Wouldn’t it be The Worst if I told you that Cara Delevingne learned a new language during quarantine, in between baking breads you’ll never taste and hand-stitching masks you’ll never wear, and that she’s now fluent in whatever it was that you failed, repeatedly, in high school?
Well. “I wish I could say I learned a language,” the nearly 29-year-old sighs from her home in Los Angeles. Because high-achieving Cara “spent a lot of time working on things” and had many wild dreams of all she would accomplish with her newfound downtime, but just like regular-achieving you and me, what she actually did looked more like, say, your average post-breakup existential crisis self-reinvention via hair dye.
“I don’t know, during the pandemic, I was envisioning…you know when you close your eyes and you feel like the woman you want to be or whatever?” she says. “I just started seeing this woman with long, dark hair.” (Notice the bronde she’s flaunting in this here magazine.)
Her past year-plus also involved a lot of “being alone and learning how to love myself and function and be a good friend”—the sort of stuff she “kind of wasn’t available to do” when she was working 24/7 in the Before. Now, in the Almost After, on a rare day off, she’s sitting in her sunny backyard (great Wi-Fi, fancy fountain in the Zoom background). She’d kicked off our conversation with an apology for being late; she’s just back from a photo shoot with photographer David Yarrow in Moab, Utah (where she purchased a collection of “amazing crystals”), and there was an L.A.-traffic-related delay.
Anyway, I say none of this—the failed quar hobbies, the dye job, the self-reflection, the traffic—to convince you that Cara is *really* like the rest of us. She is, after all, a capital-C Cool capital-C Celebrity—as in, that new hair was courtesy of Hollywood hairstylist Jamie Levin (did you think it was a DIY job?). As in, just wait until we get to the sex-toy part of this story.
Case in point: Cara worked hard while she was not-busy not-learning Italian. She filmed most of season 2 of Amazon’s Carnival Row (opposite Orlando Bloom) before quarantine, at which point she pivoted to launching solar-energy-powered vegan sparkling wine Della Vite Prosecco with her sisters, Poppy and Chloe. She designed a sustainable activewear line with Puma, along with a punchy unisex Pride capsule collection that benefited several LGBTQ+ charities. Oh, and she somehow retained her status as Britain’s top-earning model. Plus, she has plans: to direct (she’s already done a few friends’ music videos), to write scripts (she’s working on a couple of short films), to get more involved in activism (“being able to give back more, especially”).
Then there’s her biggest goal of all: orgasms.
Honestly, it’s not a new new goal. Cara grew up in and around London in a boarding school environment where, she says, masturbation was linked inextricably to porn, which grew boring after a while. In fact, it wasn’t until she read a particularly sexy essay in (ahem!) Cosmopolitan that she realized she could be turned on in other ways. The experience, she says, “gave me a different pathway into giving myself pleasure.”
And that’s something Cara’s been thinking about ever since early-adulthood visits to sex shops left her underwhelmed and unimpressed. Aside from a few feminist-themed outlets like Babeland, much of what she encountered in the storefront sex-toy market was seedy and vaguely…sticky. Penis straws, porn stalls, XXL condoms—“very phallic and very male-dominated,” she says. What little was available for women felt pathetic and like an afterthought. “I was like, ‘These little guys? Okay….’” None of what she saw offered more than what her trusty electric toothbrush already did.
So when Cara was eventually introduced, in 2019, to sex-toy entrepreneur Lora DiCarlo, it felt like fate. (For both women, their initial meeting, says Lora, was “kismet. It was like, ‘Let’s go change the world, shall we?’”) Cara officially joined the brand as co-owner and creative adviser in 2020, meaning she weighs in on everything from marketing strategies to product development—and so far, she says, it’s her favorite job yet. (Then again, “I keep saying everything is my favorite thing I’ve ever done,” Cara adds when she catches herself, about five minutes later, saying the same thing about her role in the upcoming BBC Three/Hulu docuseries Planet Sex. “That’s pretty good if you can say that about everything you do.”)
Later in our chat, we Zoom into a product meeting with the Lora DiCarlo team, where Cara is extremely, endearingly excited to talk about vibrators. Lora and the rest of the team are sitting around a table in a room decorated with a rainbow flag and a blue-haired Troll doll, and Cara squeals at mock-ups of her toys’ new colorways (metallic purple!) and offers various Zoom-friendly gestures of approval (thumbs-up here, golf clap there) to product upgrades like lower vibration settings (apparently, some customers have complained of orgasming “too fast”).
Where the sex toys of yesteryear were simultaneously bulky and girlish, with clitoral stimulators designed, for some reason, to look like rabbit ears or dolphins, Lora DiCarlo’s products are sleek and minimalistic—think Apple or Tesla, says Cara—and range from $95 to $290. “I’m like a kid at the candy shop,” she says of the new collection. “That’s my job—to test out sex toys. That is the coolest thing ever.” Yeah, no argument here.
And if you can’t be Cara, you might as well be one of her friends. Soon after joining forces with Lora, Cara sent out boxes upon boxes of vibrators as holiday gifts.
Word spread fast. “It’s really funny when people I haven’t spoken to in so long will hit me up and be like, ‘Hey, can I get a sex toy?’” she says. “We’re not even friends anymore. What are you talking about?” One friend recently texted her a single word, which Cara performs in perfect breathless appreciation: “Baci.” The Baci, one of Lora DiCarlo’s most popular products (and Cara’s personal favorite), is a powerful clitoral massager that looks like a futuristic peephole—the kind of toy designed to simulate stroking and sucking at the same time. It also serves to correct what Cara sees as the sex-toy industry’s catering to cis straight men. “When we met in person to discuss which type of product Cara would like to make, she furrowed her brow and said, ‘Well, what kind of product do people need?’” explains Lora. “She’s fun and carefree, but she wants to see us leave the world better than it was when we arrived.”
The last time Cara was in the news for a sex toy—yes, there was a last time—it was an all-caps Daily Mail headline announcing her purchase of a “SEX BENCH” with then-girlfriend Ashley Benson. The pictures of them carrying the SEX BENCH into their West Hollywood home lit up queer women’s group texts everywhere, including my own. There was something so joyful in watching two famous, beautiful women giggle as they schlepped sex equipment into their house. (“It was heavy,” Cara admits.) It remains rare for women as famous as Cara to be out and openly dating other women—rarer still to see the actual sex part of their sexuality made so boldly conspicuous.
“The picture is hysterical,” says Cara, two years later. And sure, it’s funny now, but it did lead to security concerns (the front of her house was suddenly identifiable) and even break-ins. Eventually, she had to move out. And yet, for the most part, she says she still feels better able to shield herself and live her life in Los Angeles as opposed to her native England, where the tabloids and paparazzi are “so fucking mean.”
It’s that complicated situationship Famous People Who Are Role Models have with said fame: Cara wants to be the aspirational representation she needed growing up, but that collides with wanting to be free of the smothering downsides of being a public figure. Take, for instance, when Cara came out as pansexual and gender-fluid a little over a year ago. It was because those were the best words available to describe who she is, she says, but that’s not to say the best-fitting words won’t change. “I just feel like such a fluid person, and if I ever say that I’m anything, it will just stick, which I don’t like,” she explains.
In the tabloids, Cara is something of a lesbian Lothario figure, willing and able to seduce every famous, beautiful woman she meets. (“It’s flattering, but it’s not true,” she says.) While she avoids reading press about herself, what she does see sometimes irks her. “People constantly assume that any woman I’m standing next to or photographed with must be someone I’m dating, which has been challenging—not only on me but also on them. It makes me want to become more of a hermit and isolate myself, which is horrible because I’m a person that loves to be around people.”
As an ex, Cara is careful to speak only for herself. Which might be why she remains friends (or at least friendly) with all her past partners, including Ashley, from whom she split sometime in spring 2020. “I don’t feel like I’ve ever left a relationship so fucked up that it’s been like, ‘I never want to speak to that person again,’” she says. “I just love all the people I was ever with and want the best for them, you know what I mean? I want to see them grow, see them happy.” She doesn’t get into specifics about her breakup with Ashley, but she does acknowledge that the stress (and perhaps the claustrophobia) created by COVID-19 lockdown presented a—okay, fine—truly relatable challenge. “It was the most trying time,” she says. The kind that “really makes or breaks you.”
It’s hard to say what’s worse: struggling to maintain a romantic relationship throughout a pandemic (not everyone needs this much time alone together) or getting over a breakup in one. Isolation “made me deal with it more, which was harder,” she says. “Or better. I don’t know. Everything is magnified in a pandemic.”
Which brings us back to that self-reinvention and the work Cara’s been doing on the stuff you can’t really see. “It’s taken a lot longer than I thought, but I feel like I’ve definitely found a better understanding of true happiness on my own than I ever have before,” she explains. That’s not to say she’s not excited for her next great love. Regardless of whether “institutional” marriage is in the cards, she likes the idea of a long-term partnership and “100 percent” wants kids. And she’s down to approach it all in her trademark open-minded, willing-to-get-into-trouble-to-find-it way.
Like, lots (and I mean lots) of public figures would’ve responded very differently to that “SEX BENCH” headline, but Cara went right out and put her name on a vibrator company. And so far—despite the headlines, the security concerns, the assumptions about her personal life—it’s been totally worth it. “I’m so grateful,” she says. And then, with a laugh: “I will walk out with many sex benches as a means to continue doing what I do.”
Editor: Jen Ortiz. Fact-checker: Jennifer Geddes. Copy editor: Briehn Trumbauer. Stylist: Cassie Anderson. Hair: Mara Roszak at A-Frame Agency. Makeup: Molly Stern at A-Frame Agency. Manicure: Thuy Nguyen at A-Frame Agency. Visual director: Kristin Giametta. Creative director: Andy Turnbull. Digital creative director: Abby Silverman. Entertainment director: Maxwell Losgar. Floral design: The Petal Workshop. Props: Andy Henbest at Art Department. Production: Crawford & Co Productions. Videographer: Russell Ferguson. Video editor: Amanda Evans.
Fashion credits: Black-and-white look: Brandon Maxwell bodysuit and pants. Gianvito Rossi heels. Dior Fine Jewelry ring. Bra top look: Fleur du Mal bra. Wolford fishnet tights. Puma x Cara Delevingne shorts. Dior Fine Jewelry earrings. Close-up with flowers look: Khaite dress. Dior Fine Jewelry ring. Black dress look: Versace dress and sandals. Dior Fine Jewelry earrings. Floral look: Gucci blazer. Pantsuit look: Officine Générale jacket and pants. Dior Fine Jewelry ring.