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Graceful & Frank
Oscar winner. Activist. L’Oréal brand ambassador. Netflix comedy star. Jane Fonda has worn many hats, and at 81 she’s still keeping us guessing. The Grace and Frankie star gave us an exclusive Q&A.
Liesl Robertson

L’Oréal’s brand ambassadors each have their own passions, style and personality, but what they all have in common is their unique way of sharing a vision of beauty. Jane Fonda is no exception.

Besides being an accomplished stage and screen actress, she’s also a bestselling author, a film and TV producer, and a fierce advocate for female empowerment and environmental issues. But Jane wasn’t always the strong, independent woman she is today. In the 2018 documentary about her life, Jane Fonda in Five Acts, the first four acts are named after three men: her father, Henry, and her three husbands: Roger, Tom and Ted. Act Five, however, is simply called ‘Jane’.

‘Up until my sixties I was, to a large extent, defined by the men in my life. I was brought up to please. I wanted my father to love me, so I would turn myself into a pretzel to be what he wanted me to be. It took me a long time to get over it. It took me into my sixties, then I began to become who I was supposed to be.’

In her early years as an actress, she played girl-next-door types – and did it well. But she had a lot more talent buried within. ‘I always had this sense that she was a serious actress buried inside this glamour puss,’ said director Sydney Pollack. He was right.

Jane has seven Oscar nominations to her name, and two wins for best actress. And she has a Tony and a couple of Emmys, if you’re keeping track!

She also produced the top-selling VHS tape of all time, Jane Fonda’s Workout, and her exercise manual topped The New York Times bestseller list for two solid years. The money she made from her workout empire went into funding her real passion: activism. ‘[Activism] is deep in her soul,’ says Jane’s good friend, producer Paula Weinstein. ‘There’s no stopping that part of herself because it feeds everything.’

Jane was also making movies with a message. The China Syndrome was about a cover-up at a nuclear plant. And 1980’s 9 to 5 dealt with the challenges women face in the workplace – unequal pay and sexual harassment – and the importance of flexible hours and childcare. Over the years, says Jane, she also became more and more of a feminist. ‘I wanted to be living as a whole Jane, a fully realised Jane.’

After having given up a stellar career at 50, she did the opposite of everyone else her age and came out of retirement at 65 – and the world welcomed her back with open arms. Monster-inLaw introduced her to a new generation and her hit Netflix show, Grace and Frankie, has cemented her status as screen icon.

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November 2019

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