Honesty demands bravery, particularly when your reality collides with society's idealized vision of who you ought to be. That's why I applaud Jamie Lee Curtis for her courage and candor.
In the current issue of More magazine, Curtis has caused quite a stir. Not with celebrity gossip or startling personal revelation, but with her willingness to strip down, quite literally, to her true self. At the heart of the piece are two photographs. One shows Curtis as we're accustomed to seeing her, a flawless icon of what Hollywood touts as female perfection. The other shows her as she sees herself at home every morning: flat lighting, no makeup, no coif, without the slinky $1000 dress and the $455 stiletto heels. The picture presents her as she really is, after 43 years and two children, clad in a sports bra and a pair of spandex briefs. No fakery. Just the truth.
At Curtis's insistence, the article tells readers what it took to turn Real Jamie into Glam Jamie: a three-hour effort by a team of 13 professionals, including two fashion stylists and an assistant, a hairdresser, a makeup artist, a manicurist, a prop stylist and assistant, a photographer and two assistants, and More's creative director. Curtis also acknowledges having had "a little plastic surgery, a little lipo, a little Botox." She adds, "And you know what? None of it works. None of it." (Sounds a lot like what I said two years back about anti-ageing creams.)
What prompted Curtis' exceptional candor? Simply put, Curtis was sick and tired of living a lie. Along with her roles in movies like Perfect and Trading Places, Curtis has spent much of the last 10 years writing books for children with the message that it's OK to be who you are. Now she's decided to live that message a bold gesture when you work in an industry that seems incapable of putting a woman older than 29 in a leading role.
But despite her trepidation, the thought of the many women who have compared their own bodies to Glam Jamie's "perfection" and found themselves wanting impelled her to reveal herself. "I don't want the unsuspecting forty-year-old women of the world to think I've got it going on," she explains. "It's such a fraud. And I'm the one perpetuating it."
I don't just admire Curtis's honesty. I'm also delighted to find another ally in challenging stereotypes of beauty and celebrating self-esteem. As I've said before, the cosmetics industry, Hollywood, and their allies in women's magazines have made a fortune fostering and then exploiting low self-esteem in their own customers. Their message to women comes down to this: Shut up, get a facelift, and stop eating. To which I reply that beauty is about character, curiosity, imagination, and humor. It's about loving life and loving yourself not pretending to be 25 or striving to attain the profile of an airbrushed, stylized, liposuctioned supermodel.
Despite the message of self-doubt and inadequacy hammered home by the beauty industry, the truth is simple: If you feel gorgeous, you'll look gorgeous. Hats off to Jamie Lee Curtis for finding such a dramatic and gutsy way to say so, and to More magazine for bucking the trend of so many women's magazines.