Cara Delevingne Says Concerning Paparazzi Images Led to Rehab Stay, Sobriety Journey: “I Was Not OK”

Cara Delevingne sparked widespread concern after paparazzi images captured at a private airport in L.A. last September showed the model and actress looking disheveled and acting erratically upon returning from Burning Man. Now, in a revealing cover interview with Vogue, the 30-year-old said she’s grateful for those images because it sent her on a path to rehab and sobriety.

“I hadn’t slept. I was not OK,” she told Vogue writer Chioma Nnadi. “It’s heartbreaking because I thought I was having fun, but at some point it was like, OK, I don’t look well. You know, sometimes you need a reality check, so in a way those pictures were something to be grateful for.”

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For the interview, conducted in late January, Delevingne confessed that she was four months sober after a stint in rehab late last year. “I’ve had interventions of a sort, but I wasn’t ready. That’s the problem. If you’re not face-first on the floor and ready to get up again, you won’t,” she said, adding that she came to the conclusion that she needed help. “I hadn’t seen a therapist in three years. I just kind of pushed everyone away, which made me realize how much I was in a bad place. I always thought that the work needs to be done when the times are bad, but actually the work needs to be done when they’re good. The work needs to be done consistently. It’s never going to be fixed or fully healed but I’m OK with that, and that’s the difference.”

The cover story — with styling by Jorden Bickham and photos by legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz — details Delevingne’s family life with attention paid to her mother, Pandora, who also suffered from substance abuse issues. “For a long time, I didn’t really put myself in her shoes. I just needed someone to be angry at and I was angry at her, but it wasn’t her fault. … The way that addiction took my mother from me was brutal, and it was brutal for her too.”

She started drinking and partying as a teen and reveals that her first experience abusing alcohol came during a family wedding at age 7. “I woke up in my granny’s house in my bedroom with a hangover, in a bridesmaid’s dress. I’d gone around nailing glasses of champagne.”

Her issues as a teen included crippling insomnia; dyspraxia, a disorder that affects movement and coordination; a mental breakdown; and “inadvertent self-harm,” she noted. “As a teenager, it just all came plummeting down. That’s also when I started drinking and partying. There was this need to escape and change my reality as I was hit with just huge questions: What am I doing here? Who am I trying to be?”

Of her wild times at Burning Man, Delevingne said, “There’s an element of feeling invincible when I’m on drugs. I put myself in danger in those moments because I don’t care about my life.” There were times she was covered in bruises that she couldn’t explain. “I would climb anything and jump off stuff … It felt feral. It’s a scary thing to the people around you who love you.”

Speaking of those who love Delevingne, the article quotes several of her close friends, including Margot Robbie and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and she said she’s close to her Only Murders in the Building co-star Selena Gomez. “We all have moments in our lives that we’d rather weren’t photographed and shown to everyone. She has maintained her honesty and vulnerability and is open-hearted about her life and her experiences — what more can you ask of a person who is living their life in a fishbowl?” offered Waller-Bridge. “There isn’t anyone like her in the world. She has been a rock-solid friend to me.”

Says Robbie, who grew close with Delevingne on the set of Suicide Squad: “We shared most of our 20s together and we were by each other’s side as we entered our 30s. I was literally with her the day I turned 30 and vice versa. I think it will always be that way — 40s, 50s, 60s. God knows what we’ll be doing on our 70th birthday, but the thought of it already makes me laugh.”

Delevingne credits a 12-step program for her recovery and a healthy life filled with yoga, meditation, additional workouts, eating three meals a day and a therapy regimen that also includes psychodrama. She also says “self-work” is the most important thing in her life today, with her career “secondary.” Still, she remains busy on that front with a new season of Prime Video’s Carnival Row and the Hulu docuseries Planet Sex. Her other credits include Paper Towns, Pan, Tulip Fever, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Her Smell, Life in a Year and London Fields.

“Before I was always into the quick fix of healing, going to a weeklong retreat or to a course for trauma, say, and that helped for a minute, but it didn’t ever really get to the nitty-gritty, the deeper stuff. This time I realized that 12-step treatment was the best thing, and it was about not being ashamed of that. The community made a huge difference. The opposite of addiction is connection, and I really found that in 12-step,” she said. “This process obviously has its ups and downs, but I’ve started realizing so much. People want my story to be this after-school special where I just say, ‘Oh look, I was an addict, and now I’m sober and that’s it.’ And it’s not as simple as that. It doesn’t happen overnight … Of course I want things to be instant — I think this generation especially, we want things to happen quickly — but I’ve had to dig deeper.”

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