Lauren Marbe, a 17-year-old schoolgirl from Essex, has an IQ higher than Albert Einstein. Consequently she's been chosen to attend a high society debutantes' ball in Paris.
This time last year, Lauren Marbe made a decision that would change her life. Along with other pupils from the top set at her school, the teenager from Loughton, Essex, had been asked to participate in an IQ test compiled by Mensa, the intelligence society. It was the first time the school had run the test, which comprised a gruelling two-hour exam, and Lauren, mid-way through studying for 12 GCSEs, just wasn’t sure she could be bothered to do it.
“I remember deliberating with my Mum in the kitchen the night before,” says Lauren, now 17. “I didn’t know if there was any point. I’d always got good grades but nothing to this extent. In the end I thought I might as well give it a go.” She grins. “If I’d had any idea what it would lead to, I’d never have thought twice.
What it led to was, first, an IQ result of 161 - ranking this ordinary Essex schoolgirl higher than Albert Einstein (had the test been around when he was alive), Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates. Not only did she get just one short of the maximum number of points awarded to those under 18, but she was invited to become a member of Mensa, which she admits she had “never really heard of before”.
“My teacher gave me the envelope with my results in it and I didn’t know it was a big thing,” she recalls. “I took it and said, ‘Alright Miss, thank you,’ and walked out. My mum was the same - she had no idea. My teacher had to ring up after school to explain what it all meant.”
The second outcome of Lauren’s IQ test came only this week - when she was invited by the organiser of the prestigious Le Bal in Paris to be one of 25 débutantes presented at the event next month. Lauren will join Lady Amelia Windsor, the granddaughter of the Duke of Kent, and John F Kennedy’s great-niece Kyra at the ball, which has been a French institution since 1922 and brings together high-achieving girls from some of society’s most notable families.
Her whole family - her parents and younger sister Grace - are travelling to Paris for the glittering event, whose past participants include Tallulah Willis (daughter of Bruce), Barbara Berlusconi (daughter of the former Italian prime minister) and the Ecclestone sisters. She will be escorted by a dashing French “cavalier” (knight), and spend the evening surrounded by princesses and heiresses in the elegant ballroom of the Automobile Club on Place de la Concorde.
It is all, she says, “a bit like Cinderella”. Since being catapulted into the public eye, Lauren has received marriage proposals from strangers, been labelled a “brainy Barbie” in the press and had to fend off endless on-the-spot maths quizzes from friends. Yet she remains humble, down-to-earth and utterly bemused by all the attention her brilliant brain has brought her. “It’s mad, I know,” she blushes. “I’m at a different school now and not many of my teachers know about it - I feel a bit awkward bringing it up.”
Having got 12 GCSEs (A*s in Maths, Science and History and As in the rest), Lauren doesn’t have to work hard to prove her brainpower. She is polite and eloquent, speaking with the voice of someone far beyond her years. But there’s one person who’s taken some convincing of her intellect: Joan, her beloved Nan. “We sat down with one of the Mensa newsletters once, and there are puzzles at the back, and she was like: ‘Come on then, prove it to me!’ I don’t think she meant it, though - my Nan is my biggest fan.”
Her parents, she says, have been incredibly supportive. Her mum, Susan, is a deputy head teacher, and her dad, David, is a taxi driver, who “tells all his friends and probably everyone in the back of his cab” about his daughter. Lauren reckons her intelligence is in her genes. “Mum’s very clever and did well at university.
Dad had to do The Knowledge to become a cab driver, and that requires a really good memory, so I don’t think it’s come from nowhere.”
Despite being labelled a “manicure-loving, The Only Way is Essex fan”, Lauren insists she’s “not that much of an Essex girl”, and rails against the stereotypes that have been aimed at her, simply because she’s blonde. “Obviously if I’m going out I may put on a little fake tan,” she says, firmly, “but I don’t wear it all the time. And I don’t do fake nails, fake hair, all that. It’s been really played up and it’s just not me.”
Instead, she advocates getting the balance right between schoolwork and socialising. “I couldn’t be one of those people who are all work. I like to go out with my friends and I like to have a nice time. But at the same time I know where my priorities lie, and I know that if I’ve got work to do, maybe I shouldn’t go out.”
As might be expected, Lauren has high hopes for the future. Her IQ has secured her a place in the list of the world’s smartest teenagers, where she joins a 16-year-old America who’s devised a cure for pancreatic cancer, a 13-year-old chess prodigy from China and a 17-year-old German novelist. She hasn’t decided what she wants to do with her Physics, Maths, Art and Psychology A-levels yet, and is “umm-ing and ahh-ing between Architecture and Law”, probably at Oxbridge. “My parents believe in me, whatever it is that I want to do,” she says.
Though she feels she should make use of her above-average brain, Lauren also has another career option: performing. A talented singer, dancer and piano-player, she spent two years in the West End, as part of the chorus for Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s hit musical Joseph. “I’d love to be able to do something like that, but it’s really hard to get into,” she says, sensibly. “I want to get back into doing singing competitions, so I’ll just see where that takes me.”
For now, all Lauren’s attention is focused on Le Bal. On November 30, the girl with the IQ in the top one per cent of the world will swap her drab black-and-white school uniform for a dreamlike dress by the French designer Anne Valérie Hash and towering heels by Christian Louboutin. “My dress is cream, with metres of beautiful lace round the bottom and beading at the top. I’ve never worn anything like it before. The whole thing just doesn’t seem real.”
But it is: a real-life Cinderella moment for the Essex girl who nearly didn’t do the IQ test that propelled her to stardom. She doesn’t speak much French, but is hoping that her 20-year-old cavalier at the débutantes’ ball, Theodore Rousseau, will understand. “I haven’t seen a photo of him yet, but he sounds nice. And maybe,” she giggles, “it’ll be like a fairytale - and he’ll sweep me off my feet.”
Source: The Telegraph.