Cara Delevingne on Retirement, Body Image and Sexual Harassment in Fashion

Model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne, who fronted campaigns for Chanel, YSL, DKNY, Burberry, Tom Ford, Topshop and just about every brand in between before “retiring” from modeling earlier this year to focus on her acting career, has spoken out about the truths of the modeling industry and it isn’t pretty. In an interview with London’s The Times, entitled “Cara and the truth about sex harassment in the fashion industry,” Delevingne, 23, details her struggle as a top model, including chronic stress, negative body image, and not feeling like she could say no to racy photo shoots.

Up until now, Delevingne, who was dubbed a mini-Kate Moss (signed with Storm Model Management in 2009 after being scouted by Sarah Doukas, who is also responsible for discovering and launching the career of Moss in 1988) and subsequently became so famed in the industry that models.com labeled her one of the “New Supermodels”, has not spoken about her so-called retirement. It is worth noting that she is no longer on the board of her mother agency, Storm, in London. She does, however, remain on the boards for Women in New York, Elite in France, and FM in Italy. She says she isn’t working, though: “I am not doing fashion work any more, after having, like, psoriasis and all that stuff,” she says. “Modeling just made me feel a bit hollow after a while. It didn’t make me grow at all as a human being. And I kind of forgot how young I was … I felt so old.”

According to The Times, “Almost from the get-go, she suffered from psoriasis. ‘I was working too much. I didn’t say no to anything, and that is obviously my own fault, but …,” she says. “It wasn’t just one show. It was every single show. People would put on gloves and not want to touch me because they thought it was, like, leprosy or something.”

Delevingne says she didn’t find much joy in being the hot girl of the moment. In 2014 alone, she covered more than 14 major magazines and appeared in over 20 ad campaigns. In 2013, she walked in upwards of 60 runway shows. “It wasn’t a good time,” she says quietly. “I was, like, fight and flight for months. Just constantly on edge. It is a mental thing as well because if you hate yourself and your body and the way you look, it just gets worse and worse.”

And on the heels of many, many allegations that certain photographers in the industry (namely, Terry Richardson) continually prey on models, The Times’s Shane Watson writes: “Pervy, male photographers and their creepy enabler stylists are one of fashion’s dirty little secrets.” To this, Cara says, “It’s horrible and it’s disgusting. [We’re talking about] young girls. You start when you are really young and you do, you get subjected to … not great stuff.” She’s on a roll now, eyes wide and intense. “As time went on, I got to say no to things I couldn’t say no to before. But, especially when I was younger, you feel like if you don’t go along with what people say, then you will fail, you won’t get a job.” Or be branded difficult to work with? “Yes, which is not true, and people shouldn’t feel that.”