Jane Fonda gets candid about how she used to be defined by the men in her life—until she became single again by choice in her sixties.

By Gillian Telling
September 19, 2018 03:00 PM

Jane Fonda says, at 80, she finally feels comfortable with knowing exactly who she is as a woman. But it wasn’t always that way.

“Up until my sixties, I was to an extent, defined by the men in my life,” she tells PEOPLE editor-in-chief Jess Cagle, in the most recent episode of the Jess Cagle Interview.

For more on Jane Fonda’s PEOPLE cover story, pick up the latest issue, on stands Friday. 

Fonda is referring to her father, actor Henry Fonda, as well as her three husbands—Roger Vadim, Tom Hayden, and Ted Turner.

Jane Fonda
Robby Klein/Contour/Getty

“I was brought up to please,” she says. “I wanted my father to love me so I would turn myself into a pretzel to be what he wanted me to be, not necessarily what I already was.”

She adds, “It took me getting into my sixties, and then I began to become who I was supposed to be all along.”

In the new HBO documentary based on Fonda’s fascinating life (Jane Fonda in Five Acts), the iconic actress and activist says she did the same with each of her husbands—transforming her personality to better fit theirs.

RELATED: Jane Fonda Opens Up About Her Mother’s Suicide: ‘It Has a Big Impact on Your Sense of Self’

Jane Fonda
Gisela Schober/Getty

After ten years of marriage to billionaire Ted Turner, whom she wed in 1991 and divorced in 2001, Fonda says she realized she could no longer put someone else’s needs first. She left Ted, and has never looked back.

“He was sexy. He was brilliant. He had two million acres by the time I left. It would have been easy to stay,” she says of her relationship with Turner.

“But there was this angel on my shoulder…it was hard to even hear her voice, [saying, “If you stay, you will die without ever becoming who you can be. You will not really be authentic.”

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