#WCW: Oscar-Winning Actress, Style Icon, and Humanitarian Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett red carpet style
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When it comes to an actress of Cate Blanchett’s caliber – i.e. the highest caliber there is – it is startling to realize that she becomes so absorbed in her characters, so written into their DNA, that we know everything about the myriad people she has played and almost nothing about the woman herself.

She was launched to fame as Queen Elizabeth I, astonished the world with her chameleon-like performance as Bob Dylan, won over fantasy fans as icy elf queen Galadriel, and evoked pure terror as the menacing nemesis Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. She won her first Oscar in 2005 with her spot-on impersonation of Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator, and won again in 2014 as the bleary-eyed socialite stripped from grace in Blue Jasmine. She is possibly her generation’s finest thespian, and yet she is notoriously humble and extremely private.

Blanchett was born in 1969, and she and her three siblings were raised by her father – a Texan who worked in advertising – and mother – a teacher and property developer – in Melbourne, Australia. Comfortably installed in suburbia, Blanchett experienced a tragic loss when she was 10 years old, when her beloved father left for work one morning — only to suffer a heart attack and die later that day.

On a gap year abroad in Egypt, Blanchett met her destiny. Sort of. In an interview with The Guardian, she explained the origins of her career in acting, saying, “So I was in this fleapit in Cairo, which has probably long since burned down, called the Oxford hotel. They printed passports and money in the foyer. And this random Scottish guy came up and said they were looking for English-speaking extras, and that I’d get paid five Egyptian pounds and a falafel. At the time I didn’t have enough money to pay my room for the week. I went along and there was an Arab guy with a megaphone, like something out of a silent movie, and it was so hot and so boring that I left.”

Although nothing came of playing an extra in an Egyptian film, it did spark something in Blanchett. She returned home to attend drama school, where she soon landed roles on the Sydney stage in SophoclesElectra and David Mamet’s Oleanna. After coming to see her perform, her sister Genevieve remarked, “I can’t see you any more on stage – I can only see the character,” and the encouragement prompted Blanchett to consider acting as an actual career.

In 1998, Blanchett’s breakout role in Elizabeth landed her on every major director’s radar, and the actress proved adept at choosing ideal projects to exercise her onscreen prowess. A scroll through her long list of roles on IMDB yields a treasure trove of fantastic films and mesmerizing performances. She played a supernatural clairvoyant who uncovers a nasty secret in Sam Raimi’s The Gift, herself as well as her own cousin in Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes, a scrappy reporter-turned-love-interest in Wes Anderson’s Steve Zissou and the Life Aquatic, astonished audiences by playing 13 distinct characters in Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifeso, and most recently, the schemer behind a jewelry heist in Ocean’s 8.

Cate Blanchett is unrecognizable as a homeless man in the film "Manifesto" | Photo: Courtesy of Australian Centre for the Moving Image

Although Blanchett’s CV reads like a Who’s Who of directors, writers, and producers, her body of work represents an actress who is going about things part-time. That’s right, Blanchett tries to take as few projects as possible in order to devote time to her marriage to screenwriter and director Andrew Upton and their four children, Dashiell (16), Roman (14), Ignatius (10), and adopted daughter Edith (4). In fact, for 10 years, Blanchett took a significant step back from acting – only accepting the projects she was most passionate about – in order to help her husband run the Sydney Theatre Company. After a decade in Sydney, Blanchett and her family have relocated to Brighton, England.

Blanchett is also a passionate humanitarian, activist, and advocate for women. She is an ambassador for and life member of the Australian Conservation Foundation, and a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Recently, that meant traveling to Myanmar to confront the Rohingya refugee crisis. After an eye-opening visit to the perilous region that the refugees currently occupy – which threatens to be swallowed by a landslide which are common during the region’s monsoon season – Blanchett appeared before the United Nations to plead for the Rohingya people. In her impassioned speech, she called for the refugee population to receive full citizenship rights, education, and healthcare.

At 49 years old, Blanchett looks a decade younger, and is a regular fixture on the red carpet. When it comes to personal style, she is as experimental with her wardrobe as she is with the roles she chooses to play, and consistently favors avant-garde designs. As such, Blanchett has become an undeniably influential global style icon. Her bold sartorial choices have landed her on as many Best-Dressed lists as her acting skills have landed her award nominations. She tends to favor sharp tailoring, vibrant prints, and unexpected details, and she remains loyal to several brands in particular: Alexander McQueen, Armani Privé, and Louis Vuitton.

In celebration of Savoir Flair’s #WCW for the month of October, we’re taking a trip through Blanchett’s style file in the gallery below.

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