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The Essential Jamie Lee Curtis

The multi-tasking actress is an exuberant crusader for aging wisely and well.

Jamie Lee Curtis — growing older, becoming new again.

In her own words:

"I want to be older. I actually think there's an incredible amount of self-knowledge that comes with getting older. I feel way better now than I did when I was 20. I'm stronger, I'm smarter in every way, I'm so much less crazy than I was then.

"Years ago my husband and I were at the Golden Globes. I was wearing some borrowed dress that wasn't me, my hair was done in a way that I never wear my hair, and I had earrings on. And my husband said, 'You know who is the most beautiful woman in the room?' And I was hoping he was going to say me. And he pointed across the room at Jessica Tandy. She was sitting at a table wearing a cream-colored silk-shantung pantsuit. Single strand of pearls, short white hair, a little lipstick — nothing else. And I thought, 'He's totally right.' There was none of the pretense, none of the trying so hard.

"My style is a distillation. I've etched out who I am through myriad haircut attempts, outfit attempts, beauty attempts, diet attempts. It's been an evolution. I've let my hair go gray. I wear only black and white. Every year I buy three or four black dresses that I just keep in rotation. I own one pair of blue jeans. I've given away all my jewelry, because I don't wear it.

"The same way that midcentury modern architecture was in the '50s, I want to be as a human being. New. Different. Challenging the old. Function over frivolity. Clean living. Clean lines.

"If I can challenge old ideas about aging, I will feel more and more invigorated. I want to represent this new way. I want to be a new version of the 70-year-old woman. Vital, strong, very physical, very agile. I think that the older I get, the more yoga I"m going to do.

"I saw a picture of me in a tabloid, where they had actually given my weight. I was like, 'How dare you — I'm not 161 pounds!' I was indignant. I got home and I went on a scale and I was 161 pounds. There's a lot of Lycra in clothing, so I didn't notice the weight gain. I was in denial about it. This was two years ago.

"Then I went to the doctor. And my blood pressure had risen a lot, and my cholesterol was crazy. I had gotten lethargic. But I wanted to play tennis again. So I started a really healthy way of eating, just avoiding things that I had been shoving in my mouth. Over the course of a year, I dropped about 20 pounds.

"Now, I get up at five o'clock in the morning every day, filled with energy. I play tennis three times a week, and I do yoga. I'm never going to be an athlete, never going to be running triathlons — I'm not that person. But I walk with girlfriends, and walking is incredibly good for you.

"That was a moment of truth and a big shift, taking care of my physiological life.

"My biggest concern is that I will calcify as I get older. I am a creature of habit: I wear the same clothes; I eat the same food; I am very regular in all of my activities. I can get lulled into complacency. Decalcification means constant evolution, where I'm constantly trying to shed skins and shed ideas.

"I look at my relationships all the time. If a relationship is really negative on an ongoing basis, what am I doing in it? What am I protecting? Am I protecting someone from the hurt and sting of losing me? Because that's not healthy. It's not good.

"The one benefit of being around fame my whole life is I've seen the façade of it. I know what people look like before they get all duded up. I see these people duded up and they're talking differently, as if they're titled aristocracy. They're a girl from New Jersey, and it's just hilarious. What are you doing in the gown, with the fake English accent?

I’ve been an inconsistent parent at times, and it’s my greatest regret. When my daughter was small, I worked too much. I was replicating what my own mother did. A woman I admire tremendously named Dr. Susan Williams has a great phrase. She says, ‘Children are paparazzi. They take your picture when you don’t want them to, and then they show it to you.’ My daughter showed me pictures, aspects of myself that I didn’t like. It was Annie who went, ‘Hello, this isn’t working.’ And I made adjustments, and then she did it again, and I made more adjustments. An unflattering picture of you is incredibly helpful.

"My mother was just freaking beautiful. That was her burden, to keep that going. She had two kids, and then naturally life took over, and there was a lot of alcohol, and other things took their toll. [Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis divorced in 1962; she married stockbroker Robert Brandt later that year.] I respect that she survived all that, with no real help. She had a couple of good friends, but this was a generation of women that didn't trust a lot of other people. I feel badly for her that she didn't have any of the support I have. At the end of her life she was miserable, miserable. But coming where she came from and achieving what she achieved was a huge accomplishment.

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