostensibly came here to avoid. Recently, a society figure — whom she says she met only once before — came up to her at a Fashion Week dinner: “So. When are we getting lunch,” the person said, not really asking, then walked away. During this fashion season, Ferragamo flew her to Milan and H&M sent her to London, not to walk in, but to attend and be seen at their fashion shows.

Still, Lennox isn’t yet sold on the front-row life. “There are times when I love the world and love everyone, and I want to talk to everyone, and other times when I feel really disillusioned, and like none of this is real, nothing is real around me.” A close family friend, whom she says “spiritually advises” her, recently gave Lennox a crystal that she says is able to ground her when she starts feeling out of control. “It’s my one possession that nobody is allowed to touch. Honestly, it’s like my comfort blanket. I sleep with it every night. It’s my teddy bear.” She also talks to it: “If I don’t hold it, I can’t go to sleep. In the night I’ll sometimes drop it on the floor by accident, and in the morning I’ll be like ‘I’m so sorry crystal!’”

Behind the leather overalls, Lennox has a strong hippie vibe about her, which both explains her career-dabbling and can be explained, in part, by her free-spirited parents; her dad lives a bohemian artist life in Ibiza, and the two of them have attended Burning Man together for the past two years. She’s actually about to head to Ibiza in order to do Ayahuasca with him, a potent psychedelic tea that’s used in South America. “I’m the only one in my family who hasn’t done it yet,” she says. “Who knows? I may come back a different person.”