The chic older woman appeared at ease with herself on the red carpet, as she posed for the flashing cameras. It was the evening of January 6, 2019, and the 76th Golden Globes were getting under way at the Beverly Hills Hilton. The lady in question was Jamie Lee Curtis, an American actress who has been starring on the silver screen for over four decades now. Unlike many of her contemporaries, though, Curtis has made a point of ageing naturally in recent years. And, what’s more, she’s shared the personal reason why she just won’t get on board with conventional ideas about beauty.
Curtis dazzled all in white on that particular night, with the then-60-year-old wearing a long dress with a provocative split up to her thigh that was embellished with a silver sequined bodice. She also showed off a striking clutch made by Perrin Paris and the late architect Zaha Hadid, and accessorized with flower-shaped crystal earrings. The dress showcased her still-enviable hourglass figure, but it was her hair that really got people talking.
That’s because Curtis publicly debuted a striking new twist to her signature pixie cut. Yes, gone was the salt-and-pepper grey look that she had rocked for many years and in its place was a bouffant, swept-back mass of white hair. It was quite the statement from the star.
As we have intimated, Curtis, who has been enjoying something of a big-screen renaissance since reprising her role as Laurie Strode in 2018’s Halloween, would have a bold reason for turning up in such a fashion. Nevertheless, in what should be her retirement years, the 61-year-old’s career has been in the ascendant again. So let’s rewind back to where it all started.
Jamie Lee Curtis was born in Los Angeles on November 22, 1958. She was her parents’ second child, with her older sister Kelly arriving into the world two years and five months earlier on June 17, 1956. Curtis and her sibling Kelly were certainly not born into poverty. In fact, their parents were genuine Hollywood royalty.
Curtis’s mother was Janet Leigh, a well-known actress who was born on July 6, 1927. Leigh – who made her screen debut in 1947’s The Romance of Rosy Ridge – most famously appeared as Marion Crane in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Psycho, in which she screamed for her life in the shower as her killer moved in. That particular scene became one of the most iconic of all time. In her lengthy career she also starred in films such as The Manchurian Candidate, Bye Bye Birdie and The Fog. What’s more, their father was equally (if not more) famous.
That’s because the Curtis sisters’ father was the legendary Tony Curtis. Born Bernard Schwartz on June 3, 1925 to Jewish immigrant parents from Hungary, he grew up in poverty in the Great Depression years, and he and his brother Julius were even put into an orphanage in 1935 when his parents couldn’t make ends meet. The boys would suffer antisemitic abuse from other boys while under state care. Tragically, Tony Curtis’s beloved younger brother Julius would be killed at the age of 12 in a road accident involving a truck.
Curtis’s father would serve in the U.S. Navy during World War Two, before moving to California after the conflict to pursue his acting dream. He would meet and marry Leigh in 1951, then go on to become one of the biggest Hollywood stars of the 1950s. Her good-looking poppa became the preeminent pin-up of his era, and made star turns in movies such as Some Like it Hot, Houdini, Spartacus and The Defiant Ones.
Sadly for Curtis and her sister, their parents would divorce after just over a decade’s marriage in 1962. Their father – who had a voracious appetite for women and later claimed he had an on-set affair with his Some Like it Hot co-star Marilyn Monroe – moved on with a teenage Austrian actress named Christine Kaufmann. The split would affect his career however, as Hollywood rallied around Leigh and her young children.
Curtis’s mom would move on quickly from her father, tying the knot with a stockbroker named Robert Brandt and relocating the family to the Los Angeles suburbs. Brandt would become the new father figure for the young girl, with the actress lamenting her real dad’s absence from her life on an episode of TV show The Talk in 2010. “He was not a father. He was not interested in being a father,” she revealed.
Curtis would go on to attend Beverly Hills High School and the all-girl Westlake School in Los Angeles, where the athletic youngster became a cheerleader. She then continued her higher education in Connecticut. The teenage Curtis successfully completed her studies at the esteemed Choate Rosemary Hall in 1976.
To placate her mother, Curtis pursued a college education. She was accepted into the law school of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California – where her mom had attended – but the truth was, she didn’t want to be there, and she quit after just one semester. Indeed, by this period of her life, Curtis had set her heart on following her parents by making it in show business.
Curtis’s first role was a minor, two-line appearance in the TV series Quincy M.E., which followed the titular coroner portrayed by Jack Klugman who investigated suspicious deaths. Appearances in The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and Columbo followed in 1977, before she landed a recurring role later that year in submarine drama Operation Petticoat that spanned 23 episodes. But it was in the fall of 1978, just a few days after her one-episode appearance on Charlie’s Angels had aired, that Curtis would make her major career breakthrough on the big screen.
Yes, the role that would catapult her to superstardom was that of Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s horror classic Halloween. The film followed the escaped mental patient Michael Myers who was institutionalized at the age of six after murdering his sister on Halloween in 1963. Fifteen years later, he returns to his home town of Haddonfield, Illinois looking for more victims, and Curtis’s character soon comes onto the demented killer’s radar.
The terrifying movie was a major box office hit, grossing $47m in the U.S. alone. Curtis had broken free of the shackles of her legendary parents’ fame and become a major star herself. Theirs was a considerable shadow to escape, however, and not one from which she could ever fully break free. “I’ve always said that I have the longest middle name. There goes Jamie Janet-Leigh-and-Tony-Curtis’s-daughter Curtis,” she once remarked.
Nonetheless, after the success of Halloween, Curtis’s career would begin to flourish. In the immediate years that followed, she would appear in a number of movies, with many of them being in the horror genre. Films she starred in during the early ‘80s included Prom Night, The Fog and Halloween II. Given her penchant for horror, she began to be referred to in the press as the “Scream Queen” – ironically something for which her mother had become famous two decades previously in Psycho.
But Curtis was determined not to be completely typecast as a shrieking damsel in distress. The actress began to branch out and took on a number of more challenging roles. This included a memorable turn as the kindhearted prostitute Ophelia in John Landis’s 1983 role-reversal comedy Trading Places. That role earned Curtis her first major acting gong; the Best Supporting Actress BAFTA for 1984.
Indeed, 1984 would also be memorable for the actress for more personal reasons: it would be the year she would meet and marry her husband Christopher Guest. As she explained to her pal Sigourney Weaver in a 2015 Interview magazine piece, Curtis spotted a photo of Guest in a 1985 edition of Rolling Stonemagazine with his Spinal Tap movie co-stars and proclaimed she was “going to marry that guy” to her friend Debra Hill. As it so happened, that pal knew him and had even tried to get him cast in a film.
Guest was actually with the same agency as Curtis, so the love-struck actress phoned her agent and left her number for Chris. However, for some reason the New York-born actor never made the call. But Curtis would – presumably by chance and not by stalking him – run into the Spinal Tap star in a restaurant, and five short months later they had tied the knot. Amazingly, the actress had done exactly what she set out to do upon seeing his picture.
Curtis and Guest would go on to adopt a daughter named Annie in 1986. The actress kept busy over the next few years, appearing in the movies A Man in Love, Amazing Grace and Chuck and Dominic and Eugene amongst others. But it was her role as Wanda Gerschwitz in British crime caper A Fish Called Wanda that would garner her much acclaim, with Curtis earning Best Actress nominations for both the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes in 1989.
From 1989 until 1992 Curtis starred in the TV comedy Anything But Love opposite Richard Lewis. A year later, she would begin a lucrative side career writing children’s books. But the 1994 blockbuster smash True Lies, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, would catapult her back into the spotlight. Her role as Helen Tasker in the secret agent caper featured a notorious teasing dance scene that would make her a sex symbol for many teenage boys. It would also land her the 1995 Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy.
In 1996 Curtis and her husband decided to adopt another child, and this time it was a boy called Thomas. The new mother-of-two kept herself busy for the rest of the 1990s, appearing in the movies House Arrest, Fierce Creatures and Homegrown from 1996 to 1997. In 1998 the star would return to the Halloween franchise for Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, where she reprised her role as Laurie Strode.
Four years later the popular horror series and its tormented damsel Laurie Strode would be back again, in a film entitled Halloween: Resurrection. A year later Curtis would appear alongside Lindsay Lohan in the second Disney remake of the mother and daughter body-switch comedy Freaky Friday, which was a box office hit. But it was in 2002 that the actress made some startling beauty and health confessions.
Yes, in a remarkable interview with Britain’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Curtis got candid on a range of topics, including cosmetic surgery, ageing gracefully and painkiller addiction. In particular, the then 43-year-old broke with convention by attacking the Hollywood’s “nip-and-tuck” culture of eternal youth. “I’ve done it all. I’ve had a little plastic surgery. I’ve had a little lipo[suction]. I’ve had a little Botox. And you know what? None of it works,” she said.
In an extraordinary show of self-awareness, Curtis acknowledged her role in perpetuating a perfect Hollywood myth and hit out at herself for doing so. She lamented the decade or so she had been filmed “in some leotard with my breasts hanging out,” and stated, “There’s a point where you become a caricature of yourself.” Curtis, who is widely regarded as being at least partly responsible for the 1980s aerobics craze due to her role as an impeccably toned instructor in Perfect, added in the same Telegraph interview that, “The more I like me, the less I want to pretend to be other people.”
As if to prove her own point, that same year, Curtis would pose in a warts-and-all style photoshoot for the U.S. magazine More. Sporting nothing more than a black bra and knickers (and not even a dollop of makeup), she presented the most natural version of herself that she possibly could. Yes, instead of using her star power to prevent non-perfect photographs of her appearing in a magazine (as many celebs of the era have been known to do), she had encouraged a particular glossy one to do just that. Curtis even joked that the accompanying interview should carry the headline “True thighs.”
In the same Telegraph interview from 2002 Curtis exposed a personal secret that she had first sought unnatural enhancement as early as 1992. “Ten years ago, before anybody did that, I had fat taken from underneath my eyes because I was on a movie and I was puffy,” she told the newspaper. “I remember the cameraman saying: ‘I can’t shoot her now’. I remember being mortified,” she added.
Curtis then took aim at the danger of undergoing betterment procedures such as plastic surgery and liposuction, and how it ended up being pointless despite the pain she had suffered. “Nobody tells you if you take fat from your body in one place, it comes back in another place,” she said. “All of these ‘bettering’ experiences are not without risk. And there is this illusion that once you do it, then you’ll be fine. And that’s just horse****. I looked worse,” she concluded.
Indeed, on the back of the aforementioned procedure in her 20s for alleged “puffy eyes” (as an unkind cameraman had deemed them), Curtis developed a crippling painkiller addiction. She revealed in a 2019 ‘recovery issue’ of Variety magazine that her secret addiction to Vicodin and other painkillers lasted for about ten years, but when she came across an Esquire magazine article on the subject in 1999, it pushed her into getting the help she badly needed. In the same Variety issue she also detailed her history of alcoholism and recreational drug abuse, including taking cocaine with her late father Tony, who died in 2010 at the age of 85.
Ever since that outspoken 2002 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Curtis has been on something of a mission to shed light on myths about her and her beauty. “Demystifying has been a real goal for me. For myself, as well as on a public level,” she told the London-based newspaper. “I’m trying hard to take the veil off the fraud, to be real, to start with me. In the recovery programme I’m in (for addiction problems), they talk about peeling an onion, exposing more layers,” she revealed at the time.
Part of that demystifying process was cutting to shreds the myth of the faultless Jamie Lee Curtis: one the actress openly admitted to the Telegraph as having “actively participated in and profited from.” “It’s insidious – Glam Jamie, the Perfect Jamie, the great figure, blah, blah, blah. I don’t want the unsuspecting 40-year-old women of the world to think that I’ve got it going on. It’s such a fraud. And I’m the one perpetuating it,” she argued.
Curtis even got into specifics about her own body hang-ups and imperfections. “There’s a reality to the way I look without my clothes on,” she said. “I don’t have great thighs. I have very big breasts and a soft, fatty little tummy. And I’ve got back fat.” The seemingly widespread assumption that she was forever “walking around in little spaghetti-strap dresses” couldn’t have been further from the truth, then.
Yes, Curtis had worked for the worry line between her eyebrows, and by this time in her life she was comfortable enough in her own skin to show it off. “I’m going to look the way God intends me to look . . . with a little help from [Spanish shoe designer] Manolo Blahnik,” she joked to The Daily Telegraph. Nonetheless, the actress was aware her outspoken jabs at Hollywood’s eternal youth culture could make her persona non grata. “I’m sitting here on my high hill, debunking the very foundation that I sit on, she said. “Don’t think I’m not afraid of it. I’m not financially independent enough that I don’t rely on outside income still. But it’s just money. It isn’t love.”
Fast forward 17 years and Curtis was in the mood for confession again. It was 40 years since she first appeared on the big screen in the original Halloween, and with the sixth one coming out she had some more things to get off her chest. In the 2018 interview with Good Housekeeping magazine in which she reflected on her life and career, she would spill, amongst her confidence secrets, the startling reason she wouldn’t dye her hair.
“It looks good on me,” she confidently revealed to the women’s interests magazine. “Embrace the white!” Yes, no longer would Curtis fret about the ageing process and her hair color changing. But there was something about her signature style that needed regular maintenance. “Hair this short needs to be cut every two or three weeks,” she added.
Curtis – who has been busy writing her own screenplay – has developed a clear life philosophy to which she does her best to strictly adhere: if not now, when? “On the very clear passage of 50s to 60s, I have no time to waste,” she told Good Housekeeping.“If you have creative ideas and you don’t bring them out into the world in some way before you go, that is a tragedy,” she added.
The American reflected on her now famous photoshoot for More in 2002. “It was an attempt at saying, ‘I struggle with my own self-esteem,’ ” she told Good Housekeeping. “I live a very quiet, private life. I’ve never been a comfortable cover girl, but the girl in those photos took off her clothes and stood there, letting her tummy relax. I was free.”
Curtis would amazingly confess in the same interview that she doesn’t even look directly in the mirror these days. “I don’t know if men wake up, look in the mirror and hate themselves. Most women do. So I have a big secret: I don’t look in the mirror,” she revealed, continuing, “I’m a 60-year-old woman. I am not going to look the same as I used to, and I don’t want to be confronted by that every day!” She added, “I don’t want women to hate themselves, because I think women are extraordinary.”
Furthermore, Curtis would tell Good Housekeeping that her attitude towards life meant she was evolving all the time. “I am a constant editor. I shed people, I shed clothing, I shed possessions, I shed ideas. The biggest thing I’ve shed is my own limitations and perception of who I am,” she revealed. Her most significant reinvention however was becoming clean Jamie Lee. “I got sober 20 years ago. That was a massive reemergence,” she opined.
When Curtis sat down for an interview with Glamour magazine earlier this year she discussed why she had taken it upon herself to be so honest about her not-always-glamorous life in the press. “I talked about addiction and substance abuse, plastic surgery – trying it, failing at it, hating it, thinking it’s f***ing charlatans, stealing your money,” she said. “I would hope a young person would look at me with my grey hair and wrinkly face and say, ‘That’s cool that you are who you are,’” she concluded. We are sure many women – and indeed men – from across the globe do believe that the wonderfully down-to-earth Jamie Lee Curtis is perfect the way she is.