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What might you see in the girls’ bathroom on a night out? A gaggle of worse-for-wear teens posing together for an #OOTD selfie? Someone passed out in the cubicle after one too many Cherry VKs (aka the deadliest in the VK family)? Or perhaps model-turned-actress Gabriella Wilde having her polaroid taken by modelling supreme, Naomi Campbell? Despite the latter seeming like the unlikeliest option for a Saturday sesh in Spoons, it’s not unheard of, and it was actually under these circumstances that Wilde first kick-started her career in the public eye.
“I was introduced to [Campbell] at a party and she took me to her agent and they did some polaroids of me in the bathroom,” the 29-year-old actor tells me when we speak on the phone following her Wonderland cover shoot with photographic icon, Ellen von Unwerth. “It’s kind of a mad story that doesn’t actually bare any reference to my life.” After signing with Campbell’s agency at the age of 14, she did her first few shoots with the esteemed stylist Isabella Blow, whom she calls “a true British eccentric.” What followed was a modelling career that spanned the entirety of her teen years, ending when she decided to try her hand at something new and went to university to study Fine Art.
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“I didn’t really go into acting until I was in my twenties, which I guess is quite late! While I was studying I was asked to audition for a film,” she explains. “I didn’t actually get that film but I really enjoyed the process.” It wasn’t long before she signed with an agent and booked her first big gig: St. Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold. She took on the persona of Saffy for the role, one of the notorious “posh totties”, a natural casting given her family blood-line is one of aristocracy (she’s even a descendent of the first native born mayor of New York). Her role in the indie Brit-flick put her on the map, and she enjoyed success in The Three Musketeers, Carrie and Endless Love, starring alongside Hollywood elites like Chloe Grace Moretz, Christoph Waltz and Alex Pettyfer.
After giving birth to her first child at the age of 24, she moved out of London to the West Country, ready to take on her new role as a mother. “I was thinking about going back to work and how that was going to work with having a young child, and the film industry can be difficult with that,” she reflects. “And then Poldark came up, which films around where I live. I was already kind of interested in the fact that it would work with my life, and that’s hugely important to me because I’m a mother first and an actress second.”
Just as she was offered the part in the period drama, the socialite found out that she was pregnant with her second child. “It was a bit of curveball,” she giggles. Despite being pregnant, she took on the challenge and quickly became a fan favourite in her role as the feisty and headstrong Caroline Penvenen. “I think she is different to me but there’s a real joy to playing her, so it didn’t feel like a huge amount of work to get into character with her,” Wilde says. “She’s had a lot of up and down storylines and as much as it’s nice to have the really dramatic stuff, with Caroline I like it when she’s not so heavy because that when she really comes to life.”
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Playing powerful women on-screen and being surrounded by them off it — she cites her mother and sisters as her key role models — the importance of girl power is something that Wilde is passionate about. Recognising the need for equality between the sexes, especially in the entertainment industry, she tells me that she doesn’t subscribe to a “man-hating” feminism. “I love men, I have two sons, I think it’s about raising everybody up in equal measure and addressing where there isn’t equality,” she explains. “I think it’s far more empowering and exciting and optimistic to create the opportunities for women to show what they do and that they are just as capable and just as creative and bankable.”
She admits that her political agenda has been (pardon the pun) birthed from her journey into motherhood. “You become very blatantly aware of your children and the world that they’re going to grow up in,” she tells me. “I think some people engage from the get-go but for me the real turning point was considering what it is going to be like in 20 years for my two sons.”
Antiquated attitudes towards women are fictionally reprised in her role on Poldark, and she tells me that she utilises her “painful” corset costume as a source of inspiration. “You can’t really eat, you feel really restricted and so I think you get that kind of mental restriction and how women were treated and the place they held,” she tells me. Understandably after five years on the period drama, she’s looking to set her sights on new roles where the costume is a little less cinching. “It’d be great to do something in jeans and a t-shirt,” she laughs. “I’ve had such a crazy career and then having kids, it’s just kind of what comes and what feels right at that moment and if it’s with good people.”
Having ticked off modelling, movies and motherhood, it remains to be seen just how many more strings she can add to her bow — but if there’s one thing to take away from the rapid rise of Gabriella Wilde, a picture from Naomi Campbell in the bogs can set you up for life…
Taken from the Summer 2018 Issue; out now and available to buy here.
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(LEFT) Dress and rings and earrings DIOR and watch OMEGA Trésor
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Ellen von Unwerth
Daniel Martin at Bryant Artists using Goldwell
Florrie White at Bryant Artists. Nails Ami Streets using Dior Capture Youth Crème and Dior Vernis from Dior Summer Look 2018 Cool & Wave