Life Lessons: Claire Foy on confidence, career and the meaning of success

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Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

"I think that confidence on its own is completely and utterly pointless," Claire Foy tells us. "It's as useful as a fart in an astronaut's costume, as my mum would say."

We're talking to the actress from the set of her Harper's Bazaar cover shoot, celebrating our 2021 Women of the Year.

"To be confident in yourself is a completely different thing, and I think that's basically about knowing what you will and won't stand for," she continues. "Knowing where you end and someone else begins. Knowing what your boundaries are and knowing what's right and wrong for you."

Photo credit: Erik Madigan Heck for Harper's Bazaar
Photo credit: Erik Madigan Heck for Harper's Bazaar

Foy has made her name with a succession of challenging parts, from Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall to a younger version of our current Queen in The Crown, Netflix's most expensive production to date. The latter won her two Emmys and a Golden Globe, thanks to her restrained, captivating performance.

"Success is a funny word, isn't it?" she says. "To have achieved something, to have completed something or to have been successful at something, that's an amazing feeling. But I think a lot of the time in life we're running towards or trying to work for things that aren't really good for us. Then when you get there you suddenly realise, 'Oh dear, here I am. But it's still me.'

"So I think if it's something you want to achieve then that's wonderful, but success on its own is sort of pretty meaningless, really."

Her next project sees Foy re-entering the unforgiving world of the aristocracy as the infamous 'Dirty Duchess', the Duchess of Argyll, in BBC One's A Very British Scandal. The actress stars opposite Paul Bettany, as the Duke of Argyll, in Sarah Phelps' feminist retelling of the couple's divorce, which became one of the most notorious, prurient and brutal legal cases of the 20th century. The duchess was a victim of the sexual double standards that still exist today, in which women are judged more harshly for engaging in the same sexual behaviours that men are celebrated for.

Photo credit: BBC One
Photo credit: BBC One

"Feminism is a doing word," says Foy. "[It's about] being alive and being a woman and very much standing on the shoulders of so many incredible women who, for such a long time, were not heard.

"It's so interesting to see another woman navigate the world in a way that makes you go, 'I want to do that. I want to be like that.'"

So what does she hope she teaches her daughter about feminism?

"I have a sneaking suspicion that my child will teach me much more about feminism than I will ever teach her," she laughs. "She's taught me so much already about what it means to be a woman. The one thing I want to do is lead by example."

Watch our full interview with Foy above, in which she shares what she's learnt about style, beauty, friendship and love.

The December issue of Harper's Bazaar, starring Claire Foy and our 2021 Women of the Year, is available nationwide now.

Photo credit: Erik Madigan Heck
Photo credit: Erik Madigan Heck


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