Lily McMenamy on Fashion, Family, and Mining Her Modeling Career for the Stage

Fashion

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“French in London, English in Paris” is how Lily McMenamy sums up her identity. “Yet born in Pennsylvania with a Tunisian father!” She was also born into fashion, so to speak. Legend has it that as a baby, McMenamy “walked” the runway in the arms of her mother, supermodel Kristen. Years later, she made a more earthbound debut on the catwalk of Hedi Slimane’s first show for Saint Laurent, following that up with a topless turn at Marc Jacobs. McMenamy, who’d been interning at an art gallery, says, “It was like I suddenly became a woman and all my teenage anxieties disappeared! Only to be replaced with woman anxieties.”

a group of people posing for a picture

DAN JACKSON

On Lily McMenamy: Vintage bodysuit, Alaïa, $500. Rings, Cartier, from $7,200. On Arthur Aldridge, left: Jacket, $3,250, shirt, $1,100, tie, $230, Celine By Hedi Slimane. Rings, Cartier, from $1,420. Socks, Falke, $26. Loafers, Celine Homme By Hedi Slimane, $1,100. On Eddy Aldridge: Shirt, $1,390, trousers, $1,790, boots, $1,390, Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello. Necklace, Cartier, $4,450.

a woman in a white dress sitting on a man

DAN JACKSON

On Lily: Dress, Gucci, $7,500. Earrings, $2,390, necklace, $4,450, Cartier. Tights, Wolford, $55. On Eddy: Trousers, Saint Laurent By Anthony Vaccarello, $1,790. Ring, Cartier, $2,170.

McMenamy is close with her family, including her half brothers Eddy and Arthur Aldridge, who model the sophisticated, genderless Cartier Trinity collection alongside her in these pages. Her mother counseled her to “devote your life to your art,” so McMenamy has been doing just that. Her stage and screen acting résumé includes Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash, in which she appeared with Tilda Swinton. Actors like Swinton and Cate Blanchett are role models for her: She calls them “chameleonic muses, yet strong artists in their own right—collaborators to directors rather than vessels for their vision only.” She dreams of working with Paolo Sorrentino or Yorgos Lanthimos someday.

a man wearing an open jacket

DAN JACKSON

Jacket, Dior, $7,000. Trousers, Saint Laurent By Anthony Vaccarello, $1,790. Earring, $6,550 (for pair), ring, $1,960, Cartier.

a person lying on a bed

DAN JACKSON

Bracelets, Cartier.

But right now, McMenamy’s biggest project is her self-written one-woman show at the Bourse de Commerce—Pinault Collection, A Hole Is a Hole, which she calls “a surrealist odyssey of my life experiences thus far.” After a dozen years as a working model, she says, “It can sometimes feel like transcendent escapism. However, there are other, more insidious, things I’ve noticed, too—a heightened performance of gender, dissociating from your body and senses, pressure to hide your inner self and improve your external self.” This isn’t something unique to her profession, of course, but common to all of us in the world of Instagram, she notes, quoting Marlene Dumas (“To be a woman is to be a model, de facto”) and Susan Sontag (“To live is also to pose”). After she studied physical theater and mime at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, McMenamy says, “I found a whole new language of my own and discovered my love of the grotesque, which was a perfect counterpoint to the model girl I’d been inhabiting until then.” The experience led her to earn a master’s in performance making at Goldsmiths, University of London, that focused on what she calls an “embodied theory of modeling.”

two men sitting on the floor

DAN JACKSON

On Arthur, left: Jacket, $3,950, turtleneck, $1,700, pants, $1,250, Loro Piana. Rings, Cartier, from $1,420. Socks, Falke, $26. Loafers, Celine Homme by Hedi Slimane, $1,100. On Eddy: Vest, Celine Homme By Hedi Slimane, $4,950. Trousers, $1,790, boots, $1,390, Saint Laurent By Anthony Vaccarello. Rings, Cartier, from $1,960.

a man and woman posing for a picture

DAN JACKSON

On Lily: Bodysuit, Marc Jacobs, $260. Earrings, Cartier, $2,940. On Eddy: Sweater, Jil Sander By Lucie and Luke Meier. Earring, $6,550 (for pair), necklace, $3,450, Cartier.

Her one-woman show is headed to the London Performance Studios, the New Theater Hollywood, and more venues down the road. McMenamy calls it “the most personal [thing] I’ve ever done—a camp, visceral, absurd, and vulnerable journey through my psyche and all the experiences that have led me to where I am.” Surely Mom must be proud.

Lead image: On Lily: Dress, The Vampire’s Wife, $1,287. Bra, $445, panty, $725, Dolce & Gabbana. Bracelet, ring, Cartier. On Eddy: Necklace, $4,450, bracelet, ring, $3,850, Cartier. Trousers, $1,790, boots, $1,390, Saint Laurent By Anthony Vaccarello.

Hair by Shon Hyungsun Ju at The Wall Group; makeup by Miranda Joyce and manicure by Jenny Longworth, both at Streeters; casting by Shaun Beyen at Plus Three Two; produced by Samuel Åberg at Day International.


This article appears in the April 2024 issue of ELLE.

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