Relationships

The Julia Fox–Kanye West Spectacle Revives an Old Celebrity Maxim

Was the relationship “real” or “fake”? Wrong question.

Fox in dramatic black eye makeup stands beside Ye in sunglasses. Both wear oversized denim jackets.
Ye and Julia Fox attend Paris Fashion Week in January. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Maybe everyone was right. Maybe it’s not a good idea to publish a photo shoot from your lavish second date with Kanye West in Interview magazine right after it happens. There’s only one person to have ever done that, the actress Julia Fox, in early January, so we’re working with a very small sample size here, but it doesn’t look like it turned out well for her: On Monday—incidentally, Valentine’s Day—TMZ and other news outlets reported that it’s over for Fox and West, whose short relationship was nonetheless defined by several other high-profile moments, many of them involving fashion shows, funny-looking boots (on him), and extremely low-rise pants (on her).

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The writing had been on the wall. Over the weekend, close observers of Fox’s Instagram presence noted that she had liked some pictures belonging to West’s ex, Kim Kardashian, and removed West from parts of her feed. Meanwhile, West, who now goes by Ye, has been posting increasingly erratic messages about Kardashian on his own feed for weeks, alternately criticizing her parenting, mocking her new beau (actor and comedian Pete Davidson), posting bizarre memes to illustrate his shifting alliances, and begging for her to come back to him. Hours, or perhaps tens of minutes, after news of Fox and West’s split was confirmed, West delivered a pickup truck full of roses to Kardashian for Valentine’s Day. (It’s never been easy to read West’s behavior from afar, but at least some observers argue his behavior toward his ex has escalated dangerously.)

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In response to the breakup, Fox has attempted to project unbothered serenity—or at least she did in a few Instagram Stories before she deleted them. It’s actually remarkable how much of this relationship has played out over now-deleted social media posts. In those deleted posts, Fox protested a Daily Mail article that alleged she was in tears over the breakup: “@dailymail yall are straight trash I haven’t cried since 1997 and I especially wouldn’t cry over THIS!!” In a subsequent post, Fox said she had actually cried recently over a friend who’d passed away, but one does wonder what so upset her in 1997. In yet another post, Fox wrote, “The media would love to paint a picture of me [as] a sad lonely woman crying on a plane by myself but it’s NOT TRUE!! Why not see me for what I am which is a #1 hustler. I came up yall lol and not only that but Kanye and I are on good terms! I have love for him but I wasn’t in love w the man.”

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That’s exactly what I would say if I were in fact a “sad lonely woman crying on a plane by myself” and didn’t want anyone else to know it, so we can take Fox’s shrug with a grain of salt. But surveying the wreckage of this relationship, it does look like Fox has come out a victor, of sorts. When the two first went public, it was easy to speculate that the relationship was some sort of publicity stunt, an opportunity for visibility for some of West’s fashion interests, or a way for West to make Kardashian jealous, perhaps by transforming, Pygmalion-like, another woman known for her figure into a work of living high fashion. Before Fox met West, she was a downtown New York personality whose star had risen with an acting role in 2019’s Uncut Gems, but she was nowhere near Kanye levels of fame. If he was using her, she was all too happy to use him too. How many more people know the name Julia Fox now than they did in December? One quantifiable measure is her Instagram following, which shot up more than 500,000 followers in the month the two were together.

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Fox has claimed that she doesn’t care about such things: “It’s funny ’cause I’m getting all of this attention, but I really couldn’t care,” she said on her podcast, Forbidden Fruits, in January. “People are like, ‘Oh, you’re only in it for the fame, you’re in it for the clout, you’re in it for the money.’ Honey, I’ve dated billionaires my entire adult life. Let’s keep it real.” Fox and West are hardly the first celebrity romance to bring on rampant speculation about whether it’s “real” or “fake,” but as the great Elaine Lui of Lainey Gossip once told me, “I don’t think that those two are mutually exclusive: You can be legitimately dating someone and using it for publicity.”

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It’s an often-ignored truism of celebrity relationships, and it very much looks like that’s what Fox at least was up to in this relationship. If you look at what set all this off, the Interview piece, the one I called a bad idea at the beginning of this article but am now coming to see as almost a brilliant (uncut) stratagem, Fox ended it by saying, “I don’t know where things are headed, but if this is any indication of the future, I’m loving the ride.” I was struck by that because, even though she was in Interview magazine saying these things, she never actually put the cart before the horse. A photo shoot over dinner and a hotel suite full of clothes are not normal second-date activities, but the “I don’t know where things are headed” admission is kind of normal, despite it all. There’s a savviness to how she’s spoken about this relationship the whole time she was in it (see also her Call Her Daddy interview), and how she’s speaking about it now, that really shines through.

In a piece published on Monday afternoon, Fox reiterated that she wasn’t in the relationship for the clout: “I never wanted to be super-megafamous,” she is quoted as saying … in a big profile of her in this week’s New York magazine, complete with prestigious Juergen Teller ugly-chic photo shoot. She said it best herself (before she deleted it): “Why not see me for what I am which is a #1 hustler.”

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