Fresh off her hit HBO show, Mare of Easttown, actress Kate Winslet has just been named the new face of iconic beauty brand L’Oréal Paris, joining the likes of Viola Davis, Eva Longoria, and Gemma Chan. Never one to shy away from tough conversations around the pressures women face in Hollywood, Winslet chats with us all about beauty, self-worth, and what still needs to change 23 years after she first became a pop culture phenomenon.
How does it feel to be the new face of L’Oréal?
It feels really timely for me, because what I’ve been saying a lot in the last kind of six months is that this decade coming up, it feels like there’s a huge shift amongst women. We’re using our voices in different ways. More importantly than anything else, I think that sense of sisterhood and women coming together, not judging each other, learning how to openly compliment one another, and really standing up for one another—that’s changed. For me to be a part of L’Oréal, knowing that these things are important to me, and knowing that they’ve always been very important to them, it just feels fantastic. To join this long line of incredible women who have such important things to say, it feels great. It really feels very empowering. I’m honored.
How has your perspective on beauty shifted or changed in the last year?
What’s been so nice is that we’ve all been unified in our joy of not having to put makeup on and not make so much of an effort. I’ve actually enjoyed really not wearing makeup, and certainly wearing less of it. It’s time that is better used doing, frankly, other things. A lot of kind of pomp and circumstance comes hand in hand sometimes with hair and makeup, and actually just being your truthful, authentic, fresh self—it just feels nicer. If there’s anything that has shifted for me in the last year, it’s that we can go easier on ourselves. We can just relax a little bit. I think we scrutinize ourselves a lot. Just not looking in the mirror quite so much has been really relaxing.
Does that mean you have been paying more attention to skincare?
Well, I definitely think I’ve noticed changes in my skin, probably more than I ever would have before. Like the skin on my neck is looking different these days. I definitely have some little spot areas that I kind of wish weren’t there, so upping the SPF factor is definitely happening. Skincare has become more of a big deal. Making sure I really moisturize, because that’s hard when you’re not going out so much and not getting as much lovely fresh air on your skin. You can get really dry!
How has your idea of self-worth changed over the course of your career?
Think about that phrase: because I’m worth it, because we’re worth it, because you’re worth it. It’s really kind of a remarkable thing to feel. What’s so great about L’Oréal is that they give us all permission to say that. And for me, being “worth it” means that I’ve lived my life. I’ve got the marks and the scars and the flaws and the imperfections, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t come out the other side a more sincere human. I’m more confident with who I am and more fully rounded as a person, as a woman.
So for me, being “worth it” feels that I’m standing together with people and helping one another to feel stronger as a team. My life experience has gotten me to where I am now. I do feel proud. We don’t pat ourselves on the back enough as women. That’s a lovely thing to be able to say.
What’s a beauty look that makes you feel powerful?
When my skin is behaving—which, at the moment, it is, thank God—just a really clean face, you know, sharp jaw. A good coat of mascara, a sculpted eye, and a fat red lip. To me that’s like, “Don’t mess with me.” Because you have to feel confident enough to be able to pull off a red lip, I think. So for me, if I’m wearing a red lip, I’m like, “Here I am people.”
Are you good at doing your own hair and makeup—or do you leave it to the pros?
I’m not very good with my own hair. I just don’t have time! I very rarely dry it, and I actually don’t like putting too much heat on my hair anyway. I always let my hair dry naturally. I do like it when it’s, like, loosely tonged a little bit around my face, but I’m rubbish at doing it. I end up my burning my forehead with the tongs. I’m just like everyone else. I’m totally crap. So I always appreciate a really great hairdresser.
I am quite good at doing my own makeup. In fact, Lisa Eldridge, a makeup artist—I love her. She’s a woman’s woman, you know? Everything she says works and makes sense. So I’ve learned a lot from Lisa, and I’ll sit in her chair sometimes and she’ll be like, “You don’t really need me, you know what you’re doing.”
You’ve been really outspoken about the pressures of body image in Hollywood. Do you feel like we’ve made progress? What still needs to change?
I think that we have made progress. I do think it’s getting better. If you look at a show like Mare of Easttown, that I’m in at the moment, one of the things I feel proud about is that every single cast member has a totally normal, non-Hollywood physique. And I just love that. Because it just doesn’t make sense to me, and never has made sense, that to be successful in Hollywood, you have to be an unconventional, sort of an impossibly small shape. I do think that women’s body shapes are being commented on less than they used to be. But still, how a woman looks physically on a red carpet is still commented on more than the male counterpart. We still don’t talk about the men at all. They could be fat, they could be thin, they could be buff, they could be flabby, and we still don’t talk about them. You know, they could look like a dog’s dinner, and we still won’t talk about them.
So I do think there’s a ways to go. But it’s definitely a lot better than it used to be. Whereas years ago, the press were always given carte blanche to just criticize young actresses in ways that I think they should be really held accountable for now. That can seriously damage an individual’s mental health.
A woman’s age is often brought up in public conversation more than a man’s as well.
I think you’re right. I think the two go hand in hand, the body thing and the age thing. I remember there was a dress I wore to the 2016 Academy Awards, and I remember a fashion journalist saying, “Is it age appropriate for Kate Winslet to expose that much flesh?” I was wearing a strapless dress with my arms out—at the time, I was 42. It’s just crazy. So they’ve got me on two things, age and body? And it certainly is almost laughable, you know?
I do think it’s getting better. When you look at someone like Frances McDormand, who just won an Academy Award, I don’t see that she has adjusted any part of herself at all, and is aging naturally and clearly, is not remotely interested in makeup. I think if we have wonderful role models like Fran, like Helen Mirren, like Susan Sarandon, like Emma Thompson, you know, these gorgeous, natural, beautiful, older women, paving the way for us—if we stick to our guns, and we stand in our truth as much as those women are, and as much as I always intend to, then hopefully that will also help things to change.
What do you hope for the rest of 2021?
Well, I’m at a time of great reflection in many ways, because Mare of Easttown was incredibly tough. And now that it’s finally come out, I feel like I can really kind of let it go, because it was nearly two years’ worth of my life and a very, very intense character. I’m taking some downtime, which is amazing. So for the rest of the year, I just hope for family time and just to be able to kind of get back to being myself—really just properly being myself again. Just sort of decompressing in ways I really, really need to.
Sometimes my job can be so intense, it can actually make me feel, first of all, not myself, but also can sometimes make me feel not well and not healthy. Just because I make such enormous commitments to those characters, and it can be quite exhausting. I just hope for some me-time actually.
This article first appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR US