Meet the most glamorous 70-year-old grandmother in Britain with a voice that is immediately familiar.
Joanna Lumley has the face and dulcet tones that everyone recognises from her long career as an actress. Currently she is up to mischief on our cinema screens as her alter ego, vacuous glamourpuss Patsy Stone, alongside her partner in crime Jennifer Saunders in the new Absolutely Fabulous film.
But there is so much more to this talented woman than meets the eye.
Born in Kashmir where her father was a major in the Gurkha rifles, she spent her early childhood in India before returning to England for boarding school.
This actress, who holds an OBE for services to acting and charity, and who has enjoyed a glittering four-decade career, was rejected as a 16-year-old when she auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), for being (if you can believe it) ‘too fat and too ugly’.
Lumley turned to modelling, becoming one of the top 10 most-booked models of the 1960s. So much for being fat and ugly!
And the reason that voice of hers is so recognisable to millions of Britons stems from her work as ‘the voice’ of telecommunications giant AOL, which people hear every time they log on to their computer.
Her recognition factor to generations of television watchers is from her role as Patsy Stone in the satire on greed and aspiration, Absolutely Fabulous. Lumley first played the delightfully outrageous Patsy in 1992, and it earned her a stream of awards. Audiences across the world are currently enjoying her reappearance as Patsy in the Absolutely Fabulous film.
She is also a well-known activist for causes to improve life for others, including Survival International, which promotes Indigenous rights; Population Matters, an organisation campaigning to achieve a sustainable global population size; Tree Aid; and several charities doing the groundwork in Africa. There is even a Joanna Lumley Research Fellowship at the University of Oxford, to encourage research on major environmental or wildlife issues, especially in Africa.
In 2013, Lumley was assessed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK by BBC Radio 4.
Lumley insists on having a practical involvement in the charities she supports, saying ‘you have to feel more involved than just writing out a cheque. Charity is almost the wrong word—I think people are beginning to feel more responsible for the world.’
Lumley is well known for her successful campaign to allow Gurkha soldiers who served in the British Army before 1997 to settle in Britain, as those serving after 1997 were permitted to do.
With her successful career and philanthropic activities, a son, two grandchildren and the same husband for the last 30 years, Lumley seems to know a thing or two about how to lead a fulfilling life.