Sex Education star Emma Mackey gets real about learning to say no

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Colin Crummy
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Five Minute Philosopher is a weekly series in which Stylist gets profound with people we love. From her thoughts on the meaning of life to her greatest fear, what will actress Emma Mackey make of our existential questions?

What is the meaning of life?

For now, happiness. That’s all we can try to achieve in life. How? By looking after yourself, those around you and doing things that are healthy for you as an individual.

How do you know to do the right thing?

With your gut. People usually think with their brain or go with their heart but a good place to start is if you have a gut feeling.

Where is your happy place?

Being at home, snuggled up with food and lots of candles.

Nature or nurture?

More nurture. Sartre said ‘existence precedes essence’. Your circumstances can have an effect on you as a person. If you are nurtured and looked after by the right people, you can be the best version of yourself.

Is it more important to be liked or respected?

They’re closely linked. I’d rather be respected in my professional life and liked in my personal life. I don’t want my friends to not like me.

What would your legacy be?

Making excellent breakfasts and being kind, because that’s the best trait someone can have. Breakfast is the most important part of the day for me, it’s a ritual.

Who or what is your greatest love?

Right now, my partner. We have been together for nearly three years.

How truthful are you?

I’ve been told we lie on average 100 times a day, subconsciously. If someone asks you if you’re all right and you say you are, that’s usually a lie. So presumably, I have already lied today.

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Does the supernatural exist?

Do you know what, it probably does. Are you fatalistic? Sometimes, when I see the state of the world I think, we’ve got a long way to go. It’s easy to get overwhelmed so the thing to do is to think if you want to have an impact globally, make an impact locally.

What is your greatest hope?

That governments can agree to get rid of single-use plastics. There’s no time to faff around and I hate faffing.

Animals or babies?

Animals. I haven’t anything against babies but I went to America for the show and fell in love with animals on this farm outside Tennessee. The farm had a whole family of dogs. It was very heartwarming.

What is your secret talent?

I’m French, and no one really knows that unless I tell them. So, I can speak French, that’s my secret talent.

Do you like to be complimented?

I used to absolutely hate it and would want to dig myself a hole to hide in. But I’m learning that it’s OK to accept compliments in a civilised manner and move on.

Do you have a high pain threshold?

Most women do. If you’ve experienced periods, you have to have a high pain threshold.

What book do you recommend most to others?

I did English at uni so this is difficult. If you want female empowerment, there’s The Power by Naomi Alderman. It’s amazing. For a book to get lost in, I would recommend A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which is incredible.

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Which lesson has been the most important to learn?

Learning how to say no, which is not a negative but something that helps you grow as a person. Closely linked to that is not wasting your energy and time on people who are not worth your energy and time.

What food sums up happiness?

My mum’s cooking. Her mac ’n’ cheese is pretty amazing.

What would you love to understand? 

Why someone follows the lead of the wrong kind of people. I struggle to understand how people can be fuelled by hate.

If it’s empowerment you’re after, Emma recommends Naomi Alderman’s The Power

What is the one thing you want to discover?

I’d like to discover the more unapologetic side of myself. To feel like I am allowed to exist and be present and not worry what other people think.

What are you grateful for?

That I’m healthy, that my family and friends are happy and healthy and are beautiful, strong people.

Quinoa or Quavers?

Really neither but if this were a survival situation and these were the only two foods left on the planet, then probably quinoa because it has protein in it. Quavers are just flaky, cheese dust crisps.

Sex Education is available to stream now on Netflix

Images: Netflix


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Colin Crummy

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