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On Living Well: Jamie Lee Curtis offers her insights on living a mindful life

Published 12/16/2009 12:00 AM
Here's three things Jamie Lee Curtis wants you to know about her before you start asking the Hollywood star-turned children's author any probing questions about her life.

Her breasts are real, Arnold Schwarzenneger was a "perfect gentleman" during the filming of the hit movie "True Lies," and she loves Activia, the yogurt that promotes regularity and a product for which Curtis is a paid spokesman.

There's something infinitely satisfying, Curtis says, about endorsing a product that makes one simple vow - "to make you regular" - and keeps it.

"They promise you that it will make you feel better and it does," she says. "If you eat it, you will poop."

Those were just a few of the insights and ruminations, often hilarious and sometimes soberingly introspective, that Curtis shared last month with a record crowd of 861 women who attended the 10th annual Well Healed Woman conference at the Mystic Marriott in Groton. The annual woman's health conference is sponsored by Lawrence & Memorial Hospital.

Curtis' talk was aimed at encouraging women to live a mindful life, to appreciate the beauty of getting older and nurture self-esteem in children. She urged the women in the audience to embrace their individuality and reject the unrealistic demands society places on them.

Long known for her sexy roles in movies like "True Lies," and the cult favorite "A Fish Called Wanda," Curtis these days has become even better known as a children's book writer and an advocate for women to pursue healthy and balanced lives.

Though she descends from Hollywood "royalty" - she's the daughter of acting legends Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh - Curtis has impressive acting chops herself. She's starred in dozens of major Hollywood films and for many years, she says, lived the lifestyle of a major Hollywood star.

She left all that behind about 18 years ago when she had an epiphany the day Princess Diana died. That life-changing event, she told the Well Healed audience, included deciding to live well every day of her life, to love wisely and to try to learn something new every day.

It changed the way she viewed herself as a person and a woman.

"It was an illuminating moment for me," she said.

She learned to accept who she is and how she appears and to not mold herself to someone else's concept of who she is. Her trademark short-cropped hair is going naturally gray. She wears glasses, eschews plastic surgery as a "fraud" and quit drinking.

She said she can't understand the lust so many celebrities have nowadays for procedures such as botox and collagen treatments.

"Tell me, does this look good?" she said, pulling out her lower lip in imitation of the pouty puss collagen injections engender.

She said it's troubling the extremes women will go to so they can look younger and thinner and adhere to an unnatural cultural aesthetic of femininity.

"How many of us look in the mirror and are unhappy with what we see?"

But what's more disturbing, she said, are the droves of young girls joining their ranks. Studies have shown that some 40 percent of first, second and third grade girls, she said, want to be thinner and that 40 percent of high school sophomore girls fear getting fat.

She also lamented the sexualization of young girls today, saying too many of them are "walking around looking like tarts. And I'm a liberal Democrat. I'm no prude. I wonder sometimes, who's minding the farm of these children? Who is minding these girls?"

A mother of two, including a daughter, Curtis urged the women in the audience to be appropriate role models for the girls in their lives. Parents and mentors who accept themselves as they are will be more likely to raise young women with healthy self esteem.

Don't criticize your own weight and appearance in front of your daughters, she said, and your daughters will be less inclined to be self-critical as they grow up.

"If you don't want your teenagers to drink," she added, "then don't drink."

Her message was enthusiastically embraced by the audience, which twice gave her standing ovations. Prior to her speech Curtis also delighted the crowd by personally appearing at each table to chat, and joke with the women and take pictures with them.