Today, that girl has returned to the city of her birth, this time as a sophisticated woman and brand ambassador for venerable French luxury cosmetics house Lancôme.
Emma Watson may be best known to her legions of fans as Hermione Granger, Harry Potter’s brilliant friend, but in the nearly two years since she said goodbye to Hogwarts, Watson has well and truly left her nerdy screen alter ego in her wake, cutting a stylish swathe through the fashion and film worlds.
Just as Lancôme embraces a fun and fresh new look with this collection, likewise Watson is enjoying her own style evolution; an individual taste she gingerly, and then more boldly, started exploring during the decade she spent filming eight Harry Potter movies.
“It took me three films to get Hermione in jeans, to get out of the robes with the tights and the itchy jumpers. Woo hoo!” she once joked.
But Watson showed the fashion world that she intended to follow her own star when, post-Potter, she debuted her famous pixie cut, earning her style icon stripes overnight. And she hasn’t looked back. Exercising her impeccable fashion instinct, she signed on to be the face of Burberry for its autumn/winter 2009 campaign, and again for its spring/summer collection the following year, this time inviting younger brother Alex to appear alongside her in the series of moody images by Mario Testino.
Watson added “designer” to her CV in 2011, teaming up with Alberta Ferretti to create a capsule collection, with a portion of the proceeds going to fair-trade clothing manufacturer People Tree.
Then, of course, there’s her relationship with fashion’s reigning impresario Karl Lagerfeld. “I love Karl Lagerfeld,” she gushes. “I worship him. I was brought up in Paris and my mum used to wear a lot of Chanel. I love the brand.
“Karl is an incredibly hardworking and talented man, and when you meet him you understand why he’s at the top of the industry because he knows what he’s talking about. If Karl Lagerfeld gives you fashion advice, you listen.”
Citing Kate Moss, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson and Agyness Deyn among her myriad inspirations, Watson says of her own style: “I’m a real Londoner. We have very grey weather in London and I think it encourages a very eclectic and crazy fashion sense. I mix high-street stuff with more high-end fashion and I love vintage. My mum has a great sense of style so I learn a lot from her, too.”
Despite topping best-dressed lists on a regular basis, Watson remains endearingly self-conscious about her personal aesthetic. “It’s quite stressful knowing that every time you walk out the door, someone is going to be giving you a very good look up and down, judging everything you wear,” she muses. “It’s intimidating; I’m hoping it’s not gonna take the fun out of it because it’s something I really enjoy. I always loved dressing myself; I don’t have a stylist.
“I want to avoid becoming too styled, too ‘done’ and too generic. You see people as they go throughtheir career and they just become more and more like everyone else. They start out with something individual about them, but it gets lost.”
Watson might enjoy the glamorous side of celebrity, but she’s adamant that isn’t what motivates her: “Free handbags are lovely, but that’s not what I see as the benefits of being famous. It means I can do things I really care about.”
In the aftermath of the billion-dollar success of Harry Potter, Watson chose a surprisingly low-key cameo as a lowly assistant to Michelle Williams’s bravura portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn as her next big-screen foray.
With studios clamouring to offer her eight-figure salaries to piggyback off her box-office clout, Watson followed up with another under-the-radar project, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, based on the book by Stephen Chbosky (who also directed the indie film), which explores teen angst.
Unfamiliar with a normal school experience after being homeschooled during her Potter years, Wallflower was a journey of discovery for Watson.
“I was very nervous about the fact that the other kids on this movie have had the experiences that change their characters’ journey in the story,” she admits. “Because they went to an American high school, they know what a prom looks like, and all these little details that I had no idea about.
“I was working too hard to be a rebellious teenager,” she laughs. “I’m sure when I hit my 30s I’ll go crazy. I’ll have this rush of hormones and madness.”
Unlike other young celebs, Watson has managed to keep her love life largely under the tabloid radar. Briefly linked with British rocker George Craig (whom she met when they both modelled for Burberry), she has also been spied with Made In Chelsea reality TV toff Francis Boulle and Wallflower co-star Johnny Simmons. However, her current love is fellow university student Will Adamowicz, with whom she was first publicly linked after they were snapped together at the Coachella music festival in California last April. They’ve been dating since late 2011.
“Relationships are complicated enough without having people write that you’re breaking up or getting back together or cheating on each other every five minutes,” reflects Watson. “Already, I’ve been linked with so many guys that I’m beginning to sound like a wanton woman!”
Having completed three further films since Wallflower, including Darren Aronofsky’s biblical drama Noah, starring Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins, her confidence continues to grow. Judgement Day is once more the theme, although this time strictly for laughs, when she plays herself in comedy This Is The End alongside Seth Rogen and Rihanna. Then there’s Sofia Coppola’s crime caper, The Bling Ring, with Watson playing a member of a group of fame-obsessed teenagers who infamously robbed celebrities including Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Megan Fox in 2008 and 2009. Inspired by true events, it begs the question of how Watson’s own child-star beginnings led her down such an opposite path to Lohan.
Like Lohan, Watson is a child of divorce but, unlike the troubled Mean Girls actress, her lawyer parents, Jacqueline Luesby and Chris Watson, strictly supervised their daughter on the Potter set and helped foster a love of learning in the young actress.
That desire led Watson to the prestigious Brown University in the US in 2009, later switching her English degree to Oxford University in the UK. (She returned to Brown in January.)
“I feel like I want a normal experience for a bit, just a little bit of normality for a while. I’ve managed to juggle studying and working up to this point, so I don’t see why I can’t keep doing that.
“I think to be a very good actress you need to be in touch with reality because you need to be able to relate to people who are living normal lives and being intelligent. Look at Jodie Foster, Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep! They all educated themselves.”
That said, Watson’s the last person to condemn Lohan in all her craziness. “I think it’s hard. I can understand why they go nuts with the level of interest in their lives and the pressure to be perfect – and they’re teenagers. And that’s what you do, you screw up. It’s really hard, so I would never criticise that,” says Watson, who turns 23 on April 15.
She doesn’t hesitate for a moment when asked what has kept her own life so grounded. “My family,” she replies. “They wouldn’t tolerate it if I got too starry or big for my boots. They’d tease me to death and it’s just not allowed.”
And while Watson steps into a new chapter of her life, she remains eternally grateful for all that Harry Potter has given her. “It’s become so much a part of my life that it’s hard to imagine now what my life would have been like,” she offers. “Sometimes I wish my life were simpler, but, most of the time, I feel like I’m the luckiest girl in the world.
“I guess I’m eternally going to be Hermione! My biggest challenge will be convincing people that I can be someone else.”Watson’s eyes widen when you ask if her parents’ divorce left her leery of love. “Not at all,” she insists. “When I’m older I’d love to be married. Success is meaningless without someone to love.”