Sex Appeal Isn't About Age, It's About Attitude. As Stars Like Heather Locklear, Meg Ryan, and Jane Seymour Reach Oh-No! Birthdays This Year, They Say They've Got Plenty to Celebrate

By Susan Horsburgh Sonja Steptoe Julie Dam
August 06, 2001 12:00 PM

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JADA PINKETT SMITH

Sept. 18

Talk about a high-wire act. This spring Jada Pinkett Smith cooly juggled breast-feeding Willow, her 9-month-old daughter with actor Will Smith, with rigorous kickboxing workouts and stunt-training sessions for her role in next year’s sequel to The Matrix. “No one would ever describe her as frazzled,” says her stylist Rachel Zoe Rosenzweig. “She doesn’t let anything freak her out.” Especially not her upcoming 30th birthday. “I’m finally feeling like a woman,” Pinkett Smith told Vibe in May. “Before, I was a little girl just trying to be a woman.”

As she embraces her new identity, Pinkett Smith is reassessing her old one. “I’ve kind of outgrown [going] out with my short skirts on, with my stomach out or my bust up,” said the 5-ft. actress, who also has a son, Jaden, 3, with Smith. “I don’t necessarily think that’s something I have to do.” Though she stays in shape with yoga and a diet of lean meats and lots of fresh greens, Pinkett Smith doesn’t spend a lot of time obsessing over her looks or beauty regimens. “She keeps it simple,” says close pal and makeup artist Matthew Van Leeuwen. “She’s taken sexy to a whole different level.”

JENNA ELFMAN

Sept. 30

As she approaches 30, Elfman has found her comfort zone. Her show Dharma & Greg is a hit. She and husband Bodhi, 32, have been happily married for six years. And the 5’10” Elfman likes what she sees when she looks in the mirror. “If you’re feeling good about your marriage and career, you’re going to look okay,” she has said.

Elfman definitely does. “She enjoys her life,” says her makeup artist Ann Masterson. “She’s very secure with who she is.” Secure enough, according to Dharma costume designer Linda Bass, to shun the frills and show off her “sexy tomboy appeal.” To keep her body toned, Elfman takes ballet lessons at her home three times a week, studies yoga, drinks about 100 oz. of water a day, gets plenty of sleep and tries to avoid sugar. And if she’s sweating getting older, she isn’t showing it. “I don’t think it matters to her,” says her Town & Country director Peter Chesholm. “She still has such a great child within her.”

REGINA KING

Jan. 15

King refuses to lie about her age and insists that she won’t ever have plastic surgery. “Are there parts of my body that I’d want another way? Definitely,” she says. “But to the extent of changing it? No.” While the 5’3″ King is comfortable letting nature take its course, she intends to go down that course as gracefully as possible. Without fail, she works out four times a week, mixing in a little cardio with light weight training. She also tries to be a healthy eater but admits that her strict exercise routine allows her to satisfy her sugar cravings and indulge in the occasional “McDonald’s moments.” To keep her skin problem-free, the Jerry Maguire actress, who’s married to record company executive Ian Alexander, 34, and mother to Ian Jr., 5, makes time for monthly facials and forgoes makeup during the day, believing that “your face and skin glow the most when you have a happy personality.” Her husband gets credit for that. Says King: “Just the way he looks at me and says, ‘Wow, my wife is fine.’ To this day it makes me blush.”

ANNABETH GISH

March 13

Ever since the Iowa-born Gish turned 30, she feels like she’s finally been able to exhale. “Aaaah, I’m 30,” says the X-Files costar. “I have the anxiety of my 20s out of the way.” So, no more compulsive exercising: Now she alternates long hikes with boxing and spinning. No more obsessive dieting: Instead the 5’8″ Gish avoids dairy products but otherwise eats what she likes, in moderation, and drinks lots of water. And no more slavish devotion to style trends. “There doesn’t need to be one definition of beauty and sexiness,” she says. “A true sense of fashion is individual style, and that can only be enhanced when you know who you are.” Which Gish, who’s single, definitely does. “I like my awkward qualities, like my klutziness,” she says. “I feel better in my bones than I ever have.”

WINONA RYDER

Oct. 29

Often a trendsetter, never a fad follower, Ryder has a distinctive sense of style that has only gotten sexier with age. “I’m taken aback by how beautifully she’s matured,” says L.A. boutique owner Cameron Silver, who has known her for 13 years and watched her evolve from gamine to “Ava Gardner glamorous.”

She has achieved it with a no-muss, no-fuss regimen that includes doing her own hair and makeup for most red-carpet events, getting eight hours of sleep a night and occasionally consulting a nutritionist. And the 5’4″ Ryder remains fashionably fit, though she no longer endures the kind of serious gym sessions she had to undertake for her role in Alien Resurrection five years ago. Turning 30 isn’t likely to change that. Says her Girl, Interrupted costar Elizabeth Moss: “She doesn’t seem to be concerned with it at all.”

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MARIEL HEMINGWAY

Nov. 22

“I’ve earned my age; I wouldn’t want to go back,” says the 5’11” actress. A teetotaling yoga fanatic, she likes her body now more than ever—even the lines. “They are a map to who you are. So there’s no Botox in my life. I don’t want a perma-grin.” That’s a big turnaround from a woman who had breast implants when she was 19 years old. “I had my years of doing artificial things, and I don’t do that anymore,” explains Hemingway, who had the implants removed 15 years later. “It was really the antithesis of me.” Now she meditates twice a day, goes on five-mile runs in Sun Valley, Idaho, where she lives with her husband and two daughters, and sticks to a strict no-sugar, low-carb diet. “Women in their 40s and 50s are utterly gorgeous nowadays,” she says. “It’s no longer about being pretty, it’s about being elegant and striking and having a style of your own.”

HEATHER LOCKLEAR
Sept. 25

Locklear isn’t dreading the big 4-0 at all. “Everybody makes a big deal out of it,” she says. “You know what? I’m alive. I’m still around.” And still sexy. After two decades of playing vamps—on Dynasty in the ’80s and Melrose Place in the ’90s—Locklear now brings the same sizzle to the ABC sitcom Spin City, both onscreen and on the set. “Honestly, she’s as pretty out of makeup as she is in,” says costar Barry Bostwick, “because it’s coming from someplace real.”

What seems unreal is the 5’5″ actress’s ability to fit into her favorite body-conscious outfits (she’s partial to Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci)—in spite of her admitted jones for junk food. “I think, ‘I definitely shouldn’t have that Krispy Kreme,’ ” she says, “then I have three!”

Lately, though, Locklear has been trying to rein in those bad habits, signing up for regular delivery of healthful meals to her L.A. home. “It’s not really a diet, it’s just eating healthy,” she says. Locklear also stays active (“She works out some, but even if she didn’t she would stay in amazing shape,” says her friend and makeup artist Lisa Ashley) and has become savvy about the aging effects of the sun. “I use sunblock now,” she says. “Up until, like, 32, I didn’t. And I always take my makeup off at night. Always.”

Afterward she gets plenty of rest, usually turning in by 9 p.m. ever since the birth of Ava, 3, her daughter with her husband of almost seven years, Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora. “When I was single I went out a lot,” says Locklear. “Now I’m in bed way before I’d start getting ready to go out.” But she’ll make an exception for Sept. 25. “I don’t think she cares about turning 40,” says Ashley. “All she thinks about is having a party.”

MEG RYAN

Nov. 19

“When you look at Meg Ryan, you think youthful and happy,” says her hairstylist Sally Hershberger. “She’s got that really young spark.” It’s evident in the actress’s signature shaggy cut, an unkempt, free-spirited style that has swept the country. Ryan got the chop for her ’95 film French Kiss and has stuck with it. “It goes with her style—undone,” notes Hershberger. Her image is “kind of glam rock mixed with hippie, which is a youthful look.”

City of Angels costume designer Shay Cunliffe calls it a “throwaway” style that is distinctly Ryan’s. “She knows exactly what feels right to her,” she says. “Meg’s not looking to project herself as a sex symbol at all.” That’s not to say the 5’8″ Ryan leaves her looks to chance. She keeps an eye on her diet, works out and has long touted the benefits of yoga and meditation. The payback is contentment. “I do like being how old I am,” she told W magazine last fall. “I’m so glad the vicissitudes and all of that insecurity have subsided. That was not pleasant.”

CAMRYN MANHEIM

March 8

Manheim not only doesn’t fret about her age, for the past 15 years, she has actually advertised it on her personal cards, with the words, “Camryn Manheim. Since 1961.” “I’ve never shied away from telling people my age,” says the Emmy-winning star of The Practice. “I don’t buy into the stigma of turning 40. I think 40 is the new 30. Most of the time I feel like a big kid. The birth of son Milo two days before Manheim’s own birthday made this year’s celebration all the sweeter. Manheim had vowed to become a mom by age 40 and Milo turned up just in time. “In my universe,” she says, “things seem to work out the way I plan.”

A poster girl for the plus-size set ever since Wake Up, I’m Fat!, the title of her one-woman stage show and subsequent 1999 bestseller, Manheim preaches the gospel of self-acceptance. The 5’10” actress plays racquetball and takes jazz dancing classes but argues that the best beauty secret is a positive attitude. “All that stuff helps you look good, but you don’t have to be on a diet or running six miles a day,” she says. “I attribute looking good to my happy life. If you’re happy about getting up in the morning, you’ll glow just by default.”

Which is why Manheim won’t stop handing out those personal cards. “Not until women who are 40 and look like they’re 30 admit that they are 40,” she says. “We need to celebrate all the different ages for how beautiful and fit and fabulous they are.”

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JANE SEYMOUR

Feb. 15

Seymour was in a cafeteria line recently with daughter Katie Flynn when the cashier, who didn’t recognize the actress, asked if the pair were sisters. No, said Seymour, “I’m her mother; I’m 50, and she’s 19.” Responded the amazed cashier: “I won’t mind being 50 if I look like you!”

The 5’4″ Seymour credits that agelessness to her focus on mind and body rather than the calendar. She gets her hair colored every three weeks, watches her diet—sticking to chicken, fish and vegetables—and drinks lots of water, while trying not to drink alcohol. “And if I do, it’s wine and in small doses.” Though she had to give up her beloved ballet classes after recent back surgery to repair a herniated disk, Seymour is pleased about the killer abs she developed in physical therapy. “She’s still very much a girl,” says her longtime hairstylist Andre Blaise. “She hasn’t lost her spirit.”

Or her energy. Besides acting, Seymour has shown her paintings in New York City and dotes on Katie, Sean Flynn, 16, and twins Kristopher and John, 5, her sons with actor James Keach, 53. Says Seymour: “This is the peak time. I’ve never felt better.”

BEVERLY JOHNSON

Oct. 13

A fringe benefit of getting older is a friskier love life, says former model Johnson, who now has her own skin-care line. “I’ve always been passionate and very sexual, but it just gets better,” she says. “You’re more yourself.” To maintain pace, she keeps her sweet tooth in check and works out three times a week. “I’d rather pay a trainer than have a new dress,” says the 5’9″ Johnson, divorced with a grown daughter. “It’s not vanity. I want a long healthy life.” Besides, “you can put any dress on a great body.”

CHERYL LADD

July 12

Playing Charlie’s Angel No. 4 made Ladd a sex symbol back in the ’70s, but she feels even more divine today. “I have this wonderful life that isn’t about how old I am or how I look,” says the 5’4″ actress. Ladd, who has a daughter, Jordan, 26, has been married for 20 years to Brian Russell, 57, a writer. She stays fit walking as many as 20 miles a week and playing a lot of golf and eats mostly fish and vegetables to feel “healthy and youthful.” Not that she wants to pretend she’s any age but her own. “I’ve earned every crinkle,” she says. “I have life in my face.”

ANJELICA HUSTON

July 8

Huston does her age-defying work on the dance floor, with a two-hour routine of ballet, salsa and yoga three times a week. Physically—and mentally—she feels in better shape than she did 10 years ago. “I’m more secure,” says the 5’10” actress, married since 1992 to sculptor Robert Graham. A sense of fun is the secret, she says—and maybe also pricey Crème de la Mer moisturizer ($85 for one oz.). “I don’t know what’s in that stuff, but it really does something,” she says. As for turning 50, it doesn’t faze her. “As long as I’m happy and healthy, work is going well and my beloveds are around me, I feel good.”

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FAYE DUNAWAY

Jan. 14

Age has done nothing to dim this Oscar winner’s allure. “She can walk in a room and five guys’ heads will whip around,” says producer Susan Black, who worked with Dunaway on last year’s TNT movie Running Mates. “She still knows how to work it.” To sustain those jaw-dropping looks, Dunaway’s beauty manifesto is simple: “Just eat right and stay fit.” That means weight training and near daily treadmill workouts. “No matter what your age, it helps with the energy factor,” she notes. But the 5’7″ Dunaway, who is divorced and the mother of model Liam O’Neill, doesn’t fuss over cosmetics. Says the actress: “I like naturalness.”

MARTHA STEWART

Aug, 3

You won’t hear domestic goddess Stewart moan about her age. “Martha is never a complainer,” says her friend of 15 years Jane Heller. “She is a doer.” The 5’9″ Stewart is up by 6 each morning for a one-hour workout, juggles back-to-back meetings for her multimedia empire—and still manages to plant peonies and whip up crème brûlée. “Her youthful enthusiasm always makes her seem ageless,” says her pal, chef Todd English.

The former model takes practical steps too: She always wears sunscreen and swears by Mario Badescu skin-care products. But calorie-counting isn’t an option. “She tastes everything,” says Heller. Not that it does any harm. Says makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin: “She’s as vital as a 20-year-old but with all the knowledge and maturity of someone her age and then some.”

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