The Oscar-winning star of CBS's new drama CSI: Cyber says she "won't change who I am to be attractive"

Credit: Peggy Sirota

Still celebrating her Oscars win, Patricia Arquette opens up about the pressure Hollywood places on actresses. Subscribe now to learn why she refuses to change.

When Patricia Arquette was in ninth grade, a male student who had voted her “best looking” in their class suggested she straighten her teeth so she could pose for Playboy.

Arquette – who had already told her parents that she didn’t want to straighten her pearly whites because “it didn’t feel like it would fit who I was inside” – was floored by her classmate’s sexist suggestion.

“I said, ‘Why would I want to be in Playboy?’ ” Arquette, now 46, tells PEOPLE. “I just didn’t want to look perfect. I didn’t want to have to change myself to be attractive. I didn’t think that was my responsibility.”

Even today, Arquette – whose new drama CSI: Cyber debuts Wednesday on CBS – is loath to discuss her appearance and what it’s like to age in front of the camera. Though she says it was “powerful” to do it for Boyhood, a movie that was shot over a 12-year period, Arquette doesn’t understand why, as an actress, she is constantly asked to talk about how she appears on camera.

“I’ve had so many of these conversations in my life … what I look like on film, what I don’t look like on film. What are we supposed to look like? Men are not having these conversations,” says Arquette.

“It’s like we’re trapped in wet wool or something. I just want to be free of it so we can move to the next level as equals. Not that I don’t love being a woman, not that I don’t love the differences between men and women. I just mean, as an actor – why is this a conversation? Why is aging a conversation? It’s a one-sided conversation because it’s only ever had by women.”

For more about Arquette, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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