What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?
I was very aware of my appearance, and I’ve been in theater. I grew up being an only child, and I was never happy with that. I spent hours in my bedroom creating situations. I had lots of clothes. I would dress up by the mirror, and I would be all these different people.
I was always very conscious of how I looked. I was very insecure as a young woman. I always wanted to be 6 feet tall, red hair and this svelte woman because I love design and clothing. Well, I’m this short, stumpy person, and some of the clothes are certainly not fitting. But my sense of that has always been with me, and I try to get as close to that as possible. A lot of my appearance in clothing were kind of tailored. I loved wool and tweeds. I came from Chicago where it was very cold. So I loved that clothing.
The lipstick always had to match what I was wearing. I remember I had an American Beauty red coat, and I had that lipstick. At that time, that was a very popular shade, kind of a fuchsia. My rouge had to match. Everything had to match. One thing I remember was that you never wore a gold ring with silver earrings. You always matched. And then of course, I loved hats. And we always wore hats. No it’s kind of extinct. I still wear them, but not as much.
I came from the era when you wore the gloves and the shoes. It was a whole picture. A whole outfit, and I liked that.
I moved to California in 1976, and very funny, from the moment I moved here, I stopped wearing a girdle. And I haven’t worn a girdle since. I don’t even wear a bra. I haven’t worn one in years, which I think is funny because I used to wear a girdle. I was nothing there. I was flat. I wore zipped up garment. I haven’t worn anything since I’ve been here. So I don’t know if they call that laid back, but I’m much happier this way.
There were times when I felt pretty. And there were times when I didn’t feel pretty.
What does beauty mean to you now?
I have mixed feelings. I once saw a photograph of an old woman…just lines all over her face. And I looked at that and I thought, That’s probably one of the most beautiful pictures that I’ve ever seen. And yet I don’t want to look like that.
But then there’s another part of me that will not go gray. And I am affected by the fact that I look older. Sometimes I feel good about that. But I think where it really matters is not really anymore in my physical presence as much as it is in my mind. It’s my thinking that’s much more important. And what I’ve learned and realized is that thinking in a youthful manner – and I think it’s my spirit – makes people think you’re younger than you are. It’s all mental. It has nothing to do with my physical appearance. But consequently, I think it does affect your physical appearance because you radiate what you are, what you feel.
Why have you had that change of focus (about your ideas of beauty)?
I think it’s necessary for the person that I am. I don’t think it could have been anything else because my uppermost important feature as a human being is to be healthy, mentally healthy. And I have striven for that. I haven’t always made it, but that’s my ultimate goal.
I have three sons, and I’ve said to them, “I’m going to get older, and as I get older, I’m gonna get a little crazy. So you have to ignore me.” And they’re listening (she laughs).
I came from a very neurotic mother and sometimes the tendency for the neurosis does seep in. And I hear myself and think that’s the most frightening thing in the world because you don’t even realize what has seeped in and what you have to block. So you have to be very strong and really want to change and really want to grow. And that’s what I want.
San Francisco, October 2010