Goldie Hawn talks about the obstacles she overcame before getting her big break

By Jessica Fecteau and Liz McNeil
Updated December 29, 2015 01:15 PM
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Credit: Everett

She became a comedy success in her 20s, an Oscar-winning movie star and a hit-making producer, but looking back on her life, Goldie Hawn says one of her biggest lessons was learning to “embrace resistance.”

“For my whole life, resistance was all over,” Hawn, 70, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “As a girl at 19, I was dropped off in a car in New York City, knowing I had a job at the World’s Fair. But the people I was supposed to live with weren’t there any longer. I found a one-room, roach-infested apartment.”

For much more from Hawn, pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands now.

“Then I’d have auditions and I wouldn’t make it. I had men exposing themselves in elevators,” recalls Hawn, who landed her big break a few years later as part of the comedy troupe on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In in 1968. “Resistance comes in all different forms. It’s the thing that’s coming at you that you have to be strong enough to fight. But if there is nothing there, then it’s ‘tra, la la,’ and nothing gets done because there is no resistance anywhere.”

Hawn helps teach children about resilience, mindfulness and dealing with their emotions in her foundation‘s MindUP program.

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Used in schools around the world, “MindUP is a 15-lesson program that deals with children’s ability to regulate emotionally, to prevent stress, to become more self-aware and create more empathy,” Hawn explains. It teaches kids about their most precious tool, their brain, which is the most important part of my foundation’s work.

Hawn went on from Laugh-In to win an Oscar for her role in Cactus Flower, star in a string of comedy hits (some with Kurt Russell, her love of 32 years) and produce movies including Private Benjamin and The First Wives’ Club.

“Whether I’m doing a movie, tending to my children or writing a curriculum for children, I put my mind to it,” she says. “That’s it. I don’t stop.”