Cara Delevingne is the consummate model slash. Model-slash-actress. Model-slash-singer. Model-slash-songwriter. Even model-slash-YA author. You could say she contains multitudes.
The 26-year-old has also been outspoken about her sexuality and not subscribing to labels. On social media she’ll post a high-glamour fashion campaign one day, and a video of herself bald and doing an impression of Gollum from Lord of the Rings the next.
At Dior’s recent Fall 2019 show, she attended in a pink, plunging, pleated dress with a long side braid. Delevingne posted it on Instagram side by side with a quite opposite look from the year before: Pixie cut, suit, and overcoat. “Which look do you prefer?” she asked her 41.5 million followers.
When we sat down with Delevingne at the Shanghai launch of Dior’s Stellar Shine Lipsticks, she elaborated that what you wear “doesn’t actually make you masculine, feminine. It doesn’t dictate where you stand on the spectrum of fluidity and gender.” She continued, “This is still me. I thought that wearing a pink dress made me a ‘girly girl.’ It’s not true. I can still wear a pink dress and have long hair and still not be a girly girl. [I] was playing with that: It doesn’t have to all be cohesive—You can be [wearing] no makeup, but wearing a gown, or full makeup and wearing a tracksuit.”
This attitude is woven into her latest gig as the face of Stellar Shine, a line of tinted gloss-balms. For the campaign video, she vacillates seamlessly between different personas: tomboy, rock star, Marilyn Monroe-esque siren. Aerosmith’s “Pink” plays in the background as she struts. “The song is actually about women’s vaginas,” she says, adding that the lipsticks 28 shades look near-edible, “Lipstick should be something you want to eat.”
Considering Delevingne’s openness to changing up her image—she’s tried everything from a silver painted shaved head to classic red lipstick and Hollywood waves—it’s no wonder she is such a big fan of other shape-shifters. She adores drag queens. When asked about about being a judge on an upcoming episode of RuPaul‘s Drag Race, she immediately lit up and gushed about bingeing all 10 prior seasons of the show, fan-girling over RuPaul (“an absolute icon”), and having to be “dragged out of there by my pigtails” when shooting completed. Delevingne says the show’s contestants “changed makeup.”
“Until you really are a fan, you don’t understand the depth of what it is, how talented those men are,” she said. “Some people think ‘Oh, they hide behind all this [makeup].’ Or it’s a facade. It’s like, no it’s an expression of how they feel. It’s an amazing art. It’s incredible. They celebrate femininity and masculinity in their own way and it’s just an amazing show.” Her favorite queens include Sharon Needles, Jinkx Monsoon, Violet Chachki, and of course RuPaul himself. “I’ve never been attracted to a man more, in drag,” Delevingne joked, “It’s confusing. I was literally like, ‘I fancy you so much. I don’t know whether I fancy you more as a man or as a woman—whatever that means.'”
Delevingne says she was never one to watch makeup tutorials or the like because she’s always been “a bit spoiled” by working with makeup artists, but watching Drag Race and Untucked opened up her eyes to “incredible looks.” She learned classic backstage tricks like gluing down eyebrows, which she wishes she had done instead of ever having to bleach her arches for jobs.
“I didn’t really understand makeup very much as a child, how it can be an incredible thing to use. For me, it was something more to hide behind or feel like someone else instead of really enjoying your beauty,” she said. These days, however, she is more interested in a “quite natural” look, think: glowing skin, defined eyebrows, nude lipstick, and a little gloss. The final touch? A healthy dose of her signature self deprecation.
“Sometimes I’m the most awkward person in the world in my body and my skin. Sometimes I’m far too confident,” she told us. “I think it’s a constant journey.”
Some of that journey is captured on Instagram, where she candidly posts about everything from behind the scenes shenanigans with Gigi Hadid during Milan Fashion Week to bidding good riddance to 50,000 followers after publicly condemning R.Kelly. These photos are sandwiched between polished images of her posing for fashion houses like Dior, Balmain, and Chanel.
“There isn’t much of an in between. I put up a selfie the other day, but it was a joke,” she said. It’s all an effort to be more real online. “On the way to the Dior show the other day, I was being sewed in my dress by three different men while trying put on a thong from upside down. I was like, ‘This is what people need to see.’ Because, most of the time it isn’t [you] sipping champagne and talking about how beautiful your foie gras was last night.”
“It is mayhem and chaos and crazy and, obviously, glamorous. It’s important to show all sides of everything. ” she continued. “Maybe not ‘This is me taking a shit on the toilet,’ but you know what I mean.”
Delevingne also uses social media to reach young people who follow and admire her—and hopefully set an example she didn’t have when it comes to supporting one another. “I think women need to be congratulated and celebrated more. I had a lot of friends that made me feel pretty bad about myself. [We] didn’t bring each other up. There were so many times I thought, ‘Oh wow. She’s beautiful.’ and I would never tell her.” she admitted. “Now, if I ever think something good about a woman or man, I’m going to tell her.”
She wants to continue using platforms like Instagram to have people feel more comfortable talking about different identities, and be more “honest about sexuality and fluidity in gender,” she said.
Expect more label-challenging and candor from Delevingne, whether she’s posting a glossy beauty campaign or a video of herself falling asleep, snoring, mouth ajar, as mascara is getting applied. “I think it’s important to express yourself,” she said. “I hope I can be an inspiration to girls who aren’t normal or feel like they [don’t] belong, because I definitely don’t a lot of the time.”