“WHEN I STARTED MODELING, IT WAS JUST a JOB, and I WAS SO EXCITED—EVERYTHING WAS SO NEW, so CRAZY. I DIDN’T OVERTHINK ANYTHING. Cara Delevingne
Last November, Cara Delevingne was named model of the year at the British Fashion Awards—and the prize was well earned. She’s been photographed by Mario Testino for the cover of British Vogue; she’s appeared in ad campaigns for Chanel, Burberry, and H&M, among others; and she seems to have landed on every runway in New York, London, Milan, and Paris during the recent fashion season.
But the title hardly seems sufficient for the many moods and manifestations of Cara Delevingne. Yes, she has a “look”—those eyes, that lip-o-licious mouth, and the most famous eyebrows since Groucho Marx. Then there’s her background: her aristo lineage (described by the Daily Mail as “pure Chelsea posh”); her colorful mother, Pandora, a personal shopper for Selfridges; her father, Charles, a handsome man about town; and her older sister Poppy, also a successful model. And, to top it all off, there’s her well-known punch of personality—witty, whimsical, and charmingly unpredictable. So what if she’s 45 minutes late? She gives you 5,000 percent when she gets there (and like the best designers, Delevingne gives what you want before you even know you wanted it).
While the 20-year-old self-described tomboy was amazed by her sudden rocket into the heart of the fashion universe (not to mention by just how tough all that runway walking can be), she is setting her sights on other stars—acting, making music, inventing, Nobel Prizes—as long as there’s plenty of goofing off to be done along the way.
DAVID COLMAN: So you’re in Paris. You did New York and you did Milan and now you’re doing Paris.
CARA DELEVINGNE: New York and then London and then Milan, yeah.
COLMAN: You’ve been walking a lot.
DELEVINGNE: Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot . . . That’s all that’s on my mind at the moment, just walking—it’s mad. This modeling thing, it’s pretty easy, but actually it’s also really tough. I mean, this has been really tough. That’s the most embarrassing thing about it, like, “This walking thing is crazy.” [laughs]
COLMAN: Tell me what makes it so hard.
DELEVINGNE: I think when I started modeling three years ago, it was just a job, and I was so excited—everything was so new, so crazy. I didn’t overthink anything; I just did it and enjoyed myself along the way. But after a few seasons, you get used to it, and there’s a lot you actually have to think about, and, I don’t know, it just makes you much more aware of what you look like and what other people think. It’s a bit of a nightmare.
COLMAN: I was looking at the list of shows, and you’ve been in, like, every one! Which is obviously impossible, but you’ve already done 40 shows this season.
DELEVINGNE: Even if I’m exhausted, I always try to go into a show with a smile on my face. It’s always good to try and bring the energy up. If I’m in a bad mood, people are going to act bad. The energy you give off is the energy you receive. I really think that, so I’m always myself—jumping, dancing, singing around, trying to cheer everybody up.
COLMAN: [laughs] Will you marry me?
DELEVINGNE: I’ll have to think about that. I’m actually taken at the moment . . . No, I’m joking.
COLMAN: Definitely give it some thought before you answer. No, but that kind of person is the nicest person to have around.
DELEVINGNE: I’d like to say yes. Now that I’m thinking about it . . . [laughs] Now I’m taking it back. Okay. Maybe we’ll Skype first before diving into a relationship.
COLMAN: So now you’re on the cover of British Vogue for the second time.
DELEVINGNE: Second time? This is my first and I’m already chuffed enough.
COLMAN: I’ve gotten confused with all your accomplishments.
DELEVINGNE: I know, yeah, it’s pretty crazy. I always forget that I’m 20 years old—it’s kind of mad. No, but this month has been amazing: the cover of Love and the cover of British Vogue, with two of three of the most amazing photographers, in my opinion. Yeah, unbelievable.
COLMAN: Who shot the Vogue photos?
DELEVINGNE: Mario Testino shot Vogue and Mert [Alas] and Marcus [Piggott] did Love.
COLMAN: You shoot with Mario a lot for Burberry.
DELEVINGNE: Yeah. The first campaign I did was Burberry, and that was Mario. We have a very, very close relationship. Every time I go on holiday, we seem to have the same schedule. We seem to go to the same places, whether that’s Brazil or Ibiza. And so I always stay with him for a little bit. He’s like my fashion papa.
COLMAN: You need that, probably, at your age, because I’m sure it’s very overwhelming.
DELEVINGNE: Definitely. I’ve made so many amazing friends with people who work in the industry. More photographers and the stylist-y people who work on set than the models, because they’re such incredible people and they’ve experienced so much. This is, I think, the craziest industry. I mean, I love it. The fashion industry is like a big, fucked-up dysfunctional family, but everyone’s mad and amazing, and everyone’s so different. If you take the time to meet the people and learn about them, it’s so interesting. All of the stories . . .
COLMAN: You grew up in it a bit, right?
DELEVINGNE: To be honest, I don’t really feel like I did. My parents weren’t really in fashion—they were very social people and had really amazing friends, but, you know, I was very much in my own world. I was into playing Legos and running around naked and running around in my garden and playing with my animals. I had no interest in fashion when I was younger. I was such a tomboy. I loved soccer, as you call it, or sports in general. The first time I was a bridesmaid, to my auntie, I refused to go down the aisle without my football shorts underneath my dress. My mum would try to dress me up in dresses and I hated it! My sisters were both very girly, so I was just really not into clothes. It took me a long time to try to wear clothes; I used to go into the supermarket and take off all my clothes and run away from my mom because I thought it was funny. I was very that kind of child.
COLMAN: [laughs] That’s great.
DELEVINGNE: And I was like that up until I was 13 years old, so my first experiences with fashion were dressing up. It was always about fantasy for me. Dressing up as characters . . . I always thought that’s what clothes were—that they would make you into the person you wanted to be. I’m an actress, so I love to act, and I think that’s one of the most important things—the thing that makes you feel like another person.
COLMAN: It’s amazing when you think about it: the power that clothes have is kind of shocking, because they really do feel like they can change you.
DELEVINGNE: That’s what I always try to do in my shows—look for the idea of a collection and what the designer wants that girl to portray. I always have that in my mind: What am I going out looking to do? I’m always trying to feel it, make it natural and real. And sometimes that can be bad. Like, for instance, the H&M show I just did in Paris—it was set in an apartment, and George Cortina and all those guys were like, “Pretend you’re in your house; be yourself, be crazy.” So I did the show—I was laughing, I went up to people, gave them a kiss on the cheek, grabbed flowers out of the vase, threw them at the photographers, spun around, just fun stuff—and then watching the video back, no one else was doing that, so it was just me!
COLMAN: Do you want to be an actress?
DELEVINGNE: That’s what I’ve wanted to do my whole life, just act. When I was younger, I loved to entertain people. I always used to make up dance routines, do little plays. I love to perform, basically. Music, as well, is a passion of mine. I’ve been singing my whole life. I probably annoy people because I sing all the time on the streets. And I play the drums and I play the guitar. I’ve been writing music since I was 13.
COLMAN: Do you feel like modeling is something that you kind of fell into? I mean, your sister [Poppy] does it too . . .
DELEVINGNE: I wouldn’t say I fell into it, because I was a lot luckier than that. Obviously I’m very lucky to have had my sister do it and for my sister to have had the connections. But I think, yeah, the way it took off, I did not expect. It was definitely not a ripple in my mind. I just never thought it was going to happen like this. I’m just here and I’m having fun and I’m trying to smile and not think about it too much. That’s the hardest thing in life. I think about things way too much. Ignorance is totally bliss.
COLMAN: But I think at some point all of it makes sense, and you’re like, “Oh, well, I’m glad I thought about it all these years.”
DELEVINGNE: I’m not that kind of thinker, though. I don’t do that kind of thinking. I just spiral. I’m a spiraler.
COLMAN: Do you still play soccer—or football?
DELEVINGNE: God, yeah. It’s like if I go home and it’s the summertime and I’m with all my friends and we’re sitting in a park and someone’s playing football, I’m totally there. I find that fun, to be playing with the boys in the mud and that kind of stuff. I’m still a tomboy. I mean, I obviously dress it up slightly more, but when I’m just me, I’m still very casual. I love comfort. Comfort is very key to me because I spend most of my time in very uncomfortable things, so it’s all about trainers and flats. On a shoot, if they’re like, “Play around a bit,” I’m going to be climbing on top of things and jumping off, and people are going to be trying to stop me, like, “You mucked this up,” and, “You’re going to hurt yourself,” while I’m flying around in heels, just being crazy.
COLMAN: That’s good. I think the world needs more people like you.
DELEVINGNE: Great! Oh, my god, I’m still trying to go for a Nobel Peace Prize, so that helps me there.
COLMAN: You might have to wait for your thirties or forties for that one.
“ARE MY EYEBROWS REAL? NO, THEY’RE NOT. IT’S a WIG. IT’S a TRANSPLANT. I HAD an EYEBROW TRANSPLANT. Cara Delevingne
DELEVINGNE: I’m aiming for an Oscar, a Grammy, and a Nobel Peace Prize. And maybe Prime Minister.
COLMAN: There you go. That’s gonna take some time, too. Maybe your late twenties for that. So can you think of anything I should ask you?
DELEVINGNE: Hmm . . . Are my eyebrows real? No, they’re not. It’s a wig. [Colman laughs] It’s a transplant. I had an eyebrow transplant.
COLMAN: They are kind of magnificent eyebrows.
DELEVINGNE: People ask me, “What’s your secret?” And I’m like, “You just don’t pluck them. It’s really simple.” I mean, I do, obviously, a little bit, because otherwise I’d have a monobrow, but it’s just about keeping them wild, keeping them free and woolly.
COLMAN: So you are your eyebrows: wild and free.
DELEVINGNE: Yeah, they have their own Twitter account with more than 700,000 followers.
COLMAN: [laughs] I’ve heard that. That’s very nice.
DELEVINGNE: They have their own passport too.
COLMAN: What questions do people ask you that make you crazy?
DELEVINGNE: “What is your fail-safe fashion item?” I don’t know, it’s just those questions that you’ve done so many times you’re just like, I’m repeating what I’m saying. I can’t handle it. It’s so boring. I’m so bored of looking at my face; it’s an issue as well. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I should change something. Get in trouble or something like that . . .
COLMAN: I read that you trademarked your name.
DELEVINGNE: I did trademark my name! Because people try to steal that shit, and I can’t be bothered to pay money to people like that. I mean, I’m really interested in doing my own onesie line or making some sort of—
COLMAN: Your own what line?
DELEVINGNE: You know, onesies? Like a jumpsuit. I have really good ideas. There’s a lot I want to do. Maybe a line of—I don’t know—toothbrushes, anything . . . Who the hell knows? I’ve got ideas. I used to want to invent things. That’s all I’d do, invent stuff.
DAVID COLMAN IS A NEW YORK-BASED WRITER, ARTIST, AND CURATOR.