So I alluded to a random celebrity encounter recently. I had three really cool interviews within the past two weeks. One was with Charlie Murphy, who was as hilarious as you might expect. The second was with Bruce Bruce, who was cool and funny. The third was with Jamie Lee Curtis. She was hands down one of the coolest interviews I’ve ever had. Remarkably self-depreciating, intelligent as hell, charming, gracious, funny. She’s Hollywood royalty: the daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, Jake Gyllenhaal’s godmother, and wife of Lord Christopher Guest, (which technically makes her Lady Haden-Guest). And she was down-to-earth enough to call herself a loser.

“I have no formal education of any note. I barely got through high school. I am the classic underachiever. So on paper, I am a loser. But in my heart, and in what I do, I am a real success. That’s what I’m trying to teach my kids, that success is about self-worth, and you get that by doing esteemable acts,” she said. We talked on the phone for less than fifteen minutes, and Jamie shared many marvelous pearls of wisdom.

Oh, look how excited I am to meet her! She came to Miami to promote her latest children’s book (yes, I know – yet another celebrity children’s book. But hers are really good and this is the seventh one!) Is There Really A Human Race? Her answer is yes, but the goal is to enjoy the journey rather than speed to the finish line. The book is based on a question that her son asked when he was little.

“I was very taken by the question. I told him that I had to think about it. Then I wrote this answer to him. Ultimately, the idea that all of us, always are trying to win at something – love, family, school, the business world – the obsession with winning seems to have muted the very beautiful act of being a good person. I have never been to a funeral or a birthday party, where they raise a toast and someone says “Boy, was she a great CEO!” “Boy, could she make a business decision!” They say she was an amazing person. She touched my life. She helped me. That to me is what the goal of life is, to be thought of in those regards.” That struck me as incredibly true. Forgive me if I ramble, guys. Jamie Lee got me thinking about beauty and aging and all sorts of deep stuff.

Jamie Lee Curtis has gracefully surrendered the ripe sexuality she was celebrated for in films like Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda, and True Lies, and moved beyond that into an acceptance of her body with all of its fascinating flaws. She has reinvented herself as a storyteller who speaks from life experience. I love that she has evolved into obvious confidence, self-acceptance, and strength. It’s a journey I wish more women would take.

I took the opportunity when talking with her to say thank you on behalf of women around the world who have surrendered forced youth and embraced elegant age without resorting to Botox or obvious, desperate plastic surgery. I’ve been thinking a lot about aging these days. How difficult and how scary it must be at times, to notice changes in your face and body.

My mom often says “age is a bitch.” She’s still so beautiful to me, but the inevitable issues are there: arthiritis is plaguing her nowadays. Even when her hands ache, she always makes sure to “put on her face” every morning before emerging downstairs. I’m the kind of person who tends to lounge in my bathrobe until mid-morning. I used to scoff at her waking up and putting on makeup as soon as she woke up. Now that I’m getting older, I think I almost understand – it’s a pick-me-up. It gets her ready to face the world. I know something’s wrong when she doesn’t feel to put her face on. It’s a trait that runs in the glamour girls of my family.

My Aunty Aggie certainly was glamorous back in the day. She loved to go to church in fancy outfits that matched from head to toe. She had a hat to match the shoes, to match the purse, to compliment the entire ensemble. After her husband, Uncle Jo Jo, passed, she stopped wanting to go out much. Those beautiful clothes stayed neatly in her closet. Every Christmas I visited her. When I’d ask if we could take a picture together, she always politely declined. She said “I am a fallen star.” Hearing her say that brought tears to my eyes because I realized how her self-esteem had diminished with age. Aunty Aggie is no longer with us, but I think of her often and with tremendous affection. I dedicate this post to her, and to all women who continue to put their best face forward and accept age with grace. If you’ve got an older bella in your life, today’s a great day to tell them that they’re still gorgeous, and that you love them. We might all be participating in this human race, but it’s important to let your relay team know how much you appreciate them while they’re still up and running.

So often we wait until a person has passed to pay homage to them. In honor of my mother, my aunties, and Aunty Aggie, I want to take the opportunity this week to pay homage to some famous afrobellas who are still alive. I’m going to start with a living legend I mentioned in my Janet Jackson post: Miss Lena Horne.

She’s proof that gray haired bellas are still beautiful. Her vivacious beauty is timeless. Lena was a legend long before I was born, but I still feel like I grew up with her. Perhaps that’s because of her memorable appearances on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. Because of those performances, I don’t think of her so much as the crooning, technicolor beauty she most definitely was, as much as I think of her as a fierce, feisty mama with a penchant for eye drama.

Lena’s 89 years old this year, and although she hasn’t been seen much recently, I hope she’s still as sassy as she is in this awesome transcript, and in this PBS American Masters clip. In this show-stopper of a performance, Lena’s already in her sixties. Watch her show these young girls how the damn thing is done.

I’ve heard people say that Lena was wrong for not wanting Janet Jackson to play her in her biopic. One look at this video clip will help to explain her decision. First of all, Lena was always classy and never trashy. And secondly, although she does start breaking it down during Stormy Weather, Lena is not a dancer. She’s quite simply one hell of a singer, and as much as I love Janet, she could never belt out a song the way Lena does. I sincerely hope the film gets made (I personally think Alicia Keys could do a great job with that role), because in my opinion, Lena Horne deserves a glowing tribute now when she’s still around to enjoy it.

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