Celebrity spotlight: Cara Delevingne on dyspraxia, depression, and kicking butt as an actress

By Julie Rawe

“Don’t worry, be happy. Embrace your weirdness. STOP LABELLING, START LIVING.” These are the mantras at the top of Cara Delevingne’s page on Instagram, where she has more than 40 million followers.

At 24, she is one of the world’s highest-paid models (and perhaps the only one with the word bacon tattooed on her foot). Her acting career includes 2015’s indie hit Paper Towns, 2016’s star-studded Suicide Squad, and this summer’s sci-fi epic Valerian, where she performed many of the alien-butt-kicking stunts herself.

She is also one of the small but growing number of celebrities who have spoken openly about having dyspraxia. (She’s in good company: Daniel Radcliffe and Florence Welch have also talked about growing up with dyspraxia, which is more often call , or DCD, in the U.S.)

Born and raised in London, Delevingne had a tough time in school. Writing was difficult for her. Taking tests was even more stressful. She started playing the drums at an early age to help burn off excess energy.

At 15, she began struggling with emotional issues that often co-occur with DCD. “All of a sudden I was hit with a massive wave of depression and anxiety,” she said. "I just wanted to dematerialize and have someone sweep me away.”

Therapy helped her get through those difficult years. She also took medication — and credits it with saving her life. She talks openly now about depression in part because she wants to help younger people get through it. “Being a teenager suuuccccks,” she said last year. “I somehow came through the other end.”

This fall, Delevingne — the same person who struggled in school with writing — is publishing her first novel. (She described Mirror Mirror on Instagram as a coming-of-age story about 16-year-old friends “who are all trying to figure out who they are and navigate the minefield of school and relationships.”)

Dyspraxia didn’t keep Delevingne from becoming a novelist. It also didn’t keep her from playing a futuristic action hero in Valerian. She mastered tricky choreography and savored the stunts. “To jump headfirst off of a side of a thing attached to a wire,” she said, “that’s like my favorite thing.”

How did she get ready for her role as an intergalactic crime fighter? Lots of boxing, running and a type of martial arts called Muay Thai.

“We trained every day. I’ve never been so strong,” she said. She prepared mentally as well as physically. “I meditated, I practiced yoga, I ate well, I slept a lot. You can’t embrace anything wholeheartedly without a clear head.” Good advice, Cara — unleash your inner Jedi!


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    About the author

    About the author

    Julie Rawe is the special projects editor at Understood.