The Shakespearean-trained actress proved her star-power portraying 18th century aristocratic Dido Elizabeth Belle in Amma Asante‘s historical drama, and earned a Best Actress award at the British Independent Film Awards.
Then she wowed us again as pop starlet Noni in Gina Prince-Bythewood‘s Beyond The Lights. Though worlds apart, both stories depict women who are confined by others but eventually find themselves.
See what she had to say in a few interview excerpts below, along with her gorgeous Victor Demarchelier-photographed cover shoot styled by Nicoletta Santoro.
On playing Belle:
“Growing up and going to RADA [Royal Academy of Dramatic Art], so many of my peers go on to do period dramas, which is what we’re known for in the U.K. And I had all this classical training but, in some ways, nowhere to put it. It was fascinating to be able to do a movie like Belle—something period, with that Jane Austen feel, in which I wouldn’t be playing a slave or someone in a brutalized role.”
On becoming Noni for Beyond The Lights:
“The hardest part was being in the dance studio with no hair or makeup or costumes,with bare lighting, and Laurieann giving me twerking lessons and being like,’You need to grab yourself here,’ I had to watch myself do this in the mirror, and I think that’s something that separates an actor from a rock star or a model: Actors are constantly trying to forget their own image. So the hardest thing was looking myself in the eye and playing along with that flirtatiousness.”
On her style:
“In my daily life it’s about being comfortable. I wear a lot of black. But now, to promote these films, I’ve been working with a stylist. I’ve had some fun Cinderella moments in red carpet land. I love the Audrey Hepburns of this world, and I think Cate Blanchett is stunning and always nails it.”
On knowing yourself:
[via justjared.com, @_MagazineCovers]
“It’s important to know that it’s okay to be your natural self. It’s also okay to dress up and wear makeup and hair extensions if you want, so long as you don’t feel like you need that or will be worthless without it. The point is, it should be a choice.”