From catwalk to Cambridge: Lily Cole to study for degree

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Traditional freshers' week conversations should prove diverting for new acquaintances of Lily Cole at Cambridge University later this year.

For while her fellow students discuss their A-level grades and their gap year pulling pints at the local pub, the 18-year-old supermodel will be able to regale them with tales of strutting her stuff on the New York catwalks while gracing the covers of the world's top glamour magazines.

Having already earned a reported fortune of £10m in her career to date, the elfin teenager has stunned the modelling world by announcing that she intends to finish her education. The decision could cost her millions in lost fees, fashion experts have warned.

But Cole, originally from Brixham in Devon, is said to be adamant that she will spend the next three years studying social and political science at Cambridge - grades permitting. She will take up a conditional place offered on the back of the straight As in her AS-levels in English, history, drama and philosophy at Latymer Upper private school in Hammersmith, west London.

The red-headed star's grandmother Maud Cole revealed her intention to put full-time modelling on ice, telling The Mail on Sunday: "We have always known that Lily had brains as well as beauty. She just wants to get on with her studies without too much fuss."

However, Cole might have to break off from her studies to star as Alice in shock rocker Marilyn Manson's directorial film debut Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll. She will appear alongside Tilda Swinton and, no doubt to the delight of her new college friends, possibly Johnny Depp, a longtime friend of Manson who has been linked to the project.

Cole was plucked from obscurity in 2002 when, aged only 14, she was spotted by the modelling scout Benjamin Hart walking through Covent Garden after enjoying a burger and chips with friends. Fighting her initial suspicion that she was being followed by a "dodgy guy", she agreed to attend a photo shoot and was later signed to Storm Models, the agency of the catwalk legends Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford.

The following year she was photographed by Steven Meisel and has since been captured by some of the world's leading photographers, including David Bailey and Craig McDean.

She went on to feature in European, north American and Asian editions of Vogue, and was named Model of the Year at the 2004 British Fashion Awards.

Her "doll-like" features and distinctive hair colouring have seen her become the face of campaigns for Chanel and Prada, as well as showcasing designs by Alexander McQueen and John Galliano.

But now, just like thousands of other ordinary teenagers who sat A-levels this year, her immediate future will be revealed when she receives her exam results next week.

Model behaviour

* Lisa Fonssagrives: In a 30-year career was on the cover of every major fashion magazine and set a record for Vogue covers. Took up sculpture and photography after modelling.

* Cheryl Tiegs: With blonde hair and blue eyes, was a regular inSports Illustrated during the 1970s and 1980s. Later, combined modelling with a career creating wigs for Revlon.

* Christy Turlington: The face of Calvin Klein perfumes in the 1980s and 1990s, and fronted more than 1,000 magazines. Branched into film, before taking a degree and establishing a range of skin care and yoga products.

* Beverly Peele: One of the first black supermodels. Fought drugs and depression, but quit modellingto study and bring up her daughter. This month was sentenced to three years' probation and 300 hours' community service for credit card and identity theft.