Daniela Lavender is certainly a ballsy Belle About Town having moved to the other side of the world to pursue her dream to act. Originally from Bahia, Brazil, she studied journalism and drama in Rio and started acting when she was just eight. But despite having a mother who taught English, she came to London with little command of the language. She enrolled in English school and worked as a waitress to pay the bills but her bravery and hard work paid off when she got into the London International School of Acting.
A rising star, Daniela has had some small roles in TV shows such as Casualty and Ali G Indahouse, as well as appearing with the British Shakespeare Company and winning a Best Actress award for her role in the film Emotional Backgammon. She is just about to start filming her greatest role to date, a film about the building of the Taj Mahal with her husband, Oscar-winning British actor Sir Ben Kingsley.
Daniela gave us this exclusive interview about being a beautiful Belle About Town, shared her health and beauty tips and revealed more about her new movie Taj.
What do you do to maintain a healthy body?
“I’m spoilt as my husband is a great cook and treats me to delicious home cooked meals using all the ingredients from our garden. We eat a lot of game and fresh fish and vegetables at the moment.”
“I am not big on snacks and try to avoid junk food because although they can be tasty I feel uncomfortable after eating them. I do drink coffee in the mornings.”
“Ultimately, I keep my body healthy through cleansing, fasting and now Bikram Yoga. This regime allows my organs to work effectively and keeps me full of energy.”
“After I started Bikram Yoga I’ve learned to listen to my body more, which is very difficult and crucial to one’s health.”
What made you try Bikram Yoga?
“I started dancing when I was 8 years old and over the years dabbled in an array of different sports such as volleyball, football, spinning classes, swimming and Capoeira (Brazilian martial arts). I was attracted to Bikram Yoga because I wanted an exercise that would keep my body lean, not bulky, and my weight down.”
You are a now a big fan, how has it changed your body?
“Bikram Yoga has given me more than what I bargained for. I tried it for physical reasons but I’ve experienced mental and spiritual benefits too. Physically, you burn a lot of calories thanks to the heat and the challenging postures. I’m also retaining less water and thanks to the deep detoxing you experience practicing Bikram, my body has become more slender and defined.”
“Bikram detoxes your organs and that is priceless because if your organs work well you not only avoid disease but also metabolise what you eat more effectively.”
You used to study ballet, contemporary dance and Flamenco, do you still use dance to keep fit?
“We Brazilians are practically born dancing as music and dance are part of our daily life. I dance now for pleasure or when dance is required in my work and use Yoga to keep fit and centred.”
What does your beauty regime entail?
“Cleansing my body from inside out. I take an amino acid called L Glutamine which alkalines the body and it’s a must if I drink a glass of wine or any alcohol. I have deep tissue massages sometimes and acupuncture to ensure my circulation flows efficiently. I wear a moisturiser from Dermalogica before I apply make-up when I do use make-up, but nothing else on my skin apart from water and soap, I’ve been blessed with good genes.“
“I used to think that the psychological benefits associated with various types of exercise was a bit of ‘psycho babble’ and the notion of connecting with yourself was a bit of blah blah. I used to think that you just had to get on with things and struggle through. Through Bikram you connect “you” with yourself, if you like, in a deeper way and that alters your relationship to food, emotions, etc.”
“I’ve discovered that when I connect my mind and body in a profound way I not only feel better about myself and kinder to myself, but about everything and everyone around me.”
Where do you go to get away from it all?
“As well as living in London we have a home in the English countryside, the Cotswolds, Oxfordshire. It is a hidden treasure where I can really go to unwind. I love going for long walks in the country taking in the fresh air and beautiful picturesque surroundings. I love going to the local village fairs and sampling all the stalls with their unbeatable local produce. Everything there relaxes and recharges me for another working week in London.”
What is your favourite thing to do when in London?
“I love visiting the National Theatre on London’s South Bank. It is an extraordinary experience and not one to be missed. I often go for walks with my husband along the river for the culture and great views of London. Nothing beats the views from Hungerford Bridge on a summer evening, really capturing the essence of London and the mixture between the old and new.”
When you are treating yourself, what is your favourite restaurant to eat out at?
“In London, Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair serves the finest fish and seafood. I also like Wolseley’s and it’s buzzing atmosphere.”
“I love the LIPP in Paris. It is French food and service at its most traditional. I love how proud they are of their food. I also love Cafe de Praix.”
“In New York I like the Balthazar and it’s busy atmosphere. I also love the big tasty portions. And in Prague I dine at the Alchemist – a stunning, romantic, chic, Baroque restaurant.”
Tell us about your latest project Taj?
“‘Taj’ is my latest film project telling the story of the circumstances which led to creation of the most renowned monument to love; the Taj Mahal. It is a tale about ambition, betrayal, jealousy and genius as well as the extraordinary love shared between Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. I am to play Kindahary Begum, the first wife of Shah Jahan, played by my husband Sir Ben Kingsley. Mumtaz Mahal is still to be cast.
It must be lovely to work with your husband on such a powerful story…
“Anyone who has worked with my husband can tell you how disciplined, generous and inspiring he is to work with. It will be a great honour to work with him, especially on a project that tells one of the most evocative and passionate stories of all time.”