Having eschewed the nerve-wracking world of the catwalk for a chance to make it on the silver screen, Cara Delevingne’s rapid rise has sometimes shrouded the real star behind the famous face. Now Delevingne appears to have finally settled in Hollywood – but her vast array of insightful ink reveal a woman who has struggled with the inherent intrusiveness of fame…
WORDS BY JAKE TAYLOR
Photography: loic venance/vittorio zunino/tony barson/getty images
As both the daughter of an extremely wealthy family and a former catwalk sensation who has recently become hot property in Hollywood, it’s fair to assume that Cara Delevingne would be the embodiment of confidence. In fact the 24-year-old is well known for speaking out about her struggles with mental health, and how her early career as a model may have relied on Delevingne exuding self-assurance, but in reality was just a mask to hide her insecurities.
“I’m a super nervous person,” she concedes. “I can’t stop speaking and I get all weird. I try to hide the fact that I’m nervous but actually it’s blatantly obvious that I am.”
It seems at last, however, that Delevingne has found her true home in the acting world. Having effectively retired from modelling last year, the London-native is now conquering the silver screen with major parts in a slew of recent blockbusters including this year’s most talked-about release Suicide Squad.
“When I was a kid I saw myself as an actress – even before I started acting properly, I was so ready,” she explains. “On every film I learn so much. In life I find it hard to be vulnerable so doing what I do has been quite tough. That’s why I love film so much; it’s about how to be a more open person with myself emotionally.”
And despite her struggle to adapt to the celebrity way of life, Delevingne is one of the need breed of stars who are intrinsically linked to their fans through social media. Just three years ago she was the most Googled fashion figure on the planet and the most re-blogged model on Tumblr. Typically contemplative, she thinks about the responsibility that comes hand-in-hand with that level of intense fan attention.
“I’m so lucky,” she admits. “I want to be a good role model. I didn’t know I was one until probably quite recently, but I just want to be a girl that other girls can look up to because when I was younger there weren’t enough strong female role models.”
Delevingne is now a part of a group of highly influential, international female stars, including pop royalty Rihanna and Taylor Swift, as well as fellow Suicide Squad-er Margot Robbie, who recently described Delevingne as her drinking buddy on set (who wouldn’t want to mess around in a movie trailer drinking shots with party queen Cara!)
As a catwalk icon Delevingne’s style is heralded by fashionistas everywhere and although she “likes clothes, just not all the time,” the most personal aspect of her repertoire remains her collection of tattoos – the first of which was done by New York’s tattooist-to-the-stars, Bang Bang, at the request of mutual friend and fellow ink-advocate Rihanna.
Delevingne went on to describe the meaning behind the design – a lion’s face that adorns Delevingne’s finger – in an interview in 2014 as part of the Toronto International Film Festival.
“I’m a Leo – I grew up being fearless in everything,” she told reporters. “I lost that sense of fearlessness when I started modelling. I lost that inner fire so I got the lion to bring that back in my mind.”
These days Delevingne showcases 21 separate tattoos, with most having a symbolic meaning behind their artistic merit. From lucky numbers (she has the Roman numerals XII inked onto her torso) to familial tributes – her mother’s name ‘Pandora’ adorns her left arm – it appears that Delevingne’s array of ink has been the easiest way for the often-anxious star to deal with her most turbulent emotions.
One of Delevingne’s more interesting designs is the phrase ‘Made in England’ printed on the sole of her foot. The words went on to become deeply entwined with Delevingne’s fashion career after being embossed on many of the products she designed in conjunction with Mulberry – but the original interpretation is descriptive of Delevingne’s awareness of the modelling profession.
“You’re looked through, you’re not looked at, you’re treated as a kind of mannequin,” she told the Guardian in 2014. “I got a tattoo saying ‘Made in England’ because I felt like a doll for so long – you kind of feel that you need to have no soul to do that job, really.”
This surprisingly frank admission from a woman who was, at one time or another, the most sought-after model in the world, is typically Delevingne.
“I go back and forth in my way of thinking, at times wanting to be completely open and wanting to say everything about myself,” she says. “Then there are times when you don’t want people to know certain things about you but my main impulse is to say what I think.”
However disparaging she appears to be of her modelling career, Delevingne is rarely, if ever, ungrateful for her incredible success at such a young age. After experiencing huge anxiety on the runway, not to mention difficulties reconciling her feminist views with some of the more sexually suggestive modelling she was asked to do, it appears the multi-talented Delevingne was always working towards her true goal of taking over Tinseltown.
“I’m glad that acting is my main focus now, because it’s always been my dream,” she agrees. “I had a great time modelling but acting is my passion and my love and has always been. Modelling was good practice, and they’re two occupations that are heavily interlinked, but it’s never been my passion. I’m living my dream which is extraordinary.”
Her recent role in Suicide Squad alongside some of the industry’s biggest names has left a lasting impression on Delevingne, in more ways than one. Calling her co-stars her “new dysfunctional family”, Delevingne was snapped behind-the-scenes on set being given a smiley face tattoo on the underside of her big toe by none other than Margot Robbie.
“I had the time of my life and I didn’t want it to end,” said Delevingne of her Suicide Squad antics. “It was like a non-stop party, an amusement ride with your best friends, and I didn’t want to get off.”
Considering the success Delevingne has already amassed in such a short time, and with three new films already in the pipeline, keep your eye firmly on the socialite turned silver screen queen.