From fashionista to film star, we follow the meteoric rise of Cara Delevingne.
It’s been another whirlwind year for Cara Delevingne, but, then again, every year since the 23 year old model/actress burst onto the scene could be dubbed a whirlwind. Just last month she was named the UK’s highest earning model (Forbes estimated that from 2014 to 2015 she earned a cool £5.7million), and in the world rankings she came second only to Gisele Bundchen. Aside from financial success, this year alone has seen the star lead catwalks across the world, front campaigns with fellow supermodel Kate Moss and star in one of 2015’s biggest movies, and she shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Not a day goes by when stories about Cara aren’t splashed across the tabloids or ﬁ lling up Twitter feeds. From pictures of her hanging out with her famous friends including the likes of Taylor Swift, to candid images she’s posted to her Instagram site, the world seems fascinated with Cara and her every move. Much like Twiggy in the 60s or Cindy Crawford in the 80s, Cara has the world watching her every move. So what is it that makes this young girl from London such an international phenomenon?
Born in London in 1992, to property developer Charles Delevingne and socialite Pandora Delevingne, Cara had a privileged upbringing, with many famous faces making an appearance in her life. Her maternal grandmother Janie Shefﬁ eld was lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret and her godparents are none other than Condé Nast executive Nicholas Coleridge and actress Joan Collins. Despite growing up surrounded by celebrities and those in rich circles, Cara has previously said that it wasn’t something she particularly enjoyed.
“I grew up in the upper class, for sure. My family was kind of about that whole parties–and–horse racing thing. I can understand it’s fun for some. I never enjoyed it.”
She may be a renowned party girl, but Cara has an air of maturity about her for her young years. Perhaps, it was her sometimes unsettled, albeit privileged background that has led her to be this way. Her mother Pandora is a recovering heroin addict, and Cara has admitted that growing up and witnessing the struggle changed her as a person.
“It shapes the childhood of every kid whose parent has an addiction. You grow up too quickly because you’re parenting your parents. I know there are people who have stopped and are ﬁ ne now, but not in my circumstance. She’s still struggling.”
Although her childhood may not have been entirely conventional, Cara attended good schools and began to develop a passion for performing arts, getting in to music and acting. It was these channels she wished to pursue when ﬁnishing education, so, it came as a surprise even to her when modelling was the chosen career path.
“I never really thought about modelling, it wasn’t something I ever wanted to do. I was always like, ‘I’m never going to able to act because I’m a model.’ “
The ‘accidental model’, as she refers to herself, had experience of modelling from a young age, when she took part in a photo shoot for Italian Vogue. However, despite older sister Poppy already being an established fashion model, it wasn’t something Cara had considered doing, until she was approached by Storm Management’s CEO Sarah Doukas, whose daughter attended the same school.
“I’ve been best-friends with Genevieve Garner, daughter of Sarah Doukas since I was five. Sarah saw me when she came to our school and Gen introduced us. I had never thought about modelling before, and it just happened.”
After signing for Storm in 2009, it took Cara a while to break into the industry, but when it happened, it happened quickly.
“The first time I walked into Burberry, the woman just said, ‘turn around, go away’.” But, finally, she met Burberry’s Christopher Bailey, who cast her in the company’s spring 2011 ‘showers’ campaign. In 2012, she walked the catwalk for Burberry at London Fashion Week and the world sat up and took notice. Suddenly a slew of other brands were keen to sign the model up to front their campaigns, and so began her meteoric rise to fashion fame.
Off the catwalk, Cara was making just as big a name for herself. Rather than just being seen as ‘the face’, she, being a prolific social media user, quickly drew in an audience of millions, who didn’t just care about what she was wearing, but were obsessed with everything from who she was dating to her trademark eyebrows, which earned themselves their own Twitter account. There was something about the model that people wanted to know more about. Many called it the ‘Kate effect’ – a nod to the phenomena surrounding Kate Moss, but, aside from their modelling careers and ‘party girl’ statuses, there were few similarities in the way the pair presented themselves.
Kate Moss had always retained an air of mystery, offering few details about her personal life, whereas Cara openly embraced the interest, providing fodder wherever she went. Gaining more Instagram followers than the likes of Lady Gaga, people of all ages were fascinated with her openness and wanted to be a part of the Cara club.
“Kate is incredibly open, but she chooses who she is open to. I’m just open, generally. But I feel that’s when you really connect with someone.”
There’s no denying that the world wanted to connect with Cara. In 2013, Delevingne was the most Googled fashion figure and the most re-blogged model on Tumblr, and she currently boasts almost four million twitter followers and near on 20 million Instagram followers. She was famously the first model to take a selfie on the catwalk, and her refreshing, honest ‘what you see is what you get’ attitude is what set her apart from fellow fashionistas. Stella McCartney summed up the Cara effect, when she said:
“The thing about Cara is that she’s more than just a model – she stands for something in her generation’s eyes. She has a fearlessness about projecting what she stands for, which is so rare. In a certain sense she’s brought back some of that energy you saw in the supermodel era, with Linda and Naomi. In our industry, people can be rather forced, not genuinely themselves. Cara would never pretend to be someone she’s not, and she’s not living her life for other people’s approval.”
Despite not seeking approval, it’s something definitely given in abundance to Delevingne. Not only by her millions of online followers, but by fellow celebrities too. Cara can count the likes of Taylor Swift, Ellie Goulding and, of course, Kate Moss in her close circle of friends, and even names One Direction’s Harry Styles as a pal. In fact, she’s so in demand that she’s caused other stars to fall out, so enamoured are they with Cara. Rihanna famously banned Rita Ora from a party of hers after striking up a friendship with Cara, (who was also friends with Rita) and model Karlie Kloss says:
“Cara can create that kind of jealousy because she can make anyone fall in love with her. But it’s misunderstanding her to think she’s just the life of the party. Yes, she’s the life of the party. But she’s extremely serious about her work. And here’s the thing: She is truly herself while being in the public eye – not easy to do.”
Almost from the instant she stepped onto the catwalk four years ago, Cara reached supermodel status. Brands fight to work with her – she recently became the female ambassador for luxury watch brand Tag Heur ( the brand signed her because she’s “the most disruptive It Girl of the moment”) and in the past she’s designed collections for Mulberry and even had a bag named after her, which she called ‘a literal dream come true.’
The fashion world was her oyster, but those early desires to act were still playing on Cara’s mind, and she began to be cast in roles – first a small part in Timeless,a drama for Sky Arts, but quickly the roles came flooding in. After a few small parts in films, Cara landed her first blockbuster – Paper Towns, a movie adaption of the John Green novel. The film, which hit screens this summer saw her star as Margo Roth Spiegelman – a wild teenager with big ideas. Her much anticipated big screen debut didn’t disappoint either. Even the critics who were waiting with baited breath to slam her performance and American accent didn’t get their day, as Cara was nominated for five awards, winning three.
With her acting career taking off, everyone wondered how Cara would juggle her screen time with fashion shoots. But, this summer Cara made a revelation – she was to quit the modelling world, at least for the time being.
A taste for acting had made her realise that, perhaps, that four year fashion whirlwind had been a bit too much, too soon. In interviews she revealed that at the height of her modelling career she’d been so stressed she’d been partying to excess and suffering from psoriasis. Rather than burning out or having a public meltdown, she’d taken the decision into her own hands and decided to focus on what made her happy.
“Being on set was like getting to relive school again, but happy. Trying to be an adult and be mature for so long, I’d kind of forgotten how young I was.”
Shortly after she announced she was going to be focusing on acting, Cara’s profile was removed from the Storm Management website, and although she was seen at New York Fashion Week, it was as a spectator rather than her fronting a catwalk campaign. She’s still done shoots – one for Mango with Kate Moss, and another supporting breast cancer awareness month through Stella McCartney, but these days you’re more likely to see her on screen than in magazine spreads adorned with handbags and jewels.
So what will Cara’s next move be? Whether she’ll be returning to the catwalks or releasing an album remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain – the world will be watching…