Not many know that award-winning actress and film producer Charlize Theron started out as a dancer. But a knee injury made her give up the dream and turn to modelling instead. At 19, her mother bought her a one-way ticket to Los Angeles to try out acting. The statuesque actress never looked back, bypassed the arm candy stage and eventually portrayed diverse and meaningful film roles. In 2003, she surprised the world with her formidable portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the film Monster, which earned her an Academy Award and an A-list status in Hollywood.
One of the more private stars around, Theron has no regrets about staying single. She adopted two children, and enjoys a low-key, low-profile life at her no-frills home in the Hollywood Hills, surrounded by friends and dogs. A homebody, she doesn’t go out much, cleans and cooks, and makes time for her causes, such as the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, created to support African youth in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
To this day, Theron famously holds the title of the movie star who wore the most expensive piece of jewellery on the Oscar’s red carpet, a one-of-a-kind necklace by Harry Winston worth a staggering $15 million. The Cluster Diamond pendant from the Incredibles Collection was set with a completely flawless 31ct emerald-cut diamond.
ANIKO NAVAI: You turned 41 this past year. How dramatic was it for you?
CHARLIZE THERON: We think about all the things that we lose, like the elasticity in our skin, but we don’t think about the things that we gain. And I think that’s the stuff that we don’t write about enough. With age comes this calm understanding of just knowing yourself better and knowing the world better, and really fitting in your shoes and fitting in your skin and having great ownership. I never had that in my ’20s. So, I am excited. How fortunate are we that we get to age? A lot of people don’t have that luxury. So I am grateful for that, to be alive and healthy.
AN: But for a beautiful actress like yourself, isn’t it scary to be ageing in Hollywood?
CT: I think ageing is not just a Hollywood thing. It’s ironic that we’ve built the beauty world around 20-year-olds — when they have no concept about wisdom, about what life is about — having a few relationships under their belt, to grow into their skin and feel confident within themselves and to feel the value of who they are, not because of a man. I think that’s such a beautiful thing. That’s why I think people say women come into their prime in their 40s. It would be very hard to deny that it is much harder for women to age in any society than it is for men. I think Hollywood has always got a little spotlight on it. Cosmetic companies make their money not from Hollywood but from women from everywhere, buying their products because they have been told and they have believed for so long what is their value and what we can give to society is all set in what we look like. And in a way we’ve done that to ourselves. But what does that mean? What does that represent? Ageing isn’t just about looking in the mirror and going, wow, I’m getting old. It doesn’t meant I’m less valuable to myself, to my community. I think it’s up to us to change that, to put our value in things that are bigger and actually tangible. Ageing is inevitable. This is something we’re all going to have to face.
AN: Interestingly, J’Adore (by Dior) came to you after Monster, the movie wherein you look the least attractive.
CT: If Dior came to me 15 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have done it. It would have been a hard decision to make because I can’t imagine not working with that House and having that family, and that would have been hard. But I think it would have been counterproductive, so it was just the timing of it. I felt like if after Monster people couldn’t separate what I looked like or my ability to want to be an empty canvas and transform, then they were never going to get it.
AN: You’re also the face of the Dior watch.
CT: Time, I think is the greatest luxury in life. It’s also the one that we take for granted the most. It’s definitely a luxury in my life. I love my relationship with the House of Dior. I feel very honoured to be a part of that house. I think there’s very few fashion houses that carry the kind of history and iconic image that Dior has. I am so grateful because it’s been a really creative working experience. It’s just so classy beyond belief, and every time I do the campaigns I am always somewhat in disbelief that I’m that girl. It’s nice knowing that you’re working with people who won’t compromise.
AN: And do you actually wear watches?
CT: First of all, the ebony tone of the watches like the Baguettes Vertes version suits my penchant for all-black dressing. I wear my watches with everything, from a red carpet gown to casual jeans and T-shirts. Even a bathing suit, because it’s water resistant. I tested it. I prefer the architectural inspired style to the smaller ones.
AN: What is your most precious piece of jewellery?
CT: I wear a little yellow gold “J” in initial in honour of my son, Jackson.
AN: What’s your relationship with fashion?
CT: I have a really nice closet. But by considered standards of other closets that I have seen, I think mine is pretty small. I have seen images of people’s closets that are like homes, and I literally wonder if they wear something different every day? And whether they still would be able to wear all of that stuff in one lifetime? And that concept bothers me.
I’m incredibly lucky. People are very generous and sending me stuff. I never take that for granted, but I’m always very aware that I’m one person and I can’t wear everything. The idea of stuff just hanging in my closet and not being used, there’s a little bit of the African in me that gets bothered by that. My whole concept in life is that if you’re not using it, you should give it to somebody else so they can use it.
AN: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
CT: I would say, “Calm down”. I was always in a rush. I felt like time was going to run out. Now that I’m older, I know I’m not missing out on anything. When I hit 30, I realised I didn’t have to please everybody. I could actually enjoy life, which is not a bad thing at all.
Image opener courtesy of Dior