Bustle Book Club

Julia Fox On The Obsessive Thrill Of Female Friendship

Her new memoir is about her two late comrades, who she says were once “the people I would call if I had a dead body on me.”

Originally Published: 
The cover of Julia Fox's memoir, 'Down the Drain.'

When Julia Fox set out to write her memoir, she knew it was going to be a “masterpiece,” but she had another goal in mind: to offer a portrait of female friendship unlike anything that’s come before.

There aren’t many books on the topic, the Down the Drain author tells Bustle, “and they’re usually still written in the male perspective, which is very much like ‘the good [girl] and the bad one.’ Or it veers off into some weird lesbian thing.” The only thing that comes close to reflecting her experience, she says, is Netflix’s tragicomedy, Dead to Me, which centers on two women who become best friends after meeting at a grief support group. “The way Christina Applegate and her best friend are so obsessed with each other, is the closest thing I can think of in terms of the way I was with my two best friends,” Fox says. “That's what my friends were to me, the people I would call if I had a dead body on me.”

The best friends Fox is referring to are Gianna and Harmony, both of whom had substance use disorders and died of overdoses. And while Fox masterfully portrays the all-consuming, near-romantic bonds she shared with these two women, where she really shines is in depicting, and destigmatizing, addiction. “I think that ultimately it's their shame that killed them,” Fox says. “Because if they had been able to just admit [they were addicts] and get help for it, they wouldn't have succumbed to it.” With Down the Drain, Fox checks shame at the door, divulging her own mistakes as much as anyone else’s. “It wasn't like they were doing all this stuff, but I wasn't. I was doing it right there with them. And I have felt a lot of guilt over that, too. Like, ‘Why am I here, and they're not?’”

Fox also wrestled with her decision to reveal the extent of the addictions that Gianna and Harmony took such great care to conceal. But she knew the power their stories held. “They're casualties of opioid epidemic. Their death means something way more than me just losing my best friend. It's the Sackler family, it's the way we handle drugs, it's so much bigger,” she says. “I know that they probably wouldn't love everyone reading about it, but maybe now in death, they would have the wisdom to be like, ‘You know what? I'm okay with it now.’” Maybe, with the benefit of hindsight, they’d be able to see that there was never a need for such secrecy, that they shouldn’t have had to feel a need for it. As Fox says, “I wasn't going to let their shame win anymore.”

Below, Fox reflects on her love of popsicles, Reddit, and hair dryers.

On the joys of IYKYK books:

I'm currently reading two books. One is [British Vogue editor-in-chief] Edward Enninful's memoir, A Visible Man. I love his story, what he's been able to do, and that he loves his mom so much. Being a boy mom, I just love their bond, and I hope that I can be half the woman his mom is to him. Then I just started [controversial internet celebrity] Caroline Calloway's book, Scammer, last night. I'm a huge fan of her writing, and I'm so glad that she finally put the book out. I do think you have to know her internet history and her personal drama to get the book. It's an, “if you know, you know” kind of book.

On using sweet treats for motivation:

I’m a big ice cream and popsicle person. When I was writing, I’d probably eat a whole box of lemon popsicles a day. By the end, my whole desk was just [covered in] popsicle sticks. It was sticky and gross. I would have a reward system: finish this chapter and you get a popsicle. Then I'd be looking forward to it.

On her unlikely white noise machine:

I would write in my studio, which is a shared space. My stylist works out of it, and so does my best friend, Richie [Shazam]. Some days I'd be alone, but other days there'd be full photo shoots going on and I would still have to write. So, I would just turn on a hair dryer to tune them out. I'm sure people were looking at me like, "What is wrong with her?" But it was my secret weapon. I sleep with it on, and now I've conditioned my son to fall asleep with it on, too. As soon as it's bedtime, I turn it on, and he's out like a light.

On her favorite way to procrastinate:

[I procrastinate with] stories off Reddit. “Am I the Asshole” stories, or things like, “ I got my ultimate revenge by doing this and this. I go to AskReddit and then I just read people asking, "What's your real life ghost story?" Or, "What's your psychic story?" It really feeds my soul.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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