Joanna Lamond Lumley, OBE, FRGS - Born 1 May 1946
Joanna is an English actress, best known for her roles in the British television series The New Avengers, Sapphire and Steel, Absolutely Fabulous and Sensitive Skin. She is also a former model, a human rights activist (best known for her support for Gurkhas, the exiled Tibetan people and government and Prospect Burma, a charity that offers grants to Burmese students, for whom she broadcast the BBC Radio 4 charity appeal in 2001), and an animal welfare activist.
Joanna was born in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Her parents were Major James Rutherford Lumley, who served in the 6th Gurkha Rifles, a regiment of the British Indian Army, and Beatrice Rose Weir. After the independence of India in 1947, the Lumleys settled in Kent, England.
Joanna attended the Lucy Clayton finishing school. Tall, slim and blonde, she spent three years as a photographic model, and is said to have made her TV debut in a well-known UK advert for Nimble bread first screened in 1969.
Joanna did not receive any formal training at drama school. Her acting career began in 1969 with a small role in the film Some Girls Do and as a Bond girl in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, she played the English Girl among Blofeld’s ’Angels of Death’ and had two lines. She went on to have a brief, but memorable role in Coronation Street, in which her character turned down Ken Barlow’s offer of marriage.
Throughout her career, she has specialised in playing upper-class parts, and her distinctive plummy voice has reinforced this. Joanna’s first major role was as Purdey in The New Avengers, a revival of the secret agent series The Avengers. Although critical reaction to the series was lukewarm, the casting of Joanna was seen as inspired and following the tradition of iconic Avengers actresses Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson. Joanna’s bobbed hairstyle quickly became known as the ’Purdey bob’ and was hugely popular for a time in the mid-1970s.
Over a decade later, Joanna’s career was boosted by her portrayal of the chain smoking, frequently inebriated, coke-sniffing (plus other drugs) and sex-addicted fashion director Patsy Stone on the British comedy television series Absolutely Fabulous (1992 - 2005).
As the possessor of one of the most recognised voices in the United Kingdom, Joanna has gained prominence as a voice-over artist. Users of AOL in the United Kingdom are familiar with her voice. She recorded the greetings "Welcome to AOL" and "You have email" for that company. Her voice is, therefore, the first thing a UK AOL user hears when logging on.
In 2005, she published her autobiography No Room for Secrets which was serialized by The Times, for which she was once a regular contributor.
In 2008 she became the public face of a campaign to provide all Gurkha veterans who served in the British Army before 1997 the right to settle in Britain.
Following a Commons Home Affairs Committee meeting in which talks were held between campaigners, the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office on 19 May, 2009 Jacqui Smith subsequently announced that all Gurkha veterans who had served four years or more in the British Army before 1997 would be allowed to settle in Britain.
As a result of her campaigning skills there were calls for Joanna to stand as a Member of Parliament at the forthcoming general election. However, she has dismissed the suggestion.
She was awarded an OBE in 1995. Alongside her work for the Gurkhas, Joanna is a supporter of many charities. She is a vegetarian and a keen supporter of animal rights charities, including CIWF and Viva!. She has donated signed books for the literacy and international development charity Book Aid International. She is patron of the Born Free Foundation and passionate about the Free Tibet campaign. Other charities supported include Mind, ActionAid and SANE.
Joanna also supports the Burma Campaign UK, an NGO that aims to stop the oppression of the Burmese people by a military regime.