When Kate Winslet rang me earlier today, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. A bit of beauty banter? Of course. But the conversation that ensued unveiled a genuine heart and sense of purpose below the striking exterior of this Lancome spokesmodel.
Though still in her early 30s, Kate’s sage-like qualities resounded over the phone. With all the awards she’s been winning and is nominated for, you’d think she’d be a little less grounded, not so.
Read below for a reality check from one of the most influential— and naturally gorgeous— heroines of our time.
Most people don’t have a public record of their professional and personal development, though yours has been well-documented since the early '90s. Do you think this has had an impact on your sense of self? Who or what has helped you strengthen and retain your sanity?
No, I think that my sense of self has come as a result of my own life experiences. In my early 20s, I thought I knew myself so well and thought I was coping with life so well and actually, when I look back, [I see that] I didn’t know what the hell I was I doing back then— I hadn’t a clue who I was.
But now, I do feel much more centered in terms of who I am and feel the most comfortable in my own skin than I’ve ever felt before. And I feel less inclined to beat myself up now, as we tend to do in our early 20s. We scrutinize ourselves and are often very physically insecure in our early 20s, and it takes awhile to grow out of that. I think that becoming a mother, and just letting myself be who I am, has definitely helped me achieve a sense of balance within myself.
Has Hollywood had an impact on how you perceive yourself physically?
No. If anything Hollywood has made me more defiant— made me want to be more comfortable in my own skin. It’s made me less inclined to want to change myself. I think there are a lot of myths and a lot of pressure on women these days to look good, and I think a lot of that does come from Hollywood and it does come from the media.
I do feel that I’m very lucky to be in the position where I am working as an actress today and get to play very, very interesting roles. And to be recognized for those things is, you know, very rare. It’s a real blessing and I don’t take any of it lightly. But because I am in that position, I do feel that it’s important to stand up there and say, “Guess what everybody, this isn’t real— we don’t all really look like this. We’ve been in hair and makeup for two hours”, or “Magazine covers do get retouched.” That’s the way it’s been for a very long time, and no one really talks about that. I really don’t think it should be a secret.
So then it’s safe to assume that you’re comfortable with being a “body image hero”?
Yes, yes. Very much so.
Do you think that different directors see you differently? Which director’s vision have you found to be the most complex? Exciting? Perhaps the closest to how you perceive yourself?
Well, when Michel Gondry asked me to play “Clementine” in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I was really, really flattered because he was the first director who helped me break the mold of an English Rose who’s doing all the period films. He saw something in me— and I don’t know what it was— but he saw a sort of rebellious, feisty, ballsy person inside, and in many ways that is who I am. So I felt very understood working with Michel Gondry, and I also felt very comfortable and encouraged and yet challenged at the same time. It was a big, big step for me, a kind of turning point in my career, to play somebody as contemporary and unconventional as “Clementine."
Do you watch yourself in your films? Is it hard to see yourself on screen?
I don’t watch myself, no. I always see [my films] once when they come out, but I don’t sit and avidly watch them. I do find it a bit strange.
As an actor's actor, you have an extraordinary talent for interpreting and embodying your characters. How important is hair, make-up and wardrobe for you when creating a character? Do you have a favorite transformation?
My favorite transformation is “Hannah” [from The Reader] because I age 38 years in that film, and hair and makeup play a huge part. I mean, if it wasn’t for the hair and makeup team, they would have had to cast an older actress to play that role, so I was very, very lucky that the technicians were as capable as they were— that they could really create this look and make it very believable. That was a fascinating process for me; I’d never done anything like that before and was extremely happy to be able to experience that [transformation]. And it also meant that I could play that part— literally— so it really made a huge difference for me.
When the cameras are off, what’s your daily beauty regimen?
I don’t have any major secrets. I just really try and keep a healthy attitude and think everything in moderation. I try to keep my skin as clean as I can— use a good moisturizer, a good eye cream [like Lancome High Résolution Eye Refill-3X], and try and get rest. You know, not do anything to excess. And I can’t get away with the things I used to be able to get away with in my early 20s.
In my early 20s, I could eat chocolate and it maybe made a difference in the size of my hips, but it certainly didn’t make a difference in my skin. But nowadays, I have to be careful with that because I’ll just breakout. You shift and change, your hormones change, and that effects everything— your body, your skin.
So just maintaining a healthy attitude really, and having an understanding of what your body is and what your skin does, and not doing the things that might make you react.
Do you workout regularly? And if so, what exercises or routines have you found to be the most successful?
Well I haven’t actually done any exercise since October of last year, I just literally haven’t had the time. I haven’t done a stitch— not a sit-up, not anything. If and when I can— I’m not an avid gym girl and don’t have a personal trainer— I find doing a little Pilates at home with a DVD really helps. It’s also really good when traveling, as you can take the DVDs with you and use them in the hotel room; just lie down on a towel and stretch a little bit. That just seems to help me somehow keep it together, but I don’t do it obsessively and I’m very inconsistent about it.
Now on to a bit of fashion. Who would you say are your style icons?
I don’t particularly have any style icons. I just really admire women who dress appropriately, who don’t try and cover themselves up, and women who look the age that they are.
I really admire Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, Vanessa Redgrave, Judi Dench— you know, these wonderful, powerful women who are brilliant at what they do, and who are aging naturally and gracefully, and look absolutely incredible. Those are the types of women that I really admire. I would hope to be like that, giving out that type of message, when I’m older.
On a sillier note, if you were a fashion accessory what would you be?
I would be a locket on a chain, because you can put the pictures of the ones you love in the locket.
Any parting words for our Beauty Maverick readers?
Just try not to be too hard on yourself. I think that we can all get very bogged-down and stressed-out by how we’re supposed to look or by comparing ourselves to other people. I think that comparing ourselves to other people is just exhausting, and also pointless.
Try to play to your strengths and just be comfortable in your own skin, and try and stop wishing that you were somebody else. We are who we are, and we have to try to make the best of what we have.
Kate can currently be seen on screen in Revolutionary Road and The Reader, with the latter having earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress. To learn more about Kate's role as a brand ambassador for Lancome, click here.