the shapeshifting ‘it’ girl talks creativity, writer’s block and overcoming adversity
I’m sitting across from Cara Delevingne in a suite at New York’s hip Crosby Street Hotel. Dressed in white embellished jeans and a black-and-white striped silk shirt, she kicks off her heels and props her bare feet up on a chair. From the start, it’s clear that Cara’s never been shy about being forward, in her everyday life as much as her career choices.
The bushy-browed Brit is best known for strutting down the catwalk for the likes of Chanel, Saint Laurent and Givenchy. But in 2016, Cara announced that she was putting her modelling career on the backburner in favour of other, more creative, pursuits. The decision caused a ripple of shock through the fashion industry. A favourite among designers and fashionistas alike, Cara’s decision to step down from her pedestal after only a few years in the business seemed premature.
Yet a little over a year later, and still only in her mid-twenties, she’s in the early stages of a daring and lucrative acting career that has allowed her rebel attitude to shine, complete with ringladen fingers and multiplying tattoos.
Though it might seem like Cara has had a dream career run so far, this polite and perfectly poised girl from a wealthy British family suffered enduring loneliness as a child, depression as a teen and, more recently, confidence-crippling psoriasis. Yet she has become one of the most pivotal models of the Millennial generation, a relatable ‘it’ girl and a role model to adoring fans of all ages.
“It feels crazy when people tell me I’m a role model,” she says, looking genuinely perplexed at the concept. “Growing up, I felt very lonely and I didn’t know exactly who to look up to. So when kids say, ‘you helped me do this,’ or, ‘you helped me follow my dream,’ that’s the most amazing thing, to be able to help someone be who they are.”
While some public figures take a measured approach to social media, Cara has been outspoken on bullying, sexuality and depression. (It may be a clever way to take control of her image but it also comes from the heart. She told US Elle magazine last year, “I couldn’t just sit there and listen to these girls, and boys, too, but usually girls, say this stuff about bullying, about their sexuality, depression, and guilt and suicidal thoughts and just all of it, without being like, ‘I have been through that, and it’s going to be okay.’ I mean, f**king being a teenager suuucks. And I somehow came through the other end.”)
But she says that while she doesn’t like to let her personal life affect her work, she does view her experiences as her very own acting school. “You take what you need to make that character and throw away the bits you don’t.”
Since heading to the silver screen, she’s scored plenty of starring and secondary roles in cinematic hits including Paper Towns, Pan and Suicide Squad. “I’ve been very, very lucky with the parts I’ve done and been given. They’re all strong female characters. Always kick-arse… I learn about myself every time I play a role.”
Her upcoming role in sci-fi adventure flick Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is no exception. “[My character] is very hard working, very strong, and isn’t scared to speak her mind, which is probably a trait that I have,” says Cara. “She’s a hopeless romantic, you know… She’s very old fashioned in the sense that she really believes in love, and I think that is the most similar thing we have.”
The film is directed by French film impresario Luc Besson, of Lucy fame, who reached out to Cara. After the two had breakfast in LA there was no audition as such. Instead, she was offered the role and sent the script after a meeting in Paris where she was put to task as an actress. “I had to pretend to be an animal, or listen to a song and dance without hearing it.” The script was so top secret that it arrived with its own bodyguard, who sat with Cara while she read all 300 pages of it.
She accepted the role and shines in it as Laureline, who is racing against an intergalactic threat. But while filming
GROWING UP, I felt very LONELY and I didn’t know exactly who to LOOK UP to.