Nathalie Emmanuel Gets Real

Like a natural diamond, the actress is
authentic to the core and shines bright.

Photographed by: Andrés Jaña

Styled by: Alexandra Mandelkorn

Words by: Maggie Morris


Nathalie Emmanuel has long been on our radar for her bold jewelry style, sensitive but action-packed roles, and a steady rise to fame that–like a natural diamond–has naturally formed over time. Now, with lead roles in Francis Ford Coppola’s long-awaited sci-fi epic, Megalopolis as well as John Woo’s The Killershe has more than earned her position as a crown jewel among today’s iconic stars. Only Natural Diamonds spoke with her about her work ethic, personal style, and what’s behind her natural glow.

Only Natural Diamonds: What an amazing trajectory you’ve had.  Since playing Missandei in Game of Thrones, you’ve sprung into several lead roles, notably with Die HartThe Invitation, and two upcoming films, The Killer directed by John Woo, and Megalopolis directed by Francis Ford Coppola, putting you in this constellation of iconic stars. How does that feel?

Nathalie Emmanuel: Maybe it’s the British modesty drummed into us never to think too much of ourselves, because it takes somebody like you saying, “Wow, look where you are” for me to pause and see where I am. It’s a very exciting time. There’s a lot to be grateful for. I’m pinching myself a lot of the time. I never expected my life to be what it is.


I’m pinching myself a lot of the time. I never expected my life to be what it is.

OND: What did you expect?

NE: I mean, this never happens for most people – so many amazing artists never get the career that I have. I feel so lucky. Sometimes it feels like it’s been fate, this otherworldly force outside of my control that said, “You get to do this”. I don’t take that for granted. I tend to downplay it, keep my head down, and just keep pushing myself… 

I’ve just wrapped The Killer, John Woo’s remake of his 1989 film. To be given this responsibility as John’s first female lead is incredible. Lots of stunts, and lots of physical training, and it’s also a great character. There’s a real heart and emotion within this thrilling, action-packed film.

OND: You’ve been in a lot of action films – how is that for you? Are you an active, athletic person in that way? 

NE: I love action. My background is in dance. I started ballet at two years old and did contemporary, tap, street dance, all kinds. Stunt choreography is a dance. You typically train for fight sequences with the person you’ll be shooting with. You get connected as you practice. It’s a mental game too, sensing where you can go faster or harder. When the day comes to shoot, it’s so much fun. With this part (The Killer) there was much more to it than just the physical stuff. John shoots these very dynamic action movies, but he’s a romantic, even in his fighting sequences.

OND: I wanted to talk a little bit about jewelry. What we choose to wear is a huge part of expressing ourselves. I know you have many piercings and wear lots of jewelry. First, can you share your first memory of a diamond?

NE: My mum and dad used to have these two crystal ball things in our cabinet that I thought were diamonds. At the time there was a UK TV show called The Crystal Maze where competitors had to do challenges to find a crystal, so my sister and I thought these were rare, valuable diamonds in our house. We weren’t allowed to touch them, but when our parents went out, we’d go into the cabinet and hold them. (laughing)

As for real diamonds, my grandmother bought a lot of jewelry. She always wore a lot of big gold things with diamonds or precious stones.

OND: Did she ever let you wear her jewelry? 

NE: Later in her life, she liked to gift people her jewelry. I’ve got a couple of pieces of hers that I keep very safe. She gave me a ring that my granddad gave her for an anniversary or something. I need to get it resized before I wear it out, it would be awful to lose it. I lost my grandmother quite recently so with her passing I was immediately reflective about the impact she’s had on me. She always had cool jewelry, she always wore big gold earrings and necklaces. Now I notice how I’ve been wearing jewelry like she did, not quite realizing that connection. Culturally too, you see it in the way hip-hop culture has influenced everybody with jewelry, but I think the styles of jewelry that I wear came from my grandma.

It’s art. It’s technique and skill and hours of work to create jewelry like that.


OND: Can you talk a little bit about the jewelry you wear every day? 

NE: I’m a bit of a Magpie. I pick up trinkets and cool things in places – they become part of me. I have a diamond ring that I found in a jewelry shop in Egypt. I was on vacation after I wrapped my first lead role (in Four Weddings and a Funeral). That role was a lot of responsibility. When I wrapped, I thought “I can’t believe I did that”.

When I saw this diamond ring in Egypt, I wanted that ring for myself. It was so beautiful, with an interesting shape and color – not a yellow diamond, but slightly champagne-colored. It’s set in such a pretty way, very small and delicate. 

It wasn’t as big and expensive as diamond rings can be, but it was a big thing for me to buy myself something that expensive. I’m not a frivolous person. Before then I’d never spent that much on anything. When you don’t have generational wealth to rely on you think you have to save and always be careful with money. The fact that I bought this beautiful thing and didn’t put that money towards a home or some life responsibility, it was a very big deal. I had to convince myself it’s okay, you did those months of working, so get yourself a ring girl! I love that ring. The fact that I could buy it for myself makes it even more special. I’m obsessed with it. I wear it every day on my pinky finger.

OND: I love that story. The value held in jewelry is so personal. The heirloom you received from your grandmother, the ring you bought in Egypt, and the value they symbolize. These pieces mean so much.

NE: Absolutely. That ring is far more valuable than what it costs to buy. Now, treating myself to nice things has become a practice. I always buy myself a Christmas gift and a birthday gift. Usually, a piece of jewelry or a treatment that I’ve wanted. I think it’s important.


the idea that someone sees authenticity in me, it’s a real compliment.

OND: Are there any red carpet diamonds that you’ve worn that really made you feel special? Like you’d arrived? 

NE: One of the first times I wore borrowed diamonds – several rings with multicolored gemstones surrounded by diamonds. When the stylist I was using at the time told me what the pieces were worth I nearly choked on my cup of tea. The way human beings assign value, even status, or power, to things is fascinating. I hadn’t been in proximity to that before, so the idea that someone was letting me wear those diamonds for a night was a big deal. I remember looking down at my hands all night overwhelmed by the worth of the jewelry, and the beauty in them. It’s art. It’s technique and skill and hours of work to create jewelry like that.

OND: I love your sweatshirt.

NE: I’m literally wearing a sweatshirt that says “Bruv, just eat the plants it’s calm” (laughs). There’s a UK rapper, JME. He’s known for a genre of music called grime in the UK. He’s been a real advocate for plant-based eating. I heard him in an interview talking about mass production of meat or dairy or something, and then he just said, nonchalantly, “Bruv, just eat the plants it’s calm”. It made me laugh. So, my friend put it on a jumper for me!


OND: I know you’re very conscious about what you eat and put in your body. Could you talk about your decision to eat vegan and what that means to you?

NE: I was in LA for work about 10 years ago, and a friend of mine was there at the same time studying holistic nutrition. She was telling me about the link between diet and disease, particularly with women’s cancers. When I asked her about the initial benefits of going vegan, she said, “You might feel more energetic and have better sleep and more mental clarity”. So, I decided to try it for a week. It’s easy to eat vegan in LA.

People started commenting on how well I looked. Someone said, “You’re glowing what’s going on?” And I was like, “Am I?” I noticed my digestion was better. I was waking up with more energy and feeling more mentally clear. So, I decided to continue. I started to cook for myself which was a disaster at first. My family is Caribbean, and I wanted to make plant-based eating work and still feel a connection to my cultural food. I got into Google and found there’s a lot of vegan food in the Rastafarian religion. All this stuff came up with Ital and its mentality around food and health. The way they eat from the earth, it’s very unprocessed and organic. I started making these big pots of Ital stews. When I went back to the UK my mum made a big goat curry, rice and peas, the plantains all my favorite foods. It was delicious, this home-cooked comfort food, but it just didn’t feel right anymore. My family was very supportive. My mum is vegan now too.

We have a responsibility as humans to look after the planet we live on.

OND: Wow, that’s so interesting to hear – like so many things passed down through family, food holds generational stories as well. That’s so beautiful how you sought to stay connected to your Caribbean roots while making big changes around what you eat.

NE: Absolutely. We have a few Rastafarians in our family. Later on, the feelings around animal welfare and environmental stuff came up – once you start going down that rabbit hole you can’t unsee certain things. We have a responsibility as humans to look after the planet we live on. Changing one meal has a huge impact in terms of your carbon footprint if you work out how much water it takes to make one beef burger or how much land has been deforested to graze that one cow that your beef burger came from. 

OND: You do have a very authentic glow about you. 

NE: I don’t know what to say. I was just trying to come up with some self-deprecating things to say. I’m English and I don’t know how to take a compliment. Thank you. I’m in a strange industry that can be all about the superficial. It’s easy to get caught up in all of that, so the idea that someone sees authenticity in me, it’s a real compliment.

Photographer: Andrés Jaña
Stylist: Alexandra Mandelkorn
Creative Director: Lizzy Oppenheimer
Hair: Neeko
MakeupBeau Nelson
Manicurist: Vanessa Sanchez
Entertainment Editor At Large: Glynis Costin
Creative Production: Petty Cash Production
Set DesignGille Mills
Set Assistants: Nicky Buzzerio, Dirk Knibbe
Lighting Director: Eliot Oppenheimer
Photo Assistants: Tony Chiappetta, Kurt Lavastida
Digital Tech: Mitchell Guerrero
Fashion Assistant: Drew Cockrell