The legendary actress reflects on her career and explains why Jennifer Lopez's booty is a good thing

By Liz McNeil
April 07, 2015 11:50 AM

She’s been famous for over five decades, but Jane Fonda still remembers the pain of being judged for her looks as a young actress.

“I reached my late teens, early twenties, without really knowing who I was, what I could do, what I wanted to be,” she tells AOL’s Makers, a global digital platform featuring the stories of female trailblazers. “I didn’t think I wanted to be an actor. Because I didn’t feel that I was pretty. And I didn’t think I was interesting.”

“When I came to Hollywood, it was all about how I looked,” she says in the wide-ranging interview. “People made you look the way they wanted you to, and I was not brave enough to be able to say, ‘I don’t like what you’re doing to me.’ ”

Her lack of self-confidence caused her to lose one very big film role.

“I remember I auditioned on stage for Elia Kazan to play the Natalie [Wood] part in Splendor in the Grass,” says Fonda, 77. “At one point, he called me down to the footlights and he said, ‘Are you ambitious?’ And I said, ‘No.’ And the moment those words came out of my mouth, I knew that I had blown it. He didn’t want to hire me. Especially for that role, for somebody who said they weren’t even ambitious. But good girls weren’t ambitious. And that’s what governed me.”

In the years after that, Fonda learned to embrace her power, and she’s pleased with the variety of female characters she sees onscreen today, especially Lena Dunham, the creator of HBO’s Girls.

“I’m interested in Girls,” says Fonda. “Her courage at being unconventional, at being not conventionally pretty – it’s just so important.”

And, she says, the more female actors “can allow different body types to be seen and accepted on television and movies, the better.”

“Body issues are really, really important to women and girls,” Fonda notes. “There’s too much eating disorders, there’s too much cutting. There’s too much self-hate because of bodies. I know, I’ve been there myself. And so, the fact that Jennifer Lopez has booty and that Lena is not skinny and gorgeous in a normal way – these are good, because they allow girls to feel good about themselves.”