It's not often you end up in a pub in east London on a winter's afternoon with an A-list actress — at least not in my experience. I have always loved Alicia Vikander, ever since I first saw her as Kitty in Joe Wright's production of Anna Karenina. I found the mixture of her direct gaze and spontaneity equally mesmeric and modern. But it was only when I spent a day with her on our April cover shoot that I, along with the entire team on set, properly fell for the Oscar winner.
The fact she is gobsmackingly beautiful in person, with a grace and ease informed by her early years as a ballet dancer, was of course a factor. But what really bowled me over was her warm honesty, wicked sense of humour and utter lack of pretence. Even a mortifying (and thankfully minor) electric shock from a heater was met with laughs and a shrug: not something one would expect from a cover star – or anyone, for that matter! She's the kind of girl you immediately want to be friends with.
Cue our late afternoon at the pub, where she drank straight tequila (my kind of girl) and talked candidly about her life: her pre- fame years working in a Levi's store in Stockholm, her time as an aspiring actress, her Ibiza wedding to Michael Fassbender and their recent move to Lisbon. Read the article to find out more about what makes her tick.
We all left the pub a little dazed and, in the case of the ELLE team, most definitely dazzled. We could all do with being a bit more Alicia and I can't wait to see her in her first action blockbuster, Tomb Raider, in which she stars as Lara Croft, a modern heroine for these new times we find ourselves in.
Directness and transparency are definitely in the air. The world is examining everything from sexual politics to the gender pay gap, demanding honesty and authenticity. The Wonder Down Under, a recently released book on all things vagina-related by friends and fellow doctors Nina Brochmann and Ellen Støkken Dahl, feels timely and important. In their joint feature The Vagina Dialogue, they explain why it's time to drop the euphemisms and start talking openly.
On the subject of speaking out, gossip is something we all like to indulge in. It can be bonding, useful and apparently even releases oxytocin, the love chemical. No wonder we do it! But it can sometimes morph into something less savoury. Liv Siddal's essay On Bitching explores the psychological highs and lows of gossip. Her view that 'like chocolate, cheese and coffee, bitching is one of life's pleasures best enjoyed in moderation' is worth taking on board in an age where information spreads like wildfire and fake news is omnipresent.
The world is examining everything from sexual politics to the gender pay gap, demanding honesty and authenticity
As proven by the women featured in her string of hit television shows, Sharon Horgan understands this balance. I've been a fan of her work ever since I first discovered Catastrophe, Sharon's brilliant comic exploration of contemporary marriage — warts and all. But it was Motherland that really clinched the deal and confirmed her as a true voice of our time. Her brilliantly observed and unflinchingly honest portrayal of motherhood is a must-see if you haven't already. In her interview, How To Be a Woman, she talks candidly about childbirth (my favourite quote: 'Do yourself a favour and get in there and take the drugs'), the importance of having a strong work ethic and collaborating with Sarah Jessica Parker on her much-acclaimed HBO series Divorce.
In the spirit of Sharon's comedy, fashion has a bold and honest playful- ness that feels so right for the start of spring, whether it's the wave of new swing skirts or the rise of Nineties pastels. Pop Art is also back — from Miuccia Prada's cartoon girls to fashion's renewed love for Warholia. And, for me, this bright, colourful new woman encapsulates everything to love right now. So go forth and step into the new season with confidence, taking inspiration from Coco Chanel: 'The most courageous act is to think for yourself. Aloud.'
The April 2018 Issue of ELLE UK is now on newsstands. Subscribe here for issues of ELLE directly to your door