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Who is Miriam Margolyes - Vogue cover star and British national treasure?

Miriam Margolyes pictured in 2019
Miriam Margolyes pictured in 2019 Copyright Getty
Copyright Getty
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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The 82-year-old actress has made her Vogue cover debut as part of the magazine's 'pride and joy' edition which celebrates a number of LGBTQ+ pioneers.

British-Australian actress Miriam Margolyes has long been a national treasure in the UK, but making the cover of Vogue, at 82 no less, will no doubt catapult her to further stardom.

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In a career spanning six decades, she is perhaps best known for her role as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter film series and for winning the BAFTA for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role in Martin Scorsese's 1993 film, The Age of Innocence.

Tim Walker
Cover girl - Miriam Margolyes strikes a typically witty poseTim Walker

Known for her risqué interviews and devil-may-care attitude, the acting legend - also known for multiple roles in ‘Blackadder’ - features in July’s edition of British Vogue alongside other LGBTQ+ pioneers, including Janelle Monáe and Bella Ramsey.

Margolyes, resplendent in blue satin with pearls and a mesh headpiece, is flanked by the phrase ‘Pride & Joy’ on the cover, while discussing her sexuality and saying she’s “never had any shame" around it.

She came out as gay in 1966, at a time when homosexual acts between men were still illegal in the UK and says she lost 34 friends during the HIV crisis of the 1980s. Despite this, she says she "wouldn't want to be straight for anything" and that “gay people are very lucky, because we are not conventional."

Tim Walker
Tea and fashion - Miriam Margolyes in VogueTim Walker

Margolyes studied English at the prestigious Cambridge University where she first trod the boards for the Footlights sketch group, which has produced countless famed talents, including Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. As a student, she represented her college in the first ever series of BBC quiz show ‘University Challenge’ and claims she was one of the first people to say the word “f*ck” on British television.

That set a precedent for her career, with her being perhaps more famous for her candour and wit in interviews than her acting - her wild anecdotes, often featuring tales of high jinks in her personal life, have frequently gone viral.

In the British Vogue interview, with images from the genius Tim Walker, she explained, "It's a strong position if you're not afraid to be who you are”, adding, "We're all so insecure. People are frightened such a lot of the time and what I've always tried to do... (is) make people feel good about themselves".

2011 Getty Images
Miriam Margolyes in 2011 at the premiere of 'Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part 2'2011 Getty Images

Other LGBTQ+ figures are also featured in the upcoming Vogue edition alongside Margolyes, a precedent made possible by outgoing editor-in-chief Edward Enninful.

In April this year, the magazine used its first ever disabled models on the cover and inside the glossy pages - Enninful called that edition one his proudest career moments. In 2020, Dame Judi Dench, then aged 85, was the oldest ever star to grace the cover in the publication’s history.

While Enninful announced earlier this month that he’d be stepping down from his role, he has long been a champion for greater inclusivity in the fashion industry and it’s likely his successors and contemporaries will carry that mantle, as other international editions of the magazine and its competitors have more frequently done in recent years.

Last month, 81-year-old mogul Martha Stewart appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in her swimsuit and, on the cover of April’s edition of Vogue’s Philippines iteration was tattoo artist Apo Whang-Od - at a stunning 106 years old

The July issue of British Vogue hits newsstands from Tuesday 20 June.

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