“I’m much more confident performing than I am in social situations,” says Cressida Bonas, whose haute-bohemian wardrobe, artistic aspirations, and distaste for the feverish British tabloid machine positioned her as the anti–Kate Middleton during the two years she dated Prince Harry. The 26-year-old actress is the star of a short film for Mulberry’s spring 2015 campaign and has a part in the upcoming period drama Tulip Fever, starring Cara Delevingne and Alicia Vikander.
As a child, Bonas, the daughter of 1960s It girl Lady Mary-Gaye Curzon, often made up stories to perform with her nine siblings. She went on to study contemporary dance at London’s Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and has appeared onstage in London productions like There’s a Monster in the Lake and The Importance of Being Earnest. But when she was introduced to Prince Harry by Princess Eugenie, in 2012, she took on her most trying role to date—that of a potential princess-to-be. There were multiple media reports of imminent marriage proposals that never materialized, but when the couple broke up last year, observers suggested that it was difficult, if not impossible, for a royal spouse to have an acting career. So it might not just be coincidence that, with the relationship behind her, Bonas has a promising future. And yet, she still worries that producers might want to exploit her celebrity status. “I do have to be careful,” she admits. “But I have good intuition and great friends. They wouldn’t let me make such mistakes.”