lily mcmenamy proves that to be irreplaceable you must first be different
Wonderfully weird and weirdly wonderful, Lily McMenamy is the i-D poster girl for the new generation.
Lily wears bra & Other Stories. Coat Sonia Rykiel.
If fashion models were designed by teenage witches and wizards with magic spells, they'd probably look a lot like Lily McMenamy - cool, dark and unlike anyone else. With rolling eyes, a lopsided smile and the fullest lips in fashion (Lindsey Wixson eat your heart out), young Lily slouches gothically around the offices of Next Paris in the spring sunshine, long gangly limbs dangling at awkward angles, entertaining i-D with brattish self-assured stories of teen life that flow through melodic drawls, chirps and bursts of laughter. Today she's dressed in no make-up and all black everything - long locks of hair, button-down shirt dress done up to the neck, thick tights and buckle-up leather shoes - and looks rather prim and proper. At least until she starts casually throwing herself into impossible looking yoga shapes, turning into a tree and whatnot. The 19-year-old daughter of American supermodel (and four-times i-D cover star) Kristen McMenamy and Tunisian club owner Hubert Boukobza, and the stepdaughter of British photographer Miles Aldridge, Lily was born to be different and doesn't disappoint. She was brought up in London and attended Parliament Hill and Camden School for Girls, but aged 18 she broke up with her boyfriend and ran away to Paris to work as a waitress; except things didn't really work out like that, and instead la Ville-Lumière transformed her overnight into an international fashion sensation. Since walking in Hedi Slimane's debut spring/summer 13 Saint Laurent show and going topless throughout Marc Jacobs' arty autumn/winter 13 sunrise, she's become the coolest Parisian kid and a truly captivating model. Not only does she have the look, she has the life and the personality too, as if she's stepped out of the pages of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Lily's all about personality, an intoxicating brew of privilege and alternative culture; of inner-city schools and la Rive Gauche, lippy teen goths and topless catwalk pin-ups. She's also become something of an i-D poster girl, appearing on two covers to date and two videos! Here she tells us about fashion fairytales come true in the Grand Palais.
I heard you've just had some scary dental work?
I had a tooth pulled out. It was so funny, it was super fun. It was last week. I have to get braces again because I can't physically close my mouth, and it's starting to be, like, encumbering [laughs]. I had a tooth pulled out and I didn't feel anything, but I walked out and took loads of selfies because already my mouth is so asymmetric, when one side is numb it's even funnier.
Sounds painful. What are you up to today?
What am I up to today? I don't know. I've been sick for the past week, so I've been in bed watching Modern Family. The only telly I can watch is Modern Family and Seinfeld, it's so fucking funny, right? But now I'm better so I'm going to do some yoga, and maybe go to the cinema on my own. I take like four seats to myself, take all my clothes off, spread out and watch a film, and then you come out like super cathartic. It's a big part of my life.
What films have you seen recently?
I saw Spring Breakers the other day, everyone fucking loved it and I hated it but like, it was a very bad time to see it. I'd just come out of the Louis Vuitton show, and I'd completely ruined the show and I hadn't slept in like four days, because I made a film for Louis Vuitton the night before and the call time was 3am for the show. I hadn't slept in ages and then I did the show, and you know it was like a hotel theme so we each had our own hotel room with a number on the door, and I was next to Cara Delevingne and we both went out of our hotel rooms with a 'bang!' so our room numbers fell off! You go round the runway and you're supposed to come back and sneakily look around and find your room and go back in, and of course I didn't know which one was mine because the number was gone, so I was like, 'fuck!' and I had to stomp along the runway like, 'Is this my room? No? Carry on!' cracking up. But then it was fine. Lots of people messed up apparently.
Oh I didn't realise.
I'm glad! I went up to everybody backstage to ask if they'd seen me fuck up. I even asked Kate Moss's daughter. She was like [sing song voice], 'No, obviously not,' so it's fine.
You weren't in any trouble at all?
No. Au contraire [laughs].
Maybe it was Cara's fault?
Yeah innit, blame it on Cara!
So you watch Seinfeld, who's your favourite character?
Kramer, obviously Kramer! There's this amazing YouTube video of every time Kramer bursts into a room, you know how he always comes in with such a bang, like me at Hotel Vuitton! [Snickers] I try to incorporate a little bit of Kramer into my attitude towards life.
What was it like walking topless for Marc Jacobs?
At first I was like, 'Are you serious?' They put the outfit on me and I was like, 'Alright where's my top?' 'Nah, no top.' So I put my hands like this, one over each, and Marc was like, 'No no no, you just have to do it with one.' How am I going to cover up my whole boob with my wrist? I don't know how I did it because I'm not that confident, but I was totally cool. Backstage I went out to have a cigarette before the show and there was this little group of models hanging out chatting and they were like, 'Oh my god, there was this one girl and her name was Lily, and she's going completely topless in the show, I would never do that, she's totally crazy.' Haha! I don't care I love it!
I was thinking about that on the way over here, it must be hard to hold your hand there for that long, was it taped on?
No, but with the show you do it once with yellow lighting and then once with normal lighting and then another time to like all stand around and be like cold or whatever, so yeah, it felt a bit odd but I loved it.
Someone told me you first appeared on the catwalk when you were a baby.
Yeah, I heard that. Well, I don't have much recollection of it, but I'm pretty sure that happened, in my Mum's arms. I heard it was Chanel, but I'm not sure. I think I was wearing a leopard-print coat. So yeah, everyone's saying my first time was Saint Laurent - completely erroneous.
But Saint Laurent's the first show you can remember?
Yeah. Super hardcore. All of a sudden this massive fairytale scary whirlwind thing. I've told this story a million times, but I moved to Paris to a waitress, to be a whatever, and then I got introduced to the boss here [Next Paris] by my hot model friend... I thought, 'I guess I can try it, it's kind of lame to do the same thing as your mum but I can try it, just to see.' Then Paris Fashion Week came round in a matter of days and they made me a card and sent me to casting with all the other models. I was so excited about Saint Laurent, I was the first to get there, it was Hedi himself doing the casting and yeah I walked for him. I walked super awkwardly and he was like, 'Yeah, this is pefect, you embody the collection.' He was cool because he didn't know my name or anything, he didn't know who I was. I was like all the other models. Then the show came around and it was a blast.
Was it scary?
Once you walk out, it's so surreal and unbelievable that it is actually happening and everyone in the world can see you and this is your life, that you kind of detach yourself completely from it and become what you are supposed to be.
That is like a fairytale.
Yeah, and then I did fucking Chanel the next day, like the airport runway show, that was hardcore.
When did you move to Paris?
September 1st. I finished school, had my summer, then I broke up with my boyfriend, packed my bags and took a Eurostar. I texted everyone on the train, texted my mum, 'I've moved, I'm not coming back.'
Where did you go to school?
It's kind of weird, I went to Parliament Hill, which is like super ghetto, not the worst but... there were lots of fights, girls used to throw flour on girls. It was kind of hardcore and everyone thought I was a massive freak. That wasn't so fun because I never really fitted in. I hung out with all the popular girls, but they didn't actually like me and they never invited me out because I was always the weirdo. Then I went to Camden School for Girls and again I was the weirdo. I saw the first boy I liked, grabbed him and he was my boyfriend for two years. We dressed the same. We didn't speak to anyone else. We bunked off school. We had loads of fun.
Did you throw flour on girls at school?
No! I got slapped once. Because, I don't know, I said something to some girl and then I was like, 'Do you hate what I just said, are you going to slap me now?' I didn't believe she would actually slap me but she totally did and I burst into tears.
What did you say?
I can't remember... Oh no, and this is what happened to me, in like year four, see that blue spot [shows us her hand]? Me and this redhead girl, we got into a massive pencil fight. I stabbed her with a pencil and it was like all bloody and I was really happy with myself. Then she stabbed me back and it wasn't bloody at all but I got a scar for life when she has nothing.
It sounds like that scene in Stoker...
Oh that, I was just reading about that, yeah I really want to see that movie. It's about a recluse goth teenage, welcome to my life!
Who's your role model?
Marina Abramović is my favourite. I went to see her documentary on my own in the cinema the other day. She's so inspiring. It's very important for girls my generation to have female role models. She's mine. I like performance art, even a runway show can be performance art.
I went shopping for Marina once. She sent me to Primark and New Look on Oxford Street for her performance at the Serpentine Gallery...
No way! I'm starting to work with the Serpentine as well. You know the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist? He's my mate.
He's so cool.
He's super cool! He interviewed me the other day, we had so much fun. I was wasted but... he's getting me to work on his new exhibition of young artists, 89+ [of young creatives born after 1989]. I'm on the contributors list. I've got it as a poster in my room.
Why was he interviewing you?
I don't know, he heard about me through a friend and started sending me weird emails, you know in his weird vernacular: 'We have to have an urgent meeting in London!' [Giggles.] So I went and it was really fun, we're the diamond generation, that's what he calls it.
So it's our party issue of i-D...
Is it? Sick. Let's go up in the club! My dad was like the boss of nightlife, he owned Les Bains Douches, which was the mythic Paris nightclub everybody went to. He created this beautiful book and it looked so amazing the nightclub scene, people would just let go completely, celebrities would go and dance with whoever - notorious gangs, prostitutes - everybody would be out letting loose and it would be fine, everyone was having fun. Hedonism. People lived for that. Fantastic. Now it's totally different... But if they can do it, we can do it, it's fine. I do miss that about London - go out, wake up passed out in London Fields, half your body's burnt. That's what I miss about London.
What was your 18th birthday party like?
My 18th was last year when I lived in London. We went to Tiroler Hut in Ladbroke Grove, this Austrian lederhosen restaurant - Juergen Teller's the reason I went there, it's his favourite hang out, my mum told me that, I've never met him. It's totally Sound of Music, they have a band playing, and it's tiny, it's underground, it's cosy. I brought ten of my best friends and we just got off our faces on apple schnapps and ate lots of sauerkraut and sang karaoke, it was so fucking fun. Then we left and we broke into this swimming pool in Holborn and my friend broke his nose. It was a big night, loads of couples got back together, loads of people fell in love, we had so much fun.
What's the best party you've ever been to?
Lately, the best parties in Paris would be the Saint Laurent afterparties at the Grand Palais. I went to Hedi's men's show and I got to sit front row - my first fashion show in the audience, it was super exciting! Then they have an afterparty and all the bands, the hot young English bands, play and, oh, I actually wrote a list of everything that happened that day... [gets out her iPod touch, opens the notes app and starts reading] It's called Catharsis, it says, 'Last night I sat front row, drank mojitos, drank champagne, drank vodka, danced with Hedi, kissed Franz Ferdinand, threw up on Andre, and slept on a chair, in a hotel, under the Eiffel Tower with a blonde model couple. My life is a joke. I want Franz Ferdinand to kiss me again.' Then I found out it wasn't Franz Ferdinand!
So who was it?
I don't know...
If you were interviewing yourself for i-D, what would you ask?
My life is interviewing myself. It's un-bearable. The introspection of solitary life in Paris. 'Who are you? Where are you from? What are you doing? What do you believe in?' Fuck that. I don't know yet, and I think that's ok.
Text Dean Kissick
Photography Quentin de Briey
Styling Erika Kurihara
Hair Tomo Jidai at Streeters using Oribe haircare
Make-up Lili Choi at Artlist Paris
Nails Christina Conrad at Calliste Paris using Yves Saint Laurent Beauté
Styling assistance Sue Man
Model Lily McMenamy at Next Paris