Joanna Lumley — things you didn't know about the 'Absolutely Fabulous' star

English actress Joanna Lumley has been on our screens since the 1960s.
English actress Joanna Lumley has been on our screens since the 1960s. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Joanna Lumley has been on our screens since the late 1960s, first appearing in The Wednesday Play as Elsie Engelfield. 

During her early career, she also enjoyed a part in the 1969 James Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Since then she's gone on to star in a number of TV series, and is most known for her role as Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous. She is currently starring in ITV drama Finding Alice.

As well as TV, Joanna has also starred in films like Wolf of Wall Street, Corpse Bride, and Me Before You. She was even awarded an OBE in the 1995 New Year Honours. 

But there's lots you might not know about the actress.

1. Joanna Lumley is a vegetarian.

Joanna Lumley has been a vegetarian since the 1970s. The actress credits her mother for her decision, as she was taught to respect all animals. In an interview with The Vegetarian Society, Joanna said: "I was halfway through eating a steak in the late sixties and I suddenly saw it as flesh, like my arm… and that was it."

2. Joanna Lumley was born in India.

Joanna was born in Srinagar. Her family moved back to Britain in 1949, and before then Joanna attended army schools in Hong Kong and what was then British Malaya. 

Joanna Lumley in Dharamsala, India.

Joanna Lumley in Dharamsala, India. (Image credit: Getty Images)

3. She went to a boarding school in England.

When Joanna was nine years old, she went to Mickledene School in Rolvenden, Kent. In an interview with The Independent, she admitted she felt homesick and missed her life in India. She said: "I remember being homesick, having been brought up in the Far East, with its heat and storms and vivid flowers and sounds and smells. England seemed strange and cold and pale and misty."

4. She loves boxing.

In the ITV series Joanna Lumley's Hidden Caribbean: Havana to Haiti, she met with one of Cuba's rising female boxing stars, and revealed her surprising love for the sport. Speaking on the programme, Joanna said: "I just adore boxing. I know it’s not considered terribly good to love these pugilistic things but I just love it, it’s one of the oldest forms of fighting."

5. She's heavily involved in charity work.

Joanna supports animal welfare groups, such as Compassion in World Farming and Vegetarians' International Voice for Animals. She is a Patron of the Born Free Foundation too, which supports wild animals. In addition to her animal charities, Joanna is also a human rights activist for Survival International and the Gurkha Justice Campaign.

6. She has an honorary doctorate.

In 2019, Joanna Lumley was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt,) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the arts. This doctorate was given to her by the University of Chester. Upon receiving it, Joanna said: "Not having been to university, for me to receive this singular honour is completely thrilling and humbling."

She added: "The splendid seat of learning that is the University of Chester has opened its brainy and generous arms to me, and I rush into its welcoming embrace with much gratitude and joy."

7. Joanna's father didn't want her to be an actress.

In an interview with The Guardian, Joanna revealed that her father "wasn't keen" on her pursuing a career as an actress. She said: "I think he thought it was rather a rowdy kind of thing. He was quite bookish and old-fashioned about how women should be – quieter, and not doing something so brash as acting. But he didn’t actually disapprove. My parents were terrifically light on the reins."

Joanna Lumley's Fact File.

How old is she?

Joanna Lumley is 74 years old. She was born on 1 May 1946.

Where was she born? 

Joanna Lumley was born in Srinagar, India. 

Is she married? 

Joanna Lumley is married to conductor Stephen Barlow. The pair have been married since 1986.

Does she have children?

Joanna Lumley has one son, Jamie Lumley, who she shares with former partner Michael Claydon.

How tall is she?

Joanna Lumley is 1.73 m tall.

We work hard to ensure that all information is correct. Facts that change over time, such as age, will be correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of the last article update.