About 20 minutes into my conversation with model and actress Devon Ross, I notice that the name ‘Keith’ is tattooed on one of his fingers. “Yes,” says the 22-year-old, waving her cigarette indifferently. “I did this when I was too young to get a tattoo.”
It’s a reference to Keith Richards. The Rolling Stones maverick is, by all accounts, Ross’ idol and it’s something that is familiar. “My dad loves Keith,” she says. “Keith has always been our guy, he’s a guitar player. He is our man.”
An odd decision, perhaps, but one that captures Ross’ appeal. With her distinctive looks, passion for sixties music and a vintage aesthetic, this bright young woman is a new generation of London bohemian – and her star is on the rise.
In 2021, Vogue ran an article calling her “possibly the coolest model in fashion right now” and this week marks her breakout role on TV, in the series Irma Vep opposite Alicia Vikander, which started on Sky Atlantic.
Ross is not a native Londoner, but the capital is his adopted home. As the daughter of Craig David Ross, lead guitarist for Lenny Kravitz, and ’90s model Anna Bauer, she spent an unconventional childhood in an ever-changing list of elementary schools.
“I was going to hippie schools, who were really nice to me taking time off. Calling teachers by their first name, no homework. That’s how I grew up.” Interspersed with that were long stretches of time on the road, accompanying her father’s band on tour.
“My sister and I were backstage, having fun,” she says. “We were the only children. It was fun – we found little jobs to do: in the wardrobe, we pretended to sew things. Or we’d take skates or skateboards and skate backstage.”
That sense of independence has left Ross in a good place when it comes to starting and navigating his dizzying career. She has modeled for major fashion brands such as Gucci, Simone Rocha and Valentino, Bee and has now transitioned to prestigious television with Irma Vep.
Modeling has always had a dark side, especially in recent years with revelations about bullying and mistreatment of young women. But having gotten into big shape around 2020, Ross seems to have avoided the darker side of the business.
“I mean, it’s a great experience if you can do it and deal with it. But it’s a lot,” she says. “You have to have a good head on your shoulders; be safe in yourself. Because if you don’t, you’re really deteriorating. You have to be super strong to do that, which I learned.
“There is a lot of competition from other girls and rejection, which some people have handled very well, [but] sometimes it’s a horrible thing. I was lucky enough to be able to do that for a few years.”
When she made the leap into acting, she didn’t take lessons, instead uploading a demo tape and auditioning through a few Zoom calls with Irma Vep director Olivier Assayas, who adapted her 1996 film with the same name for the small screen. . It doesn’t seem to have bothered her.
“A lot of modeling is like acting,” she says. “I mean, for me it was: being in front of the camera, being on set and having people watching me. Entering the cinema, the only difference was having to speak.”
In Irma Vep, Ross plays Regina, the sardonic assistant to Vikander’s movie star protagonist Mira Harberg, an American actress who came to Paris to star in a TV version of a silent sitcom, Les Vampires. The duo spent a lot of time together on set – Ross describes Vikander as “sweet” – while the rest of the cast and crew supported her without spoiling her, she says. This first acting experience was a good introduction to a whole new world, walking with La Croisette in Cannes alongside Tom Sturridge and allowing her to pursue acting as a full-time career.
Despite his growing fame, Ross seems unfazed by the whole concept of celebrity. She has a laid-back relationship with social media — despite having more than 100,000 Instagram followers, “I don’t let it get to me,” she says, making it sound too easy — and her early years on the road prepared her for life downtown. attention, as well as the negative impact of celebrity.
“I grew up seeing these things,” she says. “Not in a bad way. I wasn’t exposed to anything horrible, but I was exposed to real life, which was good. Because I knew what not to do.”
Having just moved to Portobello Road in London, it feels like she’s lived here her whole life. If nothing else, it’s the perfect home for a woman obsessed with vintage music since childhood.
Along with her boyfriend, actor Earl Cave (Nick’s son), the duo spend their days tracking down vinyl records and creating music at home – Ross is a skilled guitarist and is looking to create his own band, something that can also be traced back to home. returns to his father’s influence.
“The first song I played when I was born was Neil Young or something,” she says. “Literally, from the second I came out of the womb, I really had no choice: he just played these things. And that was all I knew.”
Even today, she says she hardly listens to music that isn’t from the sixties — and her own aesthetic is distinctly vintage, coming mostly from the many charity shops dotted along Portobello Road, augmented with designer pieces; After all, she is a model.
The fact that many of her heroes are from the UK is also not lost on her. As well as Richards, the Beatles’ rugged George Harrison is also an inspiration – living in London is the fulfillment of a long-held dream.
“Growing up, I feel like maybe that’s the same way people feel about going to America: like, ‘Wow, I have to go there!’”
She waves her hands, “London sucks. I always wanted to live in London. And when I got here, I was like, ‘Everything looks like the Beatles!’ Every day, I still feel this way. Abbey Road is so close to our house.”
With a life so steeped in rock’n’roll, does she envision this bleeding in her acting roles? “I would love to play Patti Smith,” she says.
However, there is a problem: the lack of diversity. “I feel like there are so many biopics coming out, like the Stones thing, the Sex Pistols thing, that are about guys. Male actors get to play rock stars all the time. And I’m like, why can’t we play rock stars? I want to be the rock star. I don’t want to be the girlfriend.” Her dream role comes as a surprise, though perhaps it shouldn’t be. “I mean, I would love to play Keith Richards one day.”
Ross doesn’t bat an eyelash at the suggestion that she’s done more in her life than most people her age, or indeed any age. “I always want to do more,” she says. “To me, it doesn’t feel like I’ve done enough. I want to do an album, I want to do a movie, I want to do more TV – I just want to do more.”
Irma Vep is streaming now on Sky