Q. Your book The 5 Principles of Ageless Living (Atrium, 2003), which comes out in paperback in May, advocates a holistic approach to women’s health, well-being, and beauty. How did you come to this philosophy?
A. I was a dancer, an actor, a model—things that could be superficial. But I was discovering new things, surrounding myself with creativity, working with great photographers like Lord Snowden. We felt like we were creating art at the highest level. Even at a young age, I always tried to find value in what I was doing.
Q. What’s the deeper significance of your first principle, “look your best”?
A. When I was writing the book, I spoke with medical doctors who said that when patients brushed their hair or put on lipstick, they healed better; they didn’t ask for their pain meds as often. When you take care of your physical body, you honor your inner self. Sometimes, that’s the easiest level to start on.
Q. After being told at 38 that you were “over the hill,” you helped change the cosmetics industry’s perception of older women.
A. I knew I was only at the beginning of what I had to offer. So I did a lot of research and found that I was part of a wave of aging baby boomers—43 million women—yet my industry wasn’t speaking to them. True beauty is something that has to evolve with time; otherwise, it’s just wrinkle-free beauty.
Q. Your second principle, “nurture your spirit,” addresses an area that has fallen through the cracks for many women who have spent years caring for a family and developing careers.
A. When I lost my husband in 1986, I went into a very deep, dark place, and it was difficult to come back. I volunteered at a hospital; that helped. And I really started making a demand: What was life for? It led me to a meditation teacher in India. Now I practice meditation and yoga—and the five principles of ageless living—every day.
Q. How does tuning into yourself in these ways help?
A. It serves you well to live consciously, to observe what’s happening around you and stop the blaming. You make choices every day about how you see the world, and that creates your world. It starts the moment you get up.
Q. Why is blaming other people such a trap?
A. People love to say it was somebody else’s fault. These “tapes” that play in your head may have started at a very young age. Listen to hear yourself saying or thinking anything that’s a generalization, a blanket. I have a friend who had a difficult family situation, and she said, “No matter what I do, it’s always my fault.” So I asked, “Did you hear what you just said?” You need to write it down and ask, what’s my part in it? How did I help this come into being—and how can I break it?
Q. Your third principle, “discover your wisdom,” encourages midlife women to recognize the valuable experience they’ve gained. Do you find Americans lack enthusiasm about growing old?
A. Our early years are very clearly marked out. Socially, we know we have to go to school, find a job, find a partner, raise a family. But we don’t know what happens next. Experts now say that if you’re disease-free at 40, you have another 40 or 50 years—that’s like another life in front of you. It’s all new territory that baby boomers are defining.
Q. What’s your take on aging?
A. Society says life starts big and then narrows. I’m saying the opposite. If you keep learning and growing, you bring more wisdom and compassion; your best parts mesh together. You have a greater chance for forming a better relationship as you age, for instance, than you did with the person you picked in your 20s. But the sooner you start implementing these changes and taking care of yourself, the easier it is to springboard into a vital, active life.