August 4, 2011

USA: At "73 and a half," Jane Fonda still looks fabulous

NEW YORK, NY / Harper's Bazaar Magazine / Features / August 4, 2011


At "73 and a half," Jane Fonda still looks fabulous. On the release of her latest book, Prime Time, she talks about mug shots, men, and finally learning to love her body. Read the interview below and then check out her best red-carpet looks through the years.


Photo credit: Paola Kudacki

Jane Fonda is sitting on the couch in her house in Beverly Hills, having just worked out with her "really cute" trainer upstairs. Still sinuous at 73, she's wearing leggings, a pink track top, and tinted glasses that make it hard to tell if she's staring into your soul or rolling her eyes.
She is reminiscing about her infamous 1970 mug shot, from her arrest for "drug smuggling" in Ohio. (The charge was dropped when it was revealed they were vitamins.) "It was like I had Richard Avedon in that jailhouse taking my mug shot; it's a beautiful mug shot," she pronounces. "My hair was in Klute mode. About four years ago, I went to the Sally Hershberger salon in New York and one entire wall, like six feet, was my mug shot!"

Fonda had another out-of-body experience this May in Cannes, where she was a Pucci-clad hit, prompting gushing headlines like SEXIER THAN EVER AT 73. "Well, I was in my skin, as the French say, bien dans ma peau," she recalls. "I was at the entry of the Palais, P-A-L-A-I-S" — she helpfully spells out exotic words — "and there are all these posters of Bardot, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, and then there's me!" Fonda posted a picture on her Web site — where you can also buy a mug-shot T-shirt to benefit adolescent pregnancy prevention — of her with her younger showgirl self. "When I saw it," she says, "I almost passed out."

It's a unique existence, happening upon iconic images of oneself, but Fonda, who turns 74 in December, has known no other way. Every one of her incarnations is in the collective subconscious: the "daughter of" (Henry Fonda), Hollywood ingenue, muse (to her first husband, Roger Vadim), Oscar-winning actress, activist, fitness queen, political wife (Tom Hayden), then, with her marriage to media mogul Ted Turner, which ended in 2001, self-characterized "wife of."

Fonda will rattle off all of these personae at warp speed, like a shopping list of reinvention. She sees the various chapters of her life "organically. I know that it's difficult for people outside of my skin to see it that way, but for me, I can say it has been a natural evolution."

Fonda fans tend to "imprint" on her. This came into sharp relief at book signings for her 2005 memoir, My Life So Far. One woman: "Remember the workout where you had the shiny blue tights and leg warmers? That got me through my mastectomy." Another: "Cat Ballou — I watch it every time I'm depressed." Another: "Do you remember when we marched against the war in San Diego in 1971?" She starts to laugh. "And then a man would come through and it would be … Barbarella."

In her new book, Prime Time, Fonda mentions daughter Vanessa's suggestion that she illustrate the cover with a chameleon. "That was the rap on me," she says. "When I was researching myself, I wondered, is there a 'there' there? Or am I just a hollow person who gets filled up by whatever man I'm with?" (She is currently dating music producer Richard Perry.) "I'm fine with women. My problem is always with men — you know, pleasing a man, turning myself into a pretzel to be who the man I'm with wants me to be. I'm not saying that that's gone away 100 percent, but maybe 90 percent, 95 percent even."

What Fonda is giving 100 percent to is her argument that the "third act" of one's life is not an end but a different sort of beginning. "Instead of viewing an arch — you rise, you peak, you decline — view it as a staircase," she explains. "Your body may fall apart, but on every level that really matters, you can ascend toward enlightenment, wisdom, and authenticity. That's what I'm going for."

Fonda is climbing the "staircase" two at a time. Prime Time is filled with advice ranging from pragmatic ("Figure out a baseline budget") to penile. ("The penis starts to get smaller with age.") What makes it so readable is her advice comes filtered through her personal experience.

One of Fonda's greatest lessons has come from her battle with body image. "I was raised in the '50s," she explains. "I was taught by my father that how I looked was all that mattered, frankly. He was a good man, and I was mad for him, but he sent messages to me that fathers should not send: Unless you look perfect, you're not going to be loved."

Read more: Jane Fonda Interview - Jane Fonda on Prime Time book - Harper's BAZAAR

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