Some new photos and promotional interviews with Cate. Enjoy!
“Cate, this is Aubrey with Byrdie.”
That’s how I was introduced to actress Cate Blanchett. Normally, I would’ve let it go; it’s easier to just go with it than constantly correct the vast number of people who get my name wrong. But because I was about to talk to Blanchett one-on-one and hoped to have a meaningful and memorable conversation, I had to let her know that Aubrey was not my name.
“Actually, my name is Audrey, but I get Aubrey all the time,” I said.
“Really?” she asked. “But Audrey is such a common name.”
I shrug and took pleasure in the fact that I wasn’t the only one confused by this. It’s weird something so minute can make me strongly feel a certain way. But it makes sense. Language and assigning a word to something or someone have the ability to change moods and, on a much larger scale, start revolutions.
I met with Blanchett in a back room after she had just finished hosting the launch event of SK-II’s new Change Destiny limited-edition series. The skincare brand is repackaging its hero product, the facial essence, in white bottles with three different mantras written in blue and pink graffiti: “Be the Person You DECIDE to be,” “CHANGE is in All of Us,” and “DESTINY is a Matter of Choice.”
She told the crowd that the positive messages on the bottles act as morning and evening mantras, a way to both start and end your day on a positive note. Given how crazy things currently are all over the world, everyone is in desperate need of a little positivity. “Language is powerful,” she said. “The more that women can talk about these things, the more change can happen.”
Now, more than ever, are we looking at how we discuss controversial topics. Take the word “anti-aging.” It’s become a such divisive term that some publications have gone as far as banning the use of the word completely. “The notion of anti-aging seems kind of like a ridiculous attempt because it’s impossible. Shakespeare wrote ‘All that lives must die, passing through nature to eternity.’ [Aging] happens,” she says. “What I love [is] the notion of embracing change and championing it. If you don’t continue to evolve, then you don’t grow. Change is growth, and I mean positive change, intelligent change.”
The idea isn’t really about getting rid of certain terms, but rather practicing habits that are good for our bodies and our minds.
“I always try to do a little bit of exercise, whatever makes you feel good about yourself. Try to do five minutes extra of that a day,” she says. “It’s also just a thing of practicing gratitude. Take five seconds to say ‘Wow, I’m healthy today’ or ‘What a great breakfast.’ It’s to acknowledge the good things that happen. We’re so busy focusing on the negative a lot, and there’s a lot of negative.”
The beauty industry is also at an interesting crossroads. Beauty plays a pivotal role in how we deal with inclusion and equality in general. How beauty is defined and what a normal standard even is are no longer a discussion limited to its main demographic, women. It needs to be a discussion that involves everyone if we want to see any real change.
“We focus on how girls feel. But it’s also about how men relate to women,” she says. “You can talk until you’re blue in the face to your children, but it’s about how you conduct yourself in the world. You cannot tell them to put their iPads away if you’re spending all of your time on your tablet yourself. If your [children’s] male role model is disrespecting the women in the house, you can’t expect them to [respect women].”
Assigning gender also does more harm than good. “I never thought about my gender until someone else brought it to my attention, and it was usually because my gender was preventing me from doing something. Raising boys I never thought about how boys have to do certain things, or having a girl I never thought I have to do something different. People always say to me, ‘How does it feel to have a daughter now?’ [I think] Um, she’s my fourth child.”
But just as words have the power to constrict and put someone in a box, they have the power to free people as well. “Women put a lot of pressure on themselves. We put pressure on each other and society puts pressure on us,” she says. “I read a Maria Sample book recently called Today Will Be Different, and I sort of think today I’m going to be better and kinder, etc.”
Talking with Blanchett made me realize when we change what we tell ourselves and change the way think into something more positive, that’s when we really are our most beautiful selves.
“It’s like when people look at themselves when they’re laughing or something in a selfie. You look at yourself [and think] Oh my god all those wrinkles—that’s what my face looks like. But your friends love that picture because it’s capturing your spirit. I think in the end, it’s peoples spirits that make them attractive or unattractive, and that’s the bit we’re not really feeling. We’re not feeling our brains, we’re not feeling our spirits. We’re thinking about the externals too much,” she said.
While it may be a difficult time to be a woman, the power in our words and discussions is the one thing uniting us and making us stronger.
“We fuck up and we fail all the time. You used to sort of feel like you didn’t want to admit your failures, because you only had one opportunity,” she said. “But now I think women are much more open about the challenges that they’ve had, and I think it’s empowering to other women as well. Like, ‘Wow you’ve had that experience as well even though you’re working in a completely different industry’ [or] ‘Wow that’s just like what I had.’ You don’t feel so isolated.”
As we wrapped things up, she asked me if I had seen Eminem’s latest freestyle rap. I told her I hadn’t and she told me I had to watch the video when I had time. “It’s really cool,” she said. “It’s really powerful.”
I watched the video immediately when I got back to the office. My takeaway: words, when used for good, are a truly beautiful thing.
She sure showed them. We spoke to the actress about aging, being typecast, and why she won’t walk the red carpet makeup-free (yet).
I’ll be honest: I really thought I “knew” Cate Blanchett, even before meeting her. To me, she was a very serious actress, with very serious roles under her belt: Elizabeth I in Elizabeth, Carol Aird in Carol, even the evil stepmother in Cinderella. Her style was flawless, her face (as confirmed by other editors) was poreless, and her blond bob has been my ultimate hair envy for years.
That’s exactly why I was so surprised when, after nervously complimenting her pink Christopher Kane dress at an SK-II event, Blanchett turned to me, laughed, and suggested not coming near her with an open flame—the dress’s material could easily catch on fire.
“Whoa,” I thought to myself. “Cate Blanchett’s got jokes.”
Later, while sitting together on a white couch in a private room (after she sarcastically told me, “Nice to see you again!”), I realized just how wrong I’d been about her. Sure, Blanchett was well-spoken and beautiful, and no one can deny her talent. But she was also silly and honest, sharing stories about her career (she was basically told she had a shelf life), describing her beauty routine as “lazy” (aka why she loves SK-II), and admitting to biting her nails (OK, same).
I left the interview weirdly feeling like I’d met someone I could be friends with, not just the megastar I’d seen on-screen. Read our fun conversation—jokes, curse words, and all—ahead.
I love these limited-edition SK-II bottles and how they include inspirational sayings. Do you have a positive mantra you live by?
“Well, I really warm to this idea from SK-II about the notion of change and embracing change. As women, we are indoctrinated to be terrified of the changes that go on in our bodies and in our physical selves. For me, I’ve thought about and embraced those changes so much more because I felt like I’m just working with what I’ve got, doing the best I can as I go along, aging as we are all aging. It’s the evolution of it. I think it’s really, really positive.”
I actually wanted to talk about that, because I feel like there’s such an obsession with looking youthful. What are your thoughts on aging?
“It’s acceptance, it’s embracing it. I wonder if it’s an obsession with looking youthful or trying to look other than what we are. The people who I think are truly beautiful are the people who are outward-looking, they’re engaged in the world, they’re not loathing themselves. I feel like women are pedaled self-hatred a lot of the time, so that’s why these messages are really positive. It’s saying embrace the change, and you can decide what you do. You’re in control of this journey. Or you can be.”
Have you had habits that you’ve tried to change that you’re conscious of? For example, I don’t take criticism well:
“Culturally, failure is kind of taboo, so it also means we’re risk-averse. So if you feel like someone is giving you a piece of criticism, rather than taking it constructively, you sort of think, ‘Oh I’ve failed, I fucked up.’ But it’s an essential, an inevitable part of being alive. In a way, I feel lucky to have happened upon the career I’ve got because it’s pretty brutal. It’s very public. The failures are very public and I think probably, like what you’re saying, I had a much thinner skin when I was in my teens and 20s. I’ve learned to love direction, and I think initially I would take that as like, I’m not doing it right. Whereas now I say, ‘Yeah, I’ll try it like this, and if you think it’s wrong, you give me some ideas,’ and it’s a conversation. It’s a process of auditioning and being rejected and picking yourself up and keeping going. And also biting my nails. I think I finally kicked that habit.”
Your nails look good!
“Well, you should see them ordinarily. I’ve started taking these vitamins for my skin because someone said it’s really good—because I wasn’t taking a consistent multivitamin. The byproduct is my nails are strong! It’s funny, when you start making a positive step towards something, it encourages you to keep going. The one called ‘Thera-M’ is the one that I’ve been using.”
Do you think it’s an anxiety thing or just a habit?
“I don’t feel particularly anxious, to tell you the truth. I just think it’s a stupid habit. It’s better that than smoking, I guess.”
Is there a beauty look that you think doesn’t work for you?
“Orange hair. I did that. I wouldn’t do that again. Hmm, I’m sure there are many. It’s interesting that you ask that because I’m so used to playing lots of different characters. Facial hair probably doesn’t work [laughs]. Hairy moles—I don’t think they work that well. I don’t know, I like the idea of trying different looks out. In the end I’m not that concerned with whether people like them, it’s more about just trying stuff. In my everyday life, I’m very minimal, mostly because I’m lazy. That’s why SK-II works for me, because it’s just so simple. You’ve got the Essence and you’ve got the serum and you’ve got the ‘LXP’ cream and the eye cream. Then, if I’m on the plane, I put a mask on. If I’m in the Arctic, I’ll take the oil and the oil cleanser. It’s sort of set for me and I don’t have to think about it.”
Is there something in your health routine that has changed since you were younger?
“I got fit, I mean properly fit, for the first time. My job is very physical. I’m doing a lot of theater; you stretch every day, and the job is incredibly physical. And running after children is physical. I got properly fit with Chris Hemsworth’s trainer, [Luke] Zocchi, last year for this Marvel film [Thor: Ragnarok] . I thought, ‘I really want to stick to this,’ and of course as life tramples on, it’s been sporadic, but I really want to get back to that place. It’s actually easier to do a little bit every day. And there’s so many apps now and the thing is, I’m like everybody—it’s so hard to start. But once you start doing a little bit, like walking to work, it actually gives you more energy, so that’s what I want to change.”
What kind of workouts do you do?
“It was hideous. It was horrendous. It was a hard-core cardio-and-weights circuit, but it only lasted 20 minutes because he had to fit it in between scenes. But it was great, I actually wanted to get up at 6 in the morning and work with him for 20 minutes before the kids woke up, if you can believe it. It sounds bizarre. I’m not doing that at the moment, but I really do want to get back to it.”
In the industry, do you feel people try to say you can’t play certain roles?
“I suppose the role that I played that opened up having a career internationally for me was Elizabeth I. After that, I was given the opportunity to take roles, leading roles, in films that were basically the same character in different time periods, and I didn’t do it. Maybe my paycheck wasn’t as big, but I thought, I just want to do what interests me. So I took little roles that other actresses turned down, frankly. I think I unwittingly created a space for myself where I wasn’t pigeonholed as quickly. I thought to myself at the time that I was moving into the film industry quite late, actually—in my mid-twenties. Everyone was saying, ‘You really only get 5 years. By the time you’re 32, your career is over as a woman.’ But I came from the theater. I mean, it was frustrating, that prediction, but I thought, ‘I’m just going to go into the theater and I’m going to go back. You can be anything onstage.’ So I feel like I created a bit of a space to explore and not get locked into things.”
Would you rather fall asleep with your makeup on or walk the red carpet without any makeup?
“Well, I’ve been on screen without any makeup on. You know what? I would be totally fine about walking down the red carpet without any makeup if everyone didn’t have their telephoto lenses looking for faults. The thing is, the red carpet is a gladiatorial sport for women. There was one moment at the Golden Globes when they wanted me to stick my hand into a mani-pedi cam. It’s like, are you fucking kidding me?! Are you really that micro in your assessment? I’m here because I’m nominated for my work, you know what I mean? I’d be totally fine if there was an agreement where you could say, ‘Wow, she looks great with no makeup.’ It’s the scrutiny, women want an armature. So yes, at the moment, I would rather fall asleep with no makeup on.”