Warning: article contains some spoilers
Whether you think of her as a talentless socialite and a man-hater or a genius and a role model, she’s on your mind nonetheless. Julia Fox’s memoir “Down the Drain” was released mid-October, and is a beautifully-written compelling story, oozing with passion on every page. It is a meditation on Fox’s life experience riddled with poverty, drug addiction, abuse, grief and most of all, resilience. While there are plenty of highs in the memoir, there are also lows, as her story is often rough around the edges just like Fox herself. Regardless, she proves that she has incredible potential as a writer. While many people may know her from her breakout role in “Uncut Gems” or as Kanye West’s ex-girlfriend, “Down the Drain” proves she is so much more than that. She is a fighter, a self starter, unapologetic and most of all, a strong author.
In the dedication of this book, Fox states this is a story for the “dreamers and delinquents,” of which she is both. Often between a rock and a hard place, between staying and going, Fox’s duality is on full display. The first few chapters make a strong point as she describes her struggles growing up with abusive and neglectful parents. She proves to be skilled at imagery and describing her surroundings. These early passages act as sonnets to the two places most dear to her, Italy and New York. She describes arriving in New York as a small child, stating, “Everything is so colossal here. The towering buildings cast shadows that stretch as far as my wide eyes can see while the people, who look nothing alike, bustle around as if part of some grand dance.” This passage seems to function as a metaphor for Fox not knowing where she fits in and finding her way between two worlds. Things never came easy for her, evidenced by the bullying she faced and her less-than-lavish lifestyle growing up. She dreamt of stardom to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty she was thrust into.
It is easy to see the roots of her successes in her interests early on. She does a great job of setting up how important TV and film were to her growing up, as they were often her only constant sources of solace. She talks about creative writing being her favorite class and finding comfort in poetry before unfortunately being laughed at and shamed away by her classmates. Fashion and clothing were another constant throughout the book, with descriptions of Fox’s stealing escapades later turning into successful fashion campaigns and modeling gigs. One of the most interesting passages describes her work as a dominatrix when she was freshly 18. She writes, “I revel in the fact that I can be anyone at any given moment. I transform into your mean mommy, an evil nun, the bitchy popular girl in high school, all in a day’s work.” She adds that this is where she gained a talent for improv and acting. She uses these little details of her love for fashion, writing and film to weave together a narrative throughout the story like threads in a sweater. Her story clears up the misconception that Fox is famous by accident or by association, proving she has skills and talents numbering dozens.
Not only does she talk about the places she called home but also of the people she found to be safe spaces. With no help from her parents, she was still able to make a family of misfits wherever she went. Many times throughout the story she gets into tight-knit female friendships that breathe new life into her. These passages carry a thinly nuanced veil of queerness and sexuality as she becomes very close, very quickly to girls, in a way that’s not exactly platonic. Some of the strongest chapters in the book talk about the mothers of these girls who taught her things her own mom didn’t. As she talks about learning the ins and outs of womanhood, one can’t help but see her love and passion for female power and connection as another thread woven throughout the book.
Her concept of womanhood changed as she grew up quickly and was constantly getting into abusive and toxic relationships with men that devalued her intelligence. These men took advantage of her low self-esteem and youth in order to manipulate her. She was rarely valued for anything besides her outer beauty, leading to many crises of confidence. These chapters put her resilience on full display. As a survivor of domestic abuse, she is haunted by these memories long after the relationships are over. She emphasizes the abuse as not always physical but just as detrimental nonetheless. She is able to recreate the atmosphere of mayhem and turmoil that’s been hovering around her for years with great detail.
Fox’s addictive personality did not just stop at people, but slipped into drugs and partying too. These passages are raw as she describes the highs and lows of her substance abuse. She has had enough near-death encounters for three lifetimes, all before the age of 30. What is clear about Fox through these anecdotes is her ability to be completely honest and unabashed. There is no doubt she is being as truthful and open as they come, not shying away from her own mistakes even if they make her come off as unlikeable. She never asks for sympathy, stating her experiences so matter-of-factly they are almost intimidating. Her life experiences are dizzying and chaotic, with an exhaustive list of dangerous escapades Fox manages to come out the other side of.
The book was not perfect by any means. The middle of the story reached a lull with long descriptions of every drug high she went through and the tribulations of being a young misfit. These got repetitive as Fox fell into the same toxic patterns again and again. It is hard to read about her continually making the same mistakes from chapter to chapter, with not enough reflection in between on how she had changed. The memoir would have been more impactful if she included more of her mature introspection in these chapters. It is very powerful to hear about the lengths and struggles of her drug addiction and toxic relationships. Still, many of these descriptions could have been shortened or cut entirely. The last few chapters, however, are a high point of the memoir. While dealing with grief and loss, she manages to see her pregnancy as a new beginning. She reflects on her past with newfound maturity and self-worth after giving birth to a baby boy. These chapters are short, making it unclear if she is far enough away from these struggles to properly reflect on them. Either way, she has lots to share and has gained the confidence to articulate it.
For someone who has constantly been violated by the men in her life and by the public, she is hopelessly resilient and doesn’t let people use her past to embarrass her, instead embracing it as a part of who she is. While not a perfect memoir, it is clear Julia Fox has potential as an author and a writer, which is all one can ask of someone’s first book. Proving she is no longer “throwing her life down the drain,” she leaves the reader excited to see what she’ll do next.