If you’re one of the 1.8 million people on Instagram who follow Lily Collins – rising Hollywood star, Lancôme ambassador and face of its Advanced Génifique serum – you’ll know she’s the philosophical type.
Yes, the 26-year-old posts her fair share of party selfies from the Met Ball and other celebrity bashes. But she has a more thoughtful side too.
A snap of a zigzag-patterned carpet allows a moment for Lily to muse on how life isn’t always linear, while a photo of a lizard comes complete with the caption: ‘No matter how big or small the path is, there’s always room to share your journey.’
It’s no social-media affectation: when I call the Love, Rosie star at home at 9am Los Angeles time, she’s considered, serious-minded and reflective, despite having only been awake for 15 minutes.
She ponders questions carefully, before answering in a surprisingly full-on American accent that disguises the fact that she’s half British.
Her father is 1980s pop megastar Phil Collins and her mother was his second wife Jill Tavelman, a Californian who runs an antiques shop near Lily’s West Hollywood apartment.
Her parents divorced when Lily was six and mother and daughter moved from West Sussex to LA.
Lily, however, still identifies as coming from these shores: ‘I consider myself more British than American. When I land in the UK, I feel more relaxed, as if I’m home.’
When it comes to health and fitness though, Lily is LA all the way, eating ‘fresh and clean’ and working out five days a week.
‘There’s a big athletic scene here and lots of health-conscious restaurants.
‘I’m meeting some friends later for a dance cardio class.
‘I also like going to the gym to run or cycle, and I went for a hike at the weekend. I love being active.’
Lily is very aware of the importance of great skincare and swears by Lancôme Advanced Génifique: ‘I have pale skin and redness shows up – this serum helps even my complexion and doesn’t leave an oily residue.’
Pre-workout, though, she’s make-up-free apart from a dash of Lancôme Hypnôse mascara and a swipe of lip balm, although she knows she’s highly likely to get papped when she leaves her apartment.
Does she feel the need to be photo-ready at all times?
‘Every day, there’s at least one person following me [to take photographs]. It’s bizarre because I’m not doing anything interesting – I’m going to the carwash or getting a smoothie,’ she says.
‘But I don’t want to let it influence how I live my life. I don’t have the time or energy to be constantly put-together. I’m not going to be 100 per cent all the time, but that’s real life.’
Lily believes growing up around her father’s fame has helped her to navigate her own burgeoning celebrity.
‘When I was younger I saw that this business came with pros and cons. You need to have the ability to show and share as much as you feel comfortable with, but at a certain point – such as with the paparazzi – your life can get infiltrated.
‘What I learned from my family is that if this is truly what you love to do, everything has a cost.’
Lily is a grafter. ‘School and grades were important to me, and through high school I always knew what I wanted to do,’ she says.
After appearing in plays and musicals as a child, she began auditioning for movies as a teenager, while enjoying success as a model for fashion magazines and carving out a fledgling career as a journalist, writing for Elle Girl and Teen Vogue.
After starting a journalism degree at the University of Southern California, she quit to focus on film.
At 20 she got her big break playing Sandra Bullock’s daughter in 2009’s Oscar-nominated box-office hit The Blind Side.
She played Snow White opposite Julia Roberts’s evil queen in Mirror Mirror in 2012, and in the following year landed the lead in the fantasy adaptation The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
But most Brits will know her best as the lead in last year’s home-grown romantic comedy Love, Rosie. In the film, Lily and Hunger Games actor Sam Claflin play childhood best friends who, over the following decades, never quite manage to get it together…or do they? Based on a Cecelia Ahern novel, it examines the concept of soulmates.
Lily says of Rosie: ‘I’m so similar to her and felt her struggles.’
Does she believe everyone has a soulmate out there?
‘I believe everyone comes into your life for a reason. And whether or not they’re “the one”, they teach you something.
‘You can connect with people on a level you never expected.’
She doesn’t refer to him directly, but Lily is currently dating Jamie Campbell Bower (her co-star in The Mortal Instruments), who is playing football coach Joe in the West End production of Bend It Like Beckham.
Despite their busy schedules, the two get together when they can. Someone who Lily does talk about a lot, though, is her mother. They’re clearly close, with Lily valuing her guidance.
‘She’s encouraged me to do everything with an open mind and inner confidence – and to experiment,’ says Lily.
‘She’s also told me that the quirky things that make you different are what make you beautiful.
‘She encouraged me to embrace the parts of myself that I could have felt insecure about.
‘When I was young, kids would say things about my eyebrows and I became self-conscious and tried to pluck them. My mum would say: “Yes, your eyebrows are different, but they’re going to become something you grow to appreciate.”’
Of course, mum always knows best: these days Lily is up there with model Cara Delevingne in the most-admired eyebrow stakes.
And she loves experimenting with new looks for the red carpet: ‘People get to see different sides of you. At the premiere of Love, Rosie in Rome, I wore a purple ombré Elie Saab gown, so make-up artist Polly Osmond and I went with a deep purple lip, using Lancôme L’Absolu Velours in Violine; for the eyes, we used the beautiful Hypnôse Drama Eyes Palette in Violet Magnetique, along with the Doll Eyes mascara and Artliner.
‘And we went for a very elegant, old Hollywood finger-wave hairstyle. Another major moment for me was the 2013 Met Ball.
‘It was punk-themed and my first time working with make-up artist Molly Stern. She gave me full-on crazy make-up, which I loved.’
Earlier on in her career, Lily was, understandably, not keen to talk endlessly about her father. But now she’s a star in her own right, she seems more relaxed about this. What has she learned from him, I ask?
‘He’s always said when something of yours comes out into the world, don’t focus on reviews.
‘For every good one you find, there’ll be three bad ones. But you’re not doing it for the critics, you’re doing it for the fans and for yourself.
‘You’re not always going to make something that everyone will love, but if you can reach the people you wanted to reach, or if you have learned a lot, then that’s what it’s all about.’
She has four half-siblings – elder sister Joely, 43, and brother Simon, 39, from Phil’s first marriage to Andrea Bertorelli, and two younger brothers, Nick, 14, and Matt, ten, from his third to Swiss translator Orianne Cevey – and is effusive about her large blended family.
‘It is amazing when you have siblings from different parents,’ she says.
‘We all keep in touch, although it’s been a while since all of us got together.
‘My sister lives in Canada and has the most adorable daughter; my eldest brother is in England and my two little brothers live in Miami, so we’re all spread out. But I try to go on holiday every summer with my younger brothers and our dad, so I can spend time with them. I love being an elder sister.’
Next up, Lily plays the lead in an as-yet-untitled movie directed by Warren Beatty, which is set in 1950s Hollywood and focuses on the later years of Howard Hughes (played by Beatty himself).
She’s also undertaking her Lancôme duties and promoting anti-bullying organisation Bystander Revolution.
Long-term, she has motherhood in her sights: ‘I would love to have a family. And I don’t ever want to get bored of all this. I want to stay excited and enchanted by everything.’
But for now, Lily is taking a laid-back approach, despite being on the verge of A-list fame.
‘I’ve always said that everything happens for a reason, and my motto this year is patience.
‘When I have a moment to breathe I wonder, “Why am I not busy?” But I don’t need a plan. Let it be, and let time do its thing.’
As I said, she’s a philosophical sort.
Published on August 31, 2015
Lily Collins tells us how her famous father Phil prepared her for the glare of the celebrity spotlight