Lily Cole Q+A: “My theme tune? The sound of nature”

The model talks making nut milk, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and the joys of her twenties. 

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Lily Cole was born in Devon in 1987 and, aged 16, was the youngest model ever to appear on the cover of British Vogue. She has acted in films including “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. In 2013 she co-founded the technology company Impossible.

What’s your earliest memory?

It was re-triggered the other day when I got stung by a bee on my foot. It happened when I was a kid, in the garden. It was much more painful in my memory than it was a week ago.

Who are your heroes?

Björk comes to mind; activists who have been brave in their own time, artists who have pushed the boundaries of their form.

What book last changed your thinking?

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, an inter-generational story about slavery and racism. It really brought home that when slavery was abolished, it was reimagined through the prison system.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Caroline Lucas. She is brave and I trust her. If I’m not sure how I feel about an issue, I’ll often look up what she’s saying about it, because I think she’s very considered.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Currently, the process of making nut milk. But I’m not sure you’d get many Mastermind questions out of that.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

The future – the optimistic answer, if you believe that things are going in a positive direction: fifty years’ time, 100 years’ time.

What TV show could you not live without?

Recently I’ve been watching a lot of Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act, but that’s not to say I couldn’t live without it.

Who would paint your portrait?

It’s the cheesiest answer, but I can’t help the first person coming to mind being Picasso. It would be so cool to have a painting by him, with a misplaced eye.

What’s your theme tune?

The sound of nature.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I had a teacher who advised me to doubt my convictions, to be open to alternative perspectives. In class, he’d say, “Yes, but…” Forcing yourself to think about the opposite viewpoint is a good way to operate.

What’s currently bugging you?

My mother is disabled. It has now become clear that a disproportionate number of the people killed by Covid-19 are from the disabled community. It is cruel and unjust.

What single thing would make your life better?

Having a consistent regime of yoga, meditation and eating well.

When were you happiest?

Towards the end of my teens and my early twenties. I was travelling the world and it felt open with possibilities.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

Musician. That’s not to say I’m particularly good at music, but I think if you focus on something, you can become good.

Are we all doomed?

No, that would be a choice. We have made decisions in the past few decades that are risky to our long-term survival, but to be doomed would be to accept that that’s the only possible future direction of travel, as opposed to believing it’s possible that, now we have data that suggests what we’re doing is not entirely positive, we can change the direction of travel. 

“Who Cares Wins: Reasons For Optimism in Our Changing World” by Lily Cole is published by Penguin Life

This article appears in the 14 August 2020 issue of the New Statesman, This house must fall

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