Is there an actor on earth more beloved than Dame Joanna Lumley?
The veteran star, who celebrates her 76th birthday on 1 May, is a true treasure. She is adored as much for her on-screen performances – including the incomparable Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous – and silky voice, as she is for her activism and philanthropic efforts.
Not only has she enjoyed showbiz success with a career that has spanned seven decades, the model-turned-actor has achieved both sex symbol and fashion icon status.
Here we look back at how Dame Joanna Lumley’s style has evolved throughout the years.
1960s: model in the making
Born in India in 1946, Dame Joanna moved to England as a child and attended boarding school. Having been rejected by the famous RADA drama school, she had no formal acting training and began her career as a model, working for three years, most notably with fashion photographer Brian Duffy.
At the age of 23, Dame Joanna lucked out with her first big screen role, appearing briefly in Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969.
A natural brunette, Dame Joanna wore her enviably thick locks long and flowing during the ’60s, before embracing more voluminous hair styles.
1970s: Avengers angel
Dame Joanna’s breakthrough television role came in 1976 with The New Avengers, playing Purdey, a former ballerina-turned-spy.
Undergoing a radical transformation for the role, the actor was given a glossy, super-short bowl cut (that still somehow looked sexy), lots of ’70s-style black eyeliner and a wardrobe of glamorous outfits.
Dame Joanna embraced the look in real life, cutting her hair even shorter at the end of the decade, though her own personal style was somewhat more demure than Purdey’s.
1980s: silver screen siren
As her film career progressed, Dame Joanna underwent another major transformation to play Countess Chandra in Curse Of The Pink Panther in 1983.
Donning a series of glitzy ruffled and feathered gowns, the actor’s dark brown hair was styled in tousled curls.
In the 1980s, Dame Joanna started to become involved in activism, appearing at a Friends of the Earth rally and visiting 10 Downing Street to present a letter protesting the closure of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.
1990s: absolutely iconic
Dame Joanna’s most famous role came at the age of 45, playing the hilariously catty Patsy Stone in iconic comedy series Absolutely Fabulous, which began in 1992.
Nominated four times for the best comedy performance BAFTA, Dame Joanna took home the award in 1995.
A fan of the ‘more is more’ look, champagne-swilling Patsy loved big bouffant hair, lashings of red lipstick, trendy tailoring and lots of bling.
It looks as though the comedy character rubbed off on Dame Joanna, as she started wearing designer skirt suits and statement jewellery off-screen too, albeit in a significantly more subtle way than her TV counterpart.
Read: How to look like Patsy
2000s: red carpet star
By now a regular on the red carpet, Dame Joanna continued to impress with her outfits well into her 60s.
Usually opting for flowing or floral gowns, she often embraced bohemian prints and patterns that recalled her childhood in India.
Transitioning from the bright blonde of the ’90s, Dame Joanna chose a softer, champagne hue for her hair, which was shoulder-length, with a flattering centre-parted fringe.
Now: timeless beauty
Still as glamorous as ever, it’s hard to believe that Dame Joanna is now a septuagenarian. The actor said in an interview last year, while isolating at home in London due to the pandemic, that she’s scared she won’t be able to leave the house if she looks too old.
“So I keep dyeing my hair yellow,” she said, explaining that walking up and down the stairs shows that “even if I’m old, I’m still fine”.
Whatever she’s doing, it’s clearly working. Stylish and stunning at 75, Dame Joanna is giving starlets half her age a run for their money on the red carpet.