IN IMDB YEARS, ELLE FANNING SHOULD BE APPROACHING her mid forties. She's taken on 55different roles (with a further seven films coming) since her first acting gig, aged two, in I Am Sam, alongside her older sister, actress Dakota. Of course, in reality, 18-year-old Elle's long résumé has created a teen with a depth of experience and wisdom.
As Harper Lee wrote, 'You never really understand a person… until you climb into [her] skin and walk around in it.' And through her work, Elle has done just that. She played a transgender boy in About Ray, a Disney princess in Maleficent, a politically awakened teen in Trumbo, a lonesome 11 year old in Somewhere, a narcissistic supermodel in The Neon Demon, and a young feminist in this month's 20th Century Women.
'When you get these parts, the women become a part of you,' she tells me over breakfast in her home city of Los Angeles. 'I was acting while growing up myself, so I'd feel older after each character.' Who better then to solve some of our life dilemmas?
We asked readers to submit their questions, and it turns out that Elle was born to be an agony aunt. 'Friends come to me for advice,' she says. 'I say it how it is. They know I'll be honest with them. There's none of that post-truth stuff with me.'
Elle is, perhaps, the teenager we all wish we'd been: she's kind (even to grumpy waiters) and looks entirely together at 8.30am in a black cashmere polo, midi skirt and Dr. Martens. She's the epitome of cool and has Solange's number in her mobile to prove it – the pair recently met, by chance, in a cafe in New Orleans, and Knowles insisted they hang. But it's Elle's spirit that's most enviable. She throws herself into everything she does with assurance, drive and unadulterated joy, even when that's plunging into a pool, mid-winter, for our cover shoot.
She's recently back from six weeks shooting Sofia Coppola's Civil War remake of The Beguiled in New Orleans alongside Nicole Kidman, with some life advice of her own: 'Nicole told me, "Find your tribe, and they'll always be behind you." I like that.' So lie back on the couch, Dear Reader, and take heed of Elle's wisdom.
I recently bought a cool vintage rock T-shirt, but I haven't listened to any of the band's songs. Can I still wear it? Or will people think I'm a loser if they find out? - JUSTIN BIEBER'S BIGGEST FAN
This is a problem I can relate to. When I was younger, I had a Ramones tee, and while I now know who they are, when I bought it I didn't have a clue. It was just a cute shirt. But here's what you need to realise: when you wear something, people are going to assume it's your favourite thing ever. And I remember someone asking, 'So do you love the Ramones?' and rather than admit that I didn't know who they were, I said, 'Sure.' But they kept on asking about their songs, and the lyrics, and I got busted. I'd say at least know who they are, and listen to a few songs. But hey, if it's a cool shirt and you like it, then wear it – but be willing to confess to what you don't know.
I split up with my boyfriend months ago but now I can't stop looking at his Instagram account. I check it about 20 times a day, it's like an addiction. I get so jealous but I don't know how to stop myself. - THE INSTA PROWLER
I was talking to my mum about exactly this the other day. It's so hard in this era when an ex is only a text away. Back in the day, they had to work up the courage to call on the phone, talk to your parents, and when you broke up you didn't see them again. But now, between Snapchat and Instagram, you can see everything – especially them with a new partner. But it's damaging, so you have to stop. I'd block his Instagram. I have high anxiety and I'm on my phone constantly, so I find myself comparing myself to others. Remind yourself that this is a fake world you're seeing online; you can make any situation look fun with enough takes – so maybe he's actually not having as good a time as he's making out.
I'm 24 and I've started a new job. The office is filled with loud, confident extroverts and I can't compete. I've always been introverted and like to work quietly, but I really want to succeed in my career. What can I do to make sure my boss knows I'm here without yelling? - A SHRINKING VIOLET
You're going to stand out more if you're different from everyone in the office and your boss will pick up on that. I've just finished shooting with Sofia Coppola and she's one of the quietest people ever, but there's a real power to her silence. When she just stares at you from across a take, you know you need to get the shot.
My sister says putting toothpaste on her spots helps. I've heard of so many ridiculous beauty hacks but I'm desperate for one that actually works. Any tips? - BUDDING BEAUTY JUNKIE
I've done the toothpaste thing after desperately googling how to get rid of a spot. I have seriously sensitive skin and, because it's so white, you see every blemish. Make-up wipes can really irritate it so I use grape seed oil to cleanse. It works, and it's super cheap. My grandmother, Mary Jane, who lives with me and my parents, is who I go to for beauty advice. She doesn't even put the bins out without her full makeup on, and still covers her body in talcum powder every single night. I think it's also good to spend a week without any make-up; it's easier said than done, but Alicia Keys is doing it.
I came out as gay when I was 15. I'm from an open-minded family and at school I met a gang of queer kids who have become my best friends. Now I'm in my final year of university and I'm very involved in the LGBT society and my social life centres around the gay scene. But recently I've realized I'm straight. How do I tell all my queer friends I may not be one of them after all? -THE ONLY STRAIGHT IN THE VILLAGE
Your sexual orientation shouldn't matter to your friends. Plus, it doesn't mean you can't be involved in the campaigning element of the LGBT movement. While I was preparing for my role in About Ray, I spoke to a lot of young trans boys, who were some of the bravest people I've ever met. I also learned it's an incredibly accepting community.
My friends are obsessed with eating 'clean' and exercising every day. I eat fine, and do a bit of yoga, but I assume they are judging me. When I'm with them I feel gross and lazy, and it's getting me down. I could start being more like them but the truth is their lifestyle just bores me! What should I do? - THE GIRL WHO ALWAYS ORDERS THE FRIES
My mum always says if you exercise, you can eat what you want. I'll go through spurts where I try to eat well but I was just in New Orleans – as if you're going to be there and not eat the beignets [doughnuts]! It's about finding an exercise you enjoy. Some pilates classes bore me, but I love ballet and recently got into kick boxing with music. Find what exercise works for you, and then eat everything in moderation.
I'm 30 and I've been with my boyfriend for four years. He keeps dropping hints about rings. I love him but I can't see why people still get married in 2017. We've spent the past three summers going to weddings and while they were fun, it feels like a waste of time and money. Do I just accept the proposal? - AN UNWILLING BRIDE
Tell him! He might be thinking that's what he should do because it's what he sees happening around him. You don't have to be married – look at Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, they're amazing. The main thing is that you love him, so I think you'll both be happy, ring or no ring.
My friends are on every social media platform, sharing their whole lives from what they eat for breakfast to late-night selfies with pets. I feel uncomfortable sharing so much but I feel left out. Should I just join them? - THE RELUCTANT OVER-SHARER
I recently turned my Instagram public on my 18th birthday, but I still don't post everything I do, and I'm not on Twitter or Facebook. You have to leave a little mystery. With old movie stars, all you saw were rare interviews where they only shared what they wanted to – that's what made them so interesting. You could separate the characters from the women, so if you watch them on screen you're not thinking about what they had for breakfast. If you don't feel comfortable sharing, then definitely don't do it.
I have a friend who seems to copy my entire style. Anything I buy, she buys exactly the same thing a week later. I know they say imitation is the biggest form of flattery but I'm finding it really annoying. - FRUSTRATED MUSE
Rather than you both spending the money on the same items, why don't you offer to lend her a few pieces and borrow some of hers. Me and my friends share a lot of each other's clothes. Growing up with an older sister, I would sneak in and borrow all of her clothes. Once she was in another country shooting a film so I thought I was safe and then paparazzi busted me, and the pictures ran online. I was in, like, a head-to-toe look of her stuff and she texted me being so mad.
Why are there a whole bunch of girls out there (including myself), who are consistently attracted to difficult types, while all the nice people in my life get a one-way ticket to the friend zone? Am I doomed? - LOST IN LOVE
In a movie I've just finished filming, 20th Century Women, my character has a male best friend who loves her but she just doesn't feel the same way. We're drawn to the complicated ones that we think we can fix. But I'm a big romantic so I think when the right person comes along, you will know. And maybe you have to go through the bad-guys stage in order to find 'the one'.
I still live in the town where I was born. I have always dreamed big, but was reluctant to make changes. Over the years, all my friends moved away, but I stayed. I have a well-paid job and financial security, which seem hard to give up for something new. What should I do? - BIG DREAMER, SMALL TOWNER.
I get wanting to have stability and staying put. I love living in Los Angeles and I always say, 'I'm going to stay here for the rest of my life. 'But I was born in a small town called Conyers [Georgia] so I understand your need for a change of scenery. It seems like you have a nice life though, so maybe take a little break – visit those friends that have moved away – and then come back and you'll appreciate where you live again.
I'm 25 and I'm miserable at work. It doesn't stimulate me, and I spend all day fantasising about quitting but I don't have another job lined up. Should I wait to quit until I do? - A WANNABE QUITTER
You have to leave! I don't think you need to know what's next, but try to figure out something you aspire to do. And dream massive. We can make anything possible by working hard.
My best friends have a hyper-feminine dress sense but I don't feel comfortable in dresses. I love fashion, and I spend hours looking at magazines and blogs, but I always end up coveting clothes worn by men. I long to wear an amazing suit but I worry I'll look out of place.- SARTORIALLY SINGLE
I completely understand. Growing up, I had a different style to my friends. I never wore skinny jeans, and I still don't. In junior high school I wore bell bottoms, with a pink Opening Ceremony shirt covered in big birds, and platform sandals. I really stood out and got weird looks. It sounds like you have a great sense of style, so keep your unique self, and don't change it. All your friends will secretly love your confidence. And you'll probably end up with a job in fashion.
My mum has had an affair and my dad is heartbroken. I don't have the time to spend hours on the phone counselling him or going to see him every weekend. I'm too angry to speak to my mum, who claims she's in love with this man who is 20 years younger than her. How do I sort out this mess for my parents and not let it consume my own life? - THE PARENT TRAP
For ages, you think your parents can solve the world's problems. But they're humans going through things, too. There is a realisation as you become an adult that you have to take care of your parents, but you can't let it consume you; they are your family, and you should always be there for them, but explain that you need your own space.
All through university, I had a lot of friends, so I never had to deal with that Facebook FOMO. But I recently started a new job and I'm noticing people have 'friend squads' and it makes me feel even lonelier while I stay home alone watching Netflix. How can I make new pals? - IN NEED OF SOMEONE TO HANG WITH
I'm not someone that has a lot of friends. I see people who have so many friends and get really jealous. I have a good core of three or four who are close to me. But maybe call up a friend you do have and then go meet their friends. You have to take the risk to put yourself out there.
I want to tell my girlfriend I love her but I don't know when's the right time to do it? It's something I desperately want to say but I'm worried it's not going to get the response I want. - EAGER TO BE LOVED
I say I love you to absolutely everyone! I yell it all the time. So don't wait on them, no way. If you feel it, and it's a genuine authentic feeling, then just do it and it'll be everything you want it to be.