Cover story: Cara Delevingne on empowering young women and Christmas
December 1, 2017
Cara Delevingne is a glamorous octopus with tentacles in just about every creative pie: modelling, fashion music, acting and, most recently, publishing, as the author of young-adult fiction novel Mirror, Mirror. Dubbed the “new Kate Moss” ever since her first catwalk for Burberry in autumn/winter 2011, when she was signed by London’s Storm Model Management, and her 2012 screen appearance in Anna Karenina with Keira Knightley, she has now appeared on 14 Vogue covers – she made her debut in the magazine at age 10, shot by the famed Bruce Weber.
Delevingne has an overwhelming social media presence of more than 40 million followers on Instagram and 10 million on Twitter – she’s her own commercial brand, with a public persona that goes well beyond the fashion world. Delevingne was twice named the Model of the Year award at the British Fashion Awards (in 2012 and 2014), but announced at the top of her game in 2015 that she was ankling that world to focus on film; she cited her psoriasis as being one symptom of working in such a stressful milieu. Delevingne is also openly bisexual (she previously dated American singer Annie Clarke aka St Vincent) and discusses her physical predilections at length. A poster girl for the millennial generation, the 25-year-old phenomenon speaks with #legend about her festive shoot for Jimmy Choo, her wicked dance moves, and how her style has evolved as she’s morphed through the increasingly amorphous world of fast-forward luxury lifestyle.
You’re starring in the Jimmy Choo holiday campaign. What’s your idea of the perfect Christmas?
Friends, family, food, feast, fiesta – and obviously lots of presents!
Do you have any family traditions that you’ll never let go of?
We love a good Christmas cracker. Putting the angel on top of the tree, decorating the tree and opening the stockings on Christmas morning with the kids are all traditions. Also putting carrots, a little glass of whisky and mince pies out for Father Christmas to eat—because he’s so greedy!
Usually, because my family is so big, we have a “fake” Christmas where we go to a place in the countryside and have our own little celebration before the 25th, all together. Of course, I love a good pub gathering around the holidays and drinking eggnog, which is disgusting but you have to drink it because it’s Christmas! I also do like a bit of carolling while I’m there.
When it comes to gifting, what are your fail-safe tips?
I love giving presents all year round. My favourite thing about gifting is that it actually doesn’t matter how much money you spend. I think sentimental presents are really special. I like to do a mixture of fun, crazy, wacky presents, and then also give something that really means something to someone.
What makes a holiday party invitation irresistible?
Glitter! The notion of celebrating togetherness and coming together with your family and friends as much as possible for Christmas is the appeal for me. So, any invitation is a good invitation.
Hand in hand with Christmas comes the party season and New Year. What makes the perfect party outfit?
Glitter, sparkles – a feather boa, if you’re interested. Obviously, a Santa hat or funny glasses. I like a good outfit change, so if you have a little Santa bag stockpiled with different outfits that you can put on and swap with people, I think that’s fun.
Is there anything you won’t wear – are you pro- or anti-Christmas jumpers, for example?
I’m very much pro-Christmas jumpers – you’re obliged to look stupid at Christmas because you’re with your family. So, everyone should wear a Christmas jumper at some point.
Can you describe your favourite party season outfit of all time?
I really love to dress up – and I’m not just talking about looking nice. I do like to put on a crazy outfit and be an elf or a reindeer. Or even if I just wear a nice sparkly dress with a red nose, it’ something different and quirky—it’s not just a normal party outfit. I like to have some sort of accessory, even if it’s just horns.
How do you think your style has changed as you’ve gotten older and changed the emphasis of your career?
As I’ve grown up, my style has changed. I guess I wear less statement T-shirts and baseball caps, and it’s more about a beret and leather jacket. I think it’s just matured in a way, but I still like to be comfortable in what I wear.
The Jimmy Choo collection includes several unisex styles, some of which you’re pictured wearing. Androgyny has become such a staple in stylish women’s wardrobes; what’s your top tip for mastering the look?
As I feel about life, being male or female is less opposite now than it ever has been. I don’t think it’s necessarily about picking something that a man would wear. I think it’s about feeling comfortable, whether it’s masculine or feminine. If you decide to wear a suit, I don’t think that necessarily has to be a masculine thing to wear. To master that look, it’s just about being comfortable with whatever you feel that day, whether you decide to wear a ball gown or you decide to wear whatever you think a man would.
Which were your favourite shoes from the shoot and why?
Definitely the black Maine heeled boots with the multicoloured gems. I think they really represent cities like New York and the different coloured lights – that ashy outer layer. With New York being the city that never sleeps, they’re the perfect shoes to wear – and they’re also extremely comfortable.
You’re currently working on a varied range of projects, including a book, a TV series and a few different films in various stages of production. Did you always want to be a polymath?
It wasn’t really a decision that I made. I just think as a kid, I grew up being creative and making things I really enjoyed. The thing about labels is that if you’re an actress, it doesn’t mean that you can only be an actress, or only be a writer. I feel anyone has the right to create whatever they feel. You can have an office job, but one day want to be a painter – and that’s totally fine. It just depends on how your heart feels and what you want to do. I think the more people have the freedom to create whatever they want, the more people will be able to express themselves – and the more art and light can be brought to the world.
Three films in 2017 and already another two scheduled for 2018 – from a work/life balance perspective, how are you finding work now in comparison to when you were modelling full-time?
I feel a lot less busy only because I’m finally doing all the different things I wanted to do. When I had just one job being a model, it kind of felt quite monotonous – not in a bad way, but it was just a lot more travel and a lot more stress on me. Being able to create more and express emotions are the most important things for me, and it now doesn’t feel that I’m that busy at all because I’m doing what I love.
What surprises you about acting?
How much you learn about humanity, other people and yourself, and how much it reflects so many other things. And what you can portray with it. It’s a really interesting craft, which I am very excited to be able to do.
If you could play any character in a movie that has already been released, who would it be and why?
I always wanted to be Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, who is played by Elizabeth Taylor. I think I’m very much too young for the role right now, but I would love to have done that at some point. Or Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. God, I love that movie so much!
With commute to work not being an issue, if you could be based anywhere, where would you prefer to live?
I’m a definite traveller. I love to be in different places at different times of the year depending on climate, so I would find it very hard to pick one place to live. I feel very lucky being able to travel so much. But it would probably still be England, because I love it and it’s my home.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
I remember a piece of advice that I was given by Will Smith, who said that even though we’re actors – and this applies really whatever job you do – it’s still important to treat yourself as though you’re an athlete, especially if you work a lot and have a demanding schedule. You have to treat your body as if you were a professional athlete. Look after yourself, sleep a lot and do all the things that will help you do your job to the best of your abilities.
Also, tell the people in your life that you love them more, write down things every day that you’re grateful for, sleep more, drink more water.
What would you still like to achieve in your career?
I would love to continue writing, whether it’s for a book, a film or a TV show. I’d love to get more behind the camera and hopefully be a director one day to give a voice to the women’s stories that haven’t been told—which is a lot of them.
You actively support the Lady Garden campaign, which focuses on cancers that affect women. Tell us a bit more.
The Lady Garden campaign is so important. My sister became a big part of it because she had a scare, which was obviously terrifying for her. But after a while she was able to take that moment of fear and doubt and turn it into something amazing, and remind women how important it is to talk about the things that people are uncomfortable talking about – their “lady gardens”, for instance. You know, it’s so important for us to be able to constantly check these things, and also be aware of symptoms and certain things that can happen as you get older – and not be ashamed about it.
Tell us about a time when you were really awestruck by someone.
The list could go on and on! There are some people that have a certain energy about them. I’ve been inspired by so many people I’ve worked with. The people who helped me start my career, like Christopher Bailey, Luc Besson and Pharrell. And people who have given me a chance, like Karl Lagerfeld and all the directors that I’ve worked with – David Ayer and Paul McGuigan, who I’m working with now.
I met Whitney Houston and that left me completely dumbstruck – I didn’t know what to say. And Mariah Carey at the same time! That was pretty crazy. All of those people have really inspired me through what they’ve done, and how they’ve changed the movements and the evolution of the world. Especially people working in the ’60s and ’70s – you know, they started a revolution and I think that’s incredible.
Your friend Adwoa Aboah has just done a huge season of modelling after moving over from casting. Did you give her any advice before she made that leap?
I’m so proud of Adwoa. Not only has she had an incredible season for modelling, she’s also doing so much to help girls, and allowing them to have a voice about things like mental illness and addiction. Just getting young girls talking is, for me, incredibly inspiring. I think we have come from the same place of wanting to help teenagers because we both struggled in different ways at that point in our lives.
What do you think makes you successful?
I think success is more about happiness. You know, I don’t think that it’s the best job, or the most money or the most friends that makes a person most successful. I think success comes from a deep-down happiness about who you are and what you are doing.
What do you like to do in your spare time to relax?
Sleeping is great. Sitting on my back and watching TV, especially English TV at the moment. And just doing nice things: yoga, meditating, catching up with old friends. I have such a long movie list that I need to get through.
Do you have any good holiday season reads?
At the moment, apart from my book [Mirror Mirror], I’ve really enjoyed reading Esther Perel’s The State of Affairs. I do also love a good holiday murder crime novel – The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson is a good one I’ve read recently, and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies.
Okay, a few rapid-fire questions. What’s a song guaranteed to get you on the dance floor?
Anything with Justin Timberlake. Or I’m into “Wild Thoughts” [by DJ Khaled featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller] – it’s the anthem. “Everybody Dance Now” [by C&C Music Factory] just popped into my head. I like drums; I like bass. Any music, generally. If you put on a classic tune, I’ll probably dance to it. You know even if there’s no music, I’ll probably dance anyway. So really, anything. What’s really guaranteed to do it is anything ’90s, old school, disco, funk – you name it.
What would be a signature dance move we might see from you?
I’m into the Sprinkler or the classic Shopping Trolley. Or the Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box – I like a good dance routine. I like a good electric slide moment – put on Cameo’s “Candy” and get everyone doing the electric slide. I like a good NSync boyband ’90s move, too.
Who’s your party partner in crime?
I’m going to say my gals, broad range.
The most memorable party that you’ve attended?
It was probably my 25th birthday – lots of fun-filled adventure: skydiving, whale and shark diving. What’s your favourite cocktail?
Sex on the Beach. I don’t know what’s in it; I just like the name. It sounds exotic. It’s hard – it depends on what kind of mood I’m in. I might go for something very fruity, or something a lot more sour. I like something sparkly, maybe with some elderflower. And lots and lot of ice.
What’s your favourite New York hotspot?
I just like being on the streets in New York, because the energy is so amazing. You can see so many things and meet so many amazing people.
What’s your pizza order?
It depends on what time of day it is. Sometimes I like an egg. Olives, bacon, tomato and cheese. There is something they do here in New York called a vodka pizza, which is apparently quite interesting, but I’ve never tried it. But it’s one for my list.
If you could have dinner with anybody, who would be your dream guests?
Stephen Fry, David Attenborough, Judi Dench and Barack Obama. God, that’s a fun dinner. It’s next Thursday. I’ll send out the invites tomorrow.
Photography / Tom Craig
Stylists / Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn
Hair / Mara Roszak
Make-up / Kate Synnott
Location / Los Angeles
This article originally appeared in the December 2017 print issue of #legend