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5 Models Who Pursued Acting Careers

These stunners prove they’re more than just a pretty face.
5 Models Who Pursued Acting Careers
IMAGE INSTAGRAM/joansmalls, caradelevingne, wnly00
These stunners prove they’re more than just a pretty face.

Models going from magazines to film and television isn’t new. Surely you’ve heard the likes of Uma Thurman, Brooke Shields, Milla Jovovich, Rebecca Romijn, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, just a few of the actresses who started out gracing magazine spreads and starring in ad campaigns before hitting the big screen. Here are a few more to add to the list!

Cara Delevingne

A young Cara Delevingne appeared in Vogue Italia when she was just 10 years old. At 16, she dropped out of boarding school to follow the footsteps of her older sister Poppy and get into modeling. She continued to front magazines and be the face of numerous brand campaigns including Burberry, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent until 2015 when she started to pursue her real love: acting and music.

Though her first major film appearance was headlining the movie adaptation of John Green’s Paper Towns as Margo Roth Spiegelman opposite Nat Wolff, it was in 2012 when she made her big screen debut with a quick cameo in Anna Karenina. She caught the attention of critics with her performance in the film The Face of an Angel, inspired by the Amanda Knox case.


She has taken a hiatus from modeling and has appeared in several movies such as Pan, Suicide Squad, and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets since then. This year, she joins Amber Heard, Johnny Depp, Jim Sturgess, Theo James, Billy Bob Thornton in London Fields and Jaden Smith in Life in a Year. She also makes her small-screen debut opposite Orlando Bloom in Amazon Prime Video’s Carnival Row next year.

Lily Cole

Lily Cole, whose first appearance was also in Vogue Italia, was discovered by a modeling scout in London when she was 13. She walked the runway for countless of of brands and graced the cover of fashion magazines. When she was 16, she appeared in a short film Phantasmagoria directed by Marilyn Manson. She starred as Valentina in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. She also directs her own shorts including Lights in Dark Places, produced with Vice and Help Refugees about the refugee crisis in Greece.


These days she runs a social enterprise called Impossible, a website where people can exchange services and skills for free. It has evolved into an ethical online store, a print magazine, and innovation hub that uses tech for problem solving. She still has acting projects including London Fields set for release later this year. Her latest directorial project is a short film inspired by Emily Bronte’s foundling Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. Cole’s appointment as creative partner of Bronte Parsonage Museum sparked a row with a Bronte biographer society member, questioning the decision and her merit earlier this year.

Gemma Ward

The 30-year-old Australian was one of the top models in the 2000s. She was the youngest model to be on the cover of Vogue when she was just 16. She tells i-D that she loved acting at a very young age. She says, “When I was little I would put on plays and I made my parents get me an agent when I was seven. From that point I did some commercials and various jobs. I just loved my acting classes and being onstage and the freedom I felt.” Some of Ward’s film appearances include The Strangers, Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides, and The Great Gatsby.


Brooklyn Decker

The model is most remembered for her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover in 2010. Brooklyn Decker tells CNBC, “The cover of Sports Illustrated is the pinnacle of everything you would want in that profession and specifically at the time that I got it.” But modeling wasn’t something she was looking to do forever. In fact, she only got into it so she could put herself through college, which she eventually put off after her modeling career took off.

After booking the SI cover, she pursued an acting career. Though not all of her projects were a success, she landed roles in movies like Just Go With It, Battleship, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. You can now watch her on the four-season strong series Grace & Frankie, with its fifth season premiering in 2019. Apart from a very active TV career, the mother of two (she’s married to Andy Roddick) is also an entrepreneur, recently launching an app that helps you solve that age-old problem of having “nothing to wear.”


Joan Smalls

The Puerto Rican supermodel made her film debut in Netflix’s original movie Set It Up alongside Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell. And if you think that her appearance was a glitch in the system, think again. The model “with a perfect face”—the first Latina model to be the face of Estée Lauder—expressed her interest in acting as early as 2015, likening modeling to “silent acting.”

In an interview with Elle, she clarifies, “I don't want to act just because it's the typical move for a model. Everyone wants to be an actress, for God knows what reason! Fame, I guess.” She simply wants to entertain people on a different level. Though it looks like Smalls is not quitting modeling any time soon, it’s safe to assume that we just might see more of her on the big screen.