From dominatrix to debutante: who is Kanye’s new girlfriend Julia Fox?

The actor has lived a life replete with many roles: downtown party girl, knitwear designer, model, painter and photographer

In the beginning it felt like a particularly overzealous PR campaign. When the actor Julia Fox posted a picture of her and her new partner in matching leather outfits on her Instagram story last week captioned “Juliye”, it felt less like the confirmation of a relationship and more like an asset in a film release schedule. “You’re either born a muse, or you’re not,” stated Julia Fox in her latest, apparently bi-weekly column about the new relationship in Interview Magazine. “I’ve always been someone’s muse.”

Fox is the latest muse, and also girlfriend, of Kanye West – or Ye, as he now prefers to be called. But the line between relationship and art project has been consistently blurred since the pair met on New Year’s Eve in Miami, where they had an “instant connection”.

Fox is technically an interview subject in these Interview Magazine columns, yet it is clear that she’s the one calling the shots. “I’ll send pictures, I’ll tell you stories. And you’ll publish them … let’s call it ‘This Week in Fox News,” she tells an unnamed Interview journalist. The resulting column, indeed titled Fox News, feels like a merchandisable asset of their burgeoning relationship.

Fox is Ye’s first girlfriend since separating from Kim Kardashian last year. The new couple have been photographed in a series of high-profile, staged photoshoots. One saw them canoodling and trying on clothes in a hotel suite surrounded by assistants, another saw Fox dressed in an all-black custom leather outfit with echoes of her past as a professional dominatrix as she lay across a dinner table while Kanye pretends he is about to tuck in to her with a knife and fork.

They have since been photographed wearing increasingly outlandish matching outfits everywhere from New York to LA to Paris Fashion week, where they made their red carpet debut at Kenzo in coordinated denim ensembles, accessorized with black gloves, and Julia’s trademark Black Swan-extra eye makeup, which looks as though she went to a child’s summer fete and asked for “a Batman”, but is actually applied by Ye himself.

What to make of this whirlwind romance, one month on from when the pair first met? Is it a genuine and unexpected intimate collaboration, or is the whole thing a performance art piece about celebrity divorce sponsored by Balenciaga and Interview Magazine?

Julia Fox with Kevin Garnett, The Weeknd and Adam Sandler at the Los Angeles premiere of Uncut Gems
Julia Fox with Kevin Garnett, The Weeknd and Adam Sandler at the Los Angeles premiere of Uncut Gems. Photograph: Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for A24

Julia Fox’s first major brush with mainstream fame came in 2019 when she was cast in her debut film, Uncut Gems, by the sibling directors Benny and Josh Safdie, who she had met nearly a decade prior at SoHo cafe Jack’s Wife Freda. The film, a high-stress rollercoaster following a charismatic jeweler and gambling addict played by Adam Sandler, and set in New York’s Diamond District, saw Julia playing a version of herself, a magnetic go-getter with an unwavering trust in her erratic partner that borders on the devotional.

“Being independent, resilient, being a hustler, having a ride-or-die mentality, and overall just being really cute,” she responded in a 2020 interview when asked what qualities she shared with her on-screen character. Her arrival on screen as Adam Sandler’s mistress was an explosion of a first performance, and earned her a nomination for the breakthrough actor award at the 2019 Gotham awards. But before that, Fox had already lived many lives: as a teenage dominatrix, a glamorous downtown party girl and club kid, successful knitwear designer, model, exhibiting painter and photographer.

Fox told Office magazine this month that “people don’t take you seriously if you’re a creative and also a sex worker” and believes that until now she has missed out on opportunities and endorsements.

Friends of Fox often describe her as having a magnetic personality. Josh Safdie told the New York Times about casting Fox in Uncut Gems, “I remember stumbling into her universe through a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend … and at first, you couldn’t quite figure out the type of person that she was, and it was very, very alluring. It was exciting. She was constantly redefining who you thought you were talking to.” The author Cat Marnell, told the Cut that Fox was “a legitimate sorceress. She’s the Michael Jordan of vixens … she’s devastating, like a hurricane.”

Fox, who is now sober, also struggled with heroin and pill addiction during her teenage years, and mined her tumultuous experiences to create and self-publish two art books about abuse, addiction and sex work. In 2017, she held a funeral for herself to celebrate the end of a chapter in her impossibly varied life – in the form of an art exhibition titled RIP Julia Fox that featured silk canvases painted in her own blood. When asked if it was difficult to reinvent herself as an auteur, Fox responded: “I hadn’t planned on it at all. It just kind of happened organically,” echoing the words she would use five years later to describe dating her famous boyfriend.

She also has her Spotify podcast Forbidden Fruits – co-hosted by veteran LA party girl Niki Takesh – where once again the main topic of discussion is Julia herself (as well as “the issues that the world is too afraid to touch”) with help from guests that can include anyone from Real Housewives stars to former cult members. She has also used the platform to candidly discuss her blossoming relationship with Ye on her own terms. “It’s really such a Gemini/Aquarius connection. It’s very inspirational … what’s really exciting about him is that any idea can become a reality, anything is possible, any dream is possible and I love that.”

Although, pushed on what some of these ideas and realities are, their excitingness is debatable. She says she has decided that her “latest vibe” is “canceling cancel culture and putting an end to this black-and-white thinking” because “people shouldn’t be defined by their darkest moment” – which sounds like a noble cause until you realize the column is running alongside photos of Fox with Marilyn Manson, whose “darkest moments” include allegations of psychological, physical and sexual abuse against more than 16 women.

Although many were initially confused at the “left field” pairing of Ye and the relatively unknown Fox, it seems the two have more in common than first thought: a penchant for dressing up in ridiculous clothes, the narcissistic mindset necessary to become famous in the first place, and no qualms about partying with convicted abusers. They also seem to share an interest in life as performance art, presenting their own daily undertakings as entertainment and blurring the line between reality and reality TV. On her podcast she declared: “All the people that [West and I] have in common have texted me and been like, ‘Oh my God, this makes so much sense.’”


Niloufar Haidari

The GuardianTramp

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