Former supermodel Lily Cole found fame at 14 and has gone on to launch a successful acting career. She tells Gabrielle Fagan what’s shaped her

LILY Cole's stunning looks - long red hair, piercing blue eyes and alabaster skin - projected her to supermodel stardom when she was only a teenager. Since then, she's starred in films including the remake of St Trinian's and with the late Heath Ledger in The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus. She runs her own skill-sharing online company,, is currently appearing on stage in The Philanthropist in London, and will shortly be seen in the title role in Channel Five's historical drama, Elizabeth I.

The 29-year-old, who has a 17-month-old daughter with her partner, Portuguese entrepreneur Kwame Ferreira, reveals seven key influences on her life:

1. Life as a supermodel...

"I was only 14 when it began. Although it was a fascinating experience, and great opportunity which allowed me to travel and meet creative people and gave me confidence in my looks, I knew from the beginning it would only ever be part-time.

"I had loads of other things that I was determined to do. I've always loved performing. I got the acting bug at six when I did a couple of short films, and later on I won a performing arts scholarship to secondary school. My work as a model was so visible and visual that it's had a tendency to overshadow other things I've done, but those who really know me, know there are other more important achievements in my life."

2. Turning 30 in December 2017...

"When you're a teenager, it's an age you think you'll never reach as it's 'so old', but now I'm looking forward to it. It feels like a milestone, but one I'm really peaceful and positive about, because I think it will be a full and busy version of my twenties. I feel I've achieved a lot in the last decade, with a rich life with diverse friends and work opportunities, and I'm looking to do more in the next decade. Like anyone, I have good and bad days, but generally I feel pretty happy with where I am."

3. Motherhood...

"When I had Wylde, the love was so unconditional that it totally overwhelmed me, and it's brought me so much happiness. She's changed my life significantly and made me more grounded. I can only describe her as a gift and an incredibly positive addition to my life. She's 17 months and so far, she's certainly living up to her name, but in a lovely, positive way. She's full of life, curiosity and is a very affectionate, contented child. Life's not about me now, it's about the responsibility of making her strong, happy and confident.

"She's already taught me a lot in terms of priorities and what's important - the fundamental values of kindness and looking after close relationships and family - and also helping me clarify what wasn't making me happy. That's why I made the decision to rearrange things so my work on my company is not so consuming, and I can focus more on creative work like acting and directing, and can spend as much time with Wylde.

"I don't have a fixed idea about whether we'll have another child or whether I'll consider adopting. I'm aware there are so many kids out there who could benefit from loving homes."

4. Juggling a career and parenting...

"Kwame's very supportive and a very good hands-on dad, but he also runs a sizeable company and we work together (on - it's how we met - so he's as busy as me. When I was pregnant, we had a conversation about how we'd share the parenting responsibility so it would be 50/50. For so many couples, it defaults to the woman, but if a woman's career is as important as the man's, that needs thinking about and addressing from the beginning. We do divide it, but it's not an exact science. For instance, I'm obviously doing 100% of the breastfeeding! By and large we try to strike a balance and try to call it out if ever one of us feels it's not level."

5. Focusing on health and wellbeing...

"There's room for improvement in how I look after my health and wellbeing. It's about recognising that self-care is important and if you look after yourself first and foremost, then you're better able to look after the people around you.

"I go to the gym and use the running machine - I used to think people who did that were ridiculous - but I've surprised myself by really enjoying it. I love yoga and pilates and every year promise to meditate more because it makes me feel so much better. Stupidly, that resolution only lasted two months and I end up only doing it now and again. I've been a vegetarian since I was 10 years old and eat as healthily as I can.

"Since I've had Wylde, I've caved in about having a TV - I hadn't had one since I was a teenager living at home - and now we have one at the end of our bed as it's so de-stressing at the end of a day relaxing there and watching box sets."

6. Books...

"Books have been important to me ever since I was little. I was a real bookworm. I even asked to play Polly 'the geek' when I was offered a role in the St Trinian's film in 2007 because I thought it would be a p**s take of my academic side and the fact I always had my head in a book!

"Going to Cambridge University [Cole achieved a double first in history of art] was another opportunity to bury myself in books, but as I was also working as an actor during that time, it was hard to fit in as much reading as I wanted. I'm still trying to catch up on all the wonderful books out there that I long to read. One of my real joys is being co-owner of a London bookshop [Claire de Rouen Books in Soho].

"I'm super-excited about being a judge for the Kindle Storyteller Award 2017 and hope it will give loads of people who might have a great idea, or have dreamt of becoming a writer, the opportunity to have a go."

7. The advice which most inspired me...

"When I was writing my university thesis, I interviewed physicist and mathematician, Stephen Hawking, and I asked him if he thought anything was possible. He said, 'Yes', so I thought he was a pretty good authority on the subject and I've believed that ever since, and it's spurred me on. That said, these days I also try to be mindful and live in the present, because it's so important to appreciate and be grateful for the moment and not always be chasing the next dream."

  • Lily Cole is on the judging panel of The Kindle Storyteller Award 2017, a £20,000 literary prize recognising new work submitted using Kindle Direct Publishing. Entries close May 19. Visit