You may not know her name, but chances are you’ve seen Cara Delevingne’s face. The 22-year-old London native has graced the pages of Vogue and shot campaigns for Chanel, Burberry and DKNY.
She’s equally ubiquitous on the Instagram accounts of Hollywood’s most famous females. Look, it’s Cara and Rihanna partying on New Year’s Eve in New York! Check out Cara making goofy faces with Taylor Swift at an awards show! See Cara celebrating her first American Thanksgiving with Kate Hudson!
“When I meet people, it’s either a really f—ing bright spark or it won’t go anywhere,” Delevingne says over green juice in SoHo. “I think that’s what happened with Kate—we literally met and we were like, ‘Oh my God! We need to hang out!’ She was like, ‘Come over for Thanksgiving.’” You may also know Delevingne from a video of Reese Witherspoon attempting to pronounce Delevingne’s name at last year’s Met Ball. “I got into a bit of trouble because it went so viral, but not from her—it was, like, people’s publicists,” she admits. “I was like, ‘I’m sorry. I thought it was amazing.’”
After this summer, it’s more likely that everyone will know how to pronounce Cara Delevingne’s name. (For the record, it’s Cah-ra Del-a-VEEN.) The model is starring in Paper Towns, based on the 2008 novel by John Green (The Fault in Our Stars). Delevingne plays charismatic high schooler Margo Roth Spiegelman, who is quietly crushed on by neighbor Quentin (Nat Wolff). When she disappears, an obsessed Quentin sets off on an adventure to find her. “I think John Green’s writing is so special,” says Delevingne. “It’s a teen film, but it’s not bubblegum-sugarcoated. It’s real and it’s delicious. With kids, sh– doesn’t always work out. People die of cancer. People get heartbroken.”
The author is just as enamored with Delevingne, whose most notable credit to date is a small role in 2012’s Anna Karenina. “One of the things I hope will come out of this movie is people seeing just how talented Cara is,” Green says. “She is just a firecracker!”
With an invite to the Met Ball and a cameo in Swift’s “Bad Blood” video, it’s hard to imagine Delevingne being envious of anyone else, but she says that she too fell under the spell of her Towns character. “When I watched the movie, I was like, ‘I want to be that girl,’” she admits. “She seems so cool and carefree.” Towns was shot in the fairly quiet city of Charlotte, North Carolina, but Delevingne says that actually inspired more cast activities. “We were all staying in the same apartment building,” she reveals. “I was like a mom on set. I arranged trips. I found this place with waterslides. I just planned stupid things.” Delevingne developed a particular fondness for her costar Wolff. “He’s f—ing lovely,” she says. “I wouldn’t have gotten the part without him. I think it was our chemistry that got us the part.”
This may be the world’s first real opportunity to see her as a lead actress, but Delevingne has wanted to perform since she was growing up in the U.K., the child of property developer Charles and socialite Pandora (and the goddaughter of Dynasty’s Joan Collins). Even as a little girl, “I liked to cause a reaction,” Delevingne says. “I just liked being different. My sisters were big girly girls, and I was like, ‘I wanna dress like a boy! I wanna be different. I wanna be naked.’ I was a very feral child.” She began modeling at the age of 17 and became a fixture on the fashion scene, now counting Karl Lagerfeld as one of her pals. (The designer will occasionally text Delevingne photos of his cat.) “Fashion people are crazy, and I love them because I’m crazy,” she says. “And it’s a great-paying job. I was really scared it was going to hinder what I was going to do in the future, but actually it’s kind of helped.”
As her fashion profile rose, Delevingne also developed a reputation in the British press for being somewhat of a party girl, a description that she both confirms and denies. “I wish I could go out more, but I work every day,” she says. “So it’s like when I get a chance to go out, I’m not going to not f—ing go out.” She balks at any kind of labels. Her Twitter bio states, “Stop labeling! Start living.” That openness has led to her being linked in the media to everyone from Harry Styles to Michelle Rodriguez. Now there are reports she’s dating indie rocker St. Vincent. She won’t comment on that but does say that she’s “super in love. Love is the best!”
The actress is currently shooting the comic-book film Suicide Squad, about a group of infamous villains drafted into service as black-ops spies. Will Smith stars as Deadshot and Jared Leto as the Joker; Delevingne plays the magical Enchantress. And she just signed on to a Luc Besson sci-fi movie with Dane DeHaan. As far as career paths go, Delevingne is aiming for the big leagues. “I wanna f—ing Meryl Streep it,” she says. “I don’t know if that’s possible. We’ll see.” What if Streep’s career isn’t doable? “Angelina Jolie. You know? Ex–party girl. [Now] hardworking.” Well, as long as she doesn’t have to be the ex–party girl just yet.