Julia's Box: Where the Legend of 'The Fox' All Began
Break the Internet ®

Julia's Box: Where the Legend of 'The Fox' All Began

Story by Cat Marnell / Photography by Richie Shazam / Styling by Briana Andalore

Julia Fox — It girl, edgy ingénue, more-than-a-muse, writer, artist, actor, model, mother, East Village super-vixen, low-rise trouser queen, bonafide uncut gem — was born in early Nineties Milan at dawn without any underwear on. And, in my mind, she’s been a style icon ever since. (“I was born at 2 PM,” The Fox corrects me. Fine.)

I met Julia over 10 years ago, when she was a mere celebrity of the dark Alphabet City streets. Not yet of drinking age, The Fox was a star presence in our multi-generational friend circle full of graffiti writers and party girls. She was a baby-faced teen dominatrix putting in shifts at a basement dungeon in a nondescript Chelsea, Manhattan office building.

The whole thing was awesome. Wasn’t it?

“One thing I'll say about working in a dungeon is I went in as an 18-year-old, still in high school, insecure. I had self-esteem issues. But being in that environment — that was so predominantly female — was so nice,” Julia says. Plus, the men worshiped her: “I got self-worth and self-esteem.”

Her confidence impressed me back then. Now, it seems otherworldly. Whether posting internet meltdown-inducing nude pregnancy pics on Instagram or stepping out in wide-leg Junya Watanabe trousers and a piece of electrical tape over her nipples — as she did over the weekend at New York Fashion Week — Famous Julia walks with the serenity and self-assurance of A Chosen One.

You love to see it. Julia Fox is a real f-ing person. She is humble. She has struggled. She cares deeply for others. She is funny and creative and loyal. It has been thrilling to watch this special human transform into a tabloid favorite and the world’s most loveable household name.

When PAPER asked me to interview my friend about a new set of “full circle moment” portraits by Richie Shazam (styled by Briana Andalore) — shot in the five rooms of the now-legendary dungeon where Julia once worked — I jumped at the opportunity.

Here, our 35-minute conversation in five parts, one published here on PAPER every day this week, Monday through Friday: a winding Q&A journey through where it — the legend of The Fox — all began.

Cat Marnell: You’re in New York between Fashion Week fittings. I am in East London. Tomorrow is my birthday, but talking to you today is a gift.

Julia Fox: Aww.

I love you.

I feel the same way, I love you.

Really?

Yeah, when Justin was like, “Oh, they want to do an interview.” At first I was like, “Well, I mean, it's not really like a cover, you know?” And then he was like, “Well, Cat’s doing it.” I was like, “Oh, okay, that's fine.” [Laughs]

Perfect.

Did you see the photos yet? Or no?

No.

Okay, well, we basically went back to the dungeon that I worked at as a teenager and a little bit of my twenties, and we just shot there early morning when there were no clients and no other dominatrixes there.

And it was really cool because it was a throwback to my first photo shoot that I ever did. My first-ever shoot with proper hair and makeup and lighting and a real camera was there, at that dungeon. It was by a fellow mistress, Mistress Asha. Her specialty was wrestling. She could beat the shit out of motherfuckers.

But she was so talented. She could do hair, makeup and she also wanted to be a photographer at the time. So she was like, "I want to shoot and then you can put these photos in your portfolio and get more clients because your photos will be better quality." So she did a whole shoot for me. I remember being like, "Oh my god, I looked so beautiful." I'd never been done up that way, I didn't even know it was possible. And she did my hair in these beautiful finger waves, which is really hard to do.

And she just slayed. So during this [PAPER] shoot, I just kept getting flashbacks of that.

An amazing full-circle moment.

Yeah. It felt like, "Wow, I'm so lucky that I get to come back and do this." Because I remember when I was there when I was younger and I talked to some girls and they’d been there for like, 10 plus years. I remember thinking to myself, like, "I don't want that." Even though I did love it there, I always wanted more for myself.

But it was also interesting because as I was walking down the stairs, I disassociated. As I was entering, I went back to how I would shut myself off and then perform whatever it was that I needed to be: A mean, evil teacher, domineering mother or nun or nurse, or whoever it was.

And that happened to me again. And Richie [Shazam] noticed it, Richie who was taking the photos was like, "Bitch, you're not right." I went into full robot. So that was weird to still have that reaction so many years later.

Cape: Balenciaga, Top and underwear: BabyLove's Latex (by Reneé Masoomian), Shoes: Pleasers

I understand because uh... and I've never written about stripping, but I worked at New York Dolls for...

Oh my god.

Yeah, and I never talk about it. This started when I was a teenager, as well. When I see signs for those clubs on the cabs, I’m back there. And stripper is still sort of part of who I am. Like, I see the dominatrix stuff in your fashion, your style. And for me personally, like I'll never take my belly button ring out. I love a neon tube dress. This is part of us. Our past makes us who we are today.

Totally.

What area [of New York City] was this dungeon in?

In Chelsea.

Like on a side street?

Yeah.

In a townhouse?

No, no, no. In a commercial building in the basement. Yeah, and they would be so funny because there'd be all these proper, well-to-do moms and their yoga pants going to the yoga studio or doing Pilates on the other floors. And then, you know, we’d be the odd bunch just outside smoking or looking crazy.

Sometimes I'd run out of there half-naked because I had to take some guy's card to the ATM to get money out. People were like, "What is going on down there?" They probably thought it was a brothel or something, honestly.

Tell me about the Medical Chamber.

It is basically like a creepy doctor's office. I loved the medical room. I loved playing evil doctor [laughs]. Evil nurse.

But before you dressed up in outfits, though, you’d show up with no makeup on? Sweatpants?

Yeah. We were very superstitious. It was known that you don't get dressed up before a client actually arrives because then they never arrive.

Interesting.

You know what I mean? We had superstitions like that. So most of us would just be lounging in no makeup and baggy clothes. Not dressed.

It was discouraged to get dressed up, and if you did, people would say something. They would be like, "Oh, now we're not gonna get any clients. We're not gonna make any money today." There were weird unwritten, unspoken rules.

Anyway, in the doctor's room, you would wear what?

Like a little PVC nurse's outfit or latex nurse's outfit. Or, you know, sometimes they would just want a regular corset or fishnet type of traditional vibe.

And then, you’d give these fucking losers a sponge bath or what? No kink-shaming. That’s me trying to talk like a dominatrix.

I mean, there’s a lot of role playing. So the moment that I step into that room, I am now this character that this client has already informed me about. The headmistress — who’s like a manager — she would be like, "He has this specific fetish," you know, whatever.

Sometimes you get to meet them beforehand in a little consultation room, but a lot of the time, not really. You just go in blindly with a little bit of knowledge and you just stretch it and make the most of it, you know?

I know.

I love BDSM. That shit works.

Another thing I'll say about working in this dungeon is, the camaraderie I had with the girls was really one of my main takeaways. Because for the first time, it just felt like I had a little family to go to.

That’s like working at women's magazines. It’s girl world.

That was really, really nice. And also I got confidence from the men.

How?

Because I was like, "Oh my God, there's these grown, powerful men," and then I'm comparing them to the fucking guys that I smoke blunts with — the ones that, like, rob me — that are like... do you know what I mean?

You know I know what you mean.

But, from working at the dungeon, I let go of all those extra people, of those toxic men in my life. And the new men in my life became my clients who adored me — who literally let me piss on them and do whatever I wanted.

And then on top of that, they’d pay me and bring me gifts and treat me like a fucking goddess. Like, I didn't even know what to do with that. I had been treated like shit by men my entire life, so I didn't know that there was more.

Jacket: Hein Gericke (Vintage), Bra: Vex Latex, Underwear: Anoeses, Shoes: Patrycja Pagas

Tell me everything about the wrestling room. Take us there. Paint it in your mind. I know you're a great writer.

They re-did the wrestling room. They re-modeled it, so back then, it didn't look like it does in these new photos. But it still was the padded black leather moment all around. I honestly didn’t do that many wrestling sessions.

I don't know anything about this.

The wrestling with the men is just a little too crazy for me. I, for some reason, didn't attract that many clients for that. But I did have one client that wanted to wrestle. It would be me and another girl that works there wrestling each other, while he's pretty much watching. And then we beat him up a little bit, too.

That was actually fun. I remember just laughing my ass off. That's all I can really say about the wrestling room.

M-I-N-G? This already sounds offensive.

The Ming Palace is the Red Room. It's like, a reddish kind of room.

Like the Ming Dynasty.

The Ming Palace was the bigger room. That's kind of where I would session the most, just because it was the closest to the exit and the closest to the manager’s desk.

It's also the prettiest one. The best aesthetically, with lots of places to sit down. Because I was a lazy dominatrix and I would just walk in there, do my little thing, tie them up and then just sit my ass down and get a foot massage.

Hell yeah.

And smoke a blunt, honestly.

Oh, word?

Yeah. Oh, you could smoke. Well, when I worked there, I did.

You could do any drugs openly?

You're not really supposed to. But if there's a client that wants to, then it's fine, you know. But it's not like encouraged.

Did you have a lot of foot fetish people? I'm always interested in that huge community.

Honestly, the biggest thing is a lot of people liking pee. Liking to get peed on.

Dress: Fal-ash, Shoes: Le Silla

Who doesn’t?

I feel like the golden shower was so popular. Sometimes we would have clients come in and — I'm not kidding — they would pay for every single girl to pee in the building. Like even the fucking manager.

Wow.

It was crazy. They would just go nuts for it.

Damn!

That's why I loved working there. Because I feel like I got such an up-close, insider glimpse of men. You know what I mean?

You really learn.

Not the masks that they wear when they're out in the world. I got to see men when they are their most vulnerable! At their most ashamed and humiliated and broken — and with a fucking boner.

Yeah.

Like sick. Sick. You can't pay money to get that kind of education in the real world. You really have to live it.

Okay, next room on the list: The torture chamber?

That's what it's called. It's exactly what you think it is.

This would be my favorite on either side of the experience. Tell me about it!

There's equipment. There's all types of medieval torture devices everywhere, but we would only really use them for show or to threaten them with it or whatever. Those were mostly just for aesthetics, but they were pretty cool. It definitely feels like you're stepping into another fucking dimension in time.

The stereotypical thing is the ball vices, the ball smashing. Did you do that stuff?

I mean, we had a lot of devices. There's a wall, a full room of whips and chains and electrical zapping devices, and so much stuff. You name it, they have it.

Also, if a client came in and asked me if I had experience in an area, it was an automatic, "Yes, of course. I'm a professional." I'm like, "I'm a pro. That's my shit." Meanwhile, I've never done it before.

I remember one guy wanted piercings. He wanted needle play, pretty much. To be pierced. And it's like, you know, you need experience for that, but I was like, "Yeah, of course I can do it. I've done it a million times. Don't worry, you're safe with me." And fully just winged it, piercing this man. He's loving it.

And I just, you know, went with it. A lot of it is just improvising and figuring it the fuck out.

By the way, don't hate me: Does Kanye West have any piercings?

No.

Did he like to be zapped electronically?

No. [Laughs] Never.

Bra: Altug Sozudogru, Dress: Tara Hakin, Shoes: Custom

Never?

We never went there. He appreciated the dominatrix aspect of myself, but we never explored it or anything.

It was more sensuality?

It was a more cerebral connection. Let’s put it that way... I would say. In my opinion.

You guys never did poppers together?

Poppers?

Yeah. Amyl Nitrite?

No, but, you know what, actually, while I was working at the dungeon, we did a lot of poppers and I had a Chanel bag. I spilled an entire thing of poppers in my Chanel bag and — I'm not joking — for like two or three months, every time I would be digging in my bag for too long near my face, I would get lightheaded.

I love that. Are you dating anyone now?

No, I'm so good.

Good.

I just don't want to, to be honest. I'm so busy. I'm dating my son. That's what I always say. I wouldn't want to take on one more thing that would take away time that I could be spending with him.

So, the Chelsea Precinct Room. Is that like cop stuff?

Yeah.

Nice, I guess.

I actually didn't even know until recently that that was the name of that room. I don't think anyone even calls it that. But yeah, this one's scary. This one has cages in it. Some dudes literally want to be caged up and left there for hours. So it's a thing.

As they should be. Yeah, without any food or any water. They have to eat fucking gruel!

Yeah.

Because they're bad and they need to be in jail. So you wear cop outfits?

I actually don't think I've ever dressed up as a cop, to be honest. I think that’s the only thing.

Cops are very out.

I don't know, it’s not sexy to me.

Did you wear different kinds of perfume? Like, did you have a fragrance that was more for this work?

I mean, we had lockers. And our lockers would just have all the body mist and the body glow and all of those types of things.

Body mists are the official beauty product of the sex work industry.

Yeah, 1,000%. There was a lot of that, for sure.

I think that you, contemporary Julia Fox, should come out with — wait, can I give you my career ideas?

Yeah.

Come out with a perfume.

Yeah, I don’t know. The thing is babe, I don't wear perfume in my day-to-day life. I don't wear perfume. I wear deodorant, but I like people’s real human scent. I’m a freak.

Okay, scratch that. Then what about playing — do you know the Arthur Miller play, After the Fall, that he wrote about Marilyn Monroe after she died?

Yeah.

I would love for you to play Maggie in that. I think of you every time I see the book in my house. But what do I know? What do you feel more in touch with, right now? What part of you? I know you're always writing in that brilliant brain of yours.

Right now, I feel like I'm just truly so blessed. And I know this is gonna sound so cheesy and corny, but I'm just so happy to be with my son and that's all. I’m in mommy mode, right now.

Top and bottom: Cecilio Castrillo, Shoes: Custom

Of course you are. Bless you!

I definitely work my ass off, but my son is the light of my life. I don't know what I would do without him, truly. Because this past year has been so crazy. One of my best friends, my sister, my family, passed away. And I had another friend also pass away. And there were internal fights, with other friends. It was just so much turmoil, you know? So [motherhood] just brought me so much closer to who I am. Me, the real me.

You're a very, very natural woman. Even when you were a young woman, when I met you, you were like that.

The people in my life are what actually matter.

Yes.

I think I would’ve gone off the deep end if I didn’t have Valentino during this time. I would have gotten sucked into the madness.

Were you scared, though? To have a baby in the middle during your initial career peak, and to have your body change and all that?

Yeah, it was definitely a detour that I didn't see coming. But at the time, it just felt so right. I just knew. Something in my head was like, "No, you need to do this." It was crazy. I didn't even question it, I was just following my instincts.

Your human instincts.

And I’ve had abortions in the past. That's not an issue. I'm totally for it. But this time around, I didn't want to and I think that's what happened.

I will never forget that moment when the nude pregnancy pictures came out and it was this big surprise.

Yeah!

You are just the most lovable celebrity. You are the most humble, unpretentious fashionista. You know what I mean? Like, you're always funny, you never take yourself too seriously.

I'm unique, I feel like. And that's fine. I don't know.

Okay, honey, well that is it. I think we got it.

Amazing.

Story: Cat Marnell
Photography: Richie Shazam
Styling: Briana Andalore
Hair: Francis Rodriguez
Makeup: Rommy Najor
Video: Ben Draghi

Sign Up For The Morning PAPER