Who exactly was Babe Paley?

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Who was Babe Paley?Getty Images

The 'Queen of New York' might sound like a big role to take on, but Naomi Watts is up for the challenge. The actress is stepping into the well-heeled shoes of the glamorous Manhattan socialite Babe Paley for the second series of Ryan Murphy's Feud.

Watts has already been seen on set in New York in character as Paley – complete with luxurious designer wardrobe. But who was she really? Here's everything you need to know about the high-society it-girl.

Who was Babe Paley?

Barbara 'Babe' Paley was the wife of CBS founder William S Paley, who ruled within the high-society set in New York during the 1950s, '60s and '70s, and was part of Truman Capote's infamous circle of 'swans' (more on that below).

Considered a great beauty, she was known for her elegant sense of style and, before she became a society darling, worked as a fashion editor for American Vogue for 10 years. The tastemaker regularly made it onto the 'best dressed' lists and was named Time magazine's second best-dressed woman in the world in 1958. She was included on the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame 14 years in a row and crowned a "super dresser of our time".

She was also credited with helping to revive Halston's once-struggling label, buying a series of his dresses and wearing them to public engagements.

She remained a style icon until she died in 1974, aged just 63, from lung cancer.

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Watts on set as Babe PaleyJose Perez/Bauer-Griffin - Getty Images
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Bettmann - Getty Images

What was her relationship with Truman Capote?

Paley was one of a group of high-society women who ran in Truman Capote's inner circle, and were referred to as his 'swans'. Other 'swan' socialites included Gloria Guinness, Marella Agnelli and C.Z. Guest. But the friendship soon turned sour when the Breakfast at Tiffany's author publicly humiliated his closest female confidants in the famous tell-all Esquire excerpt ‘La Côte Basque 1965’. The piece was intended to be a preview of his long-awaited new novel Answered Prayers – released against the advice of his editor – and featured unflattering, thinly disguised characters based on his inner circle, who committed everything from adultery to murder. His career and reputation never recovered from the scandal.

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Gloria Guinness, Truman Capote and Babe PaleyGetty Images

Prior to this great betrayal, Paley was one of Truman Capote's closest friends. Capote thought Paley was 'perfect', as he once described her: "Mrs. P. had only one fault: she was perfect. Otherwise, she was perfect."

A life of scandal

Paley was famously one of Manhattan's most fashionable and elegant women, but behind the glitz and glamour, her story was much darker. Her personal life was full of scandal; her husband was known for being unfaithful and she was frequently exploited for that in the tabloids at the time, reports Bustle.

The new series of Feud

Feud's first series, which aired in 2017, told the story of the turbulent relationship between Hollywood legends Joan Crawford and Bette Davis.

Now, for season two, director Ryan Murphy is portraying Capote and his 'swans' in Seventies Manhattan, starring Watts as Paley and Chloë Sevigny as C.Z. Guest, who was also a muse to Andy Warhol. The mini-series will follow the famous feud between Capote and his inner circle, following that explosive article.

naomi watts babe poley
Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin - Getty Images

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