Diane Keaton: The Art of Being Yourself

In our May cover story and exclusive excerpt from her new book, Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty, the iconic actress celebrates “inappropriate” women, reflects on male aging and rejoices in enjoying beauty rather than in being beautiful. Still Keaton after all these years

by Margot Dougherty
Keaton is wearing her own suit (from Thom Browne), bow tie, shirt and pocket square.
Photograph: Peggy Sirota

She and Freeman kiss in the movie, a perk of the job that for Keaton never gets old. (“I have a list of all the men I’ve kissed,” she says.) When she received a lifetime achievement award of her own in Berlin three months ago, “I mentioned all these men who I got to have these wonderful love affairs with in the movies,” she says. “And I mentioned that the only one I’ve missed, really, is Matthew McConaughey.” He was in the audience, “and he comes up to the stage and he gives me a kiss. It was so much fun. I’m going to use that trick a lot! I’m going to play that out all over.”

Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty
By Diane Keaton

I’ve always loved independent women, outspoken women, eccentric women, funny women, flawed women. When someone says about a woman, “I’m sorry, that’s just wrong,” I tend to think she must be doing something right. Take Diana Vreeland, the legendary editor-in-chief of Vogue. Vreeland was many things, but a classic beauty wasn’t one of them. Her mother called her “my ugly little monster.” Guess what? That didn’t get in her way. Vreeland paraded around with a head of glossy pitch-black hair until the day she died, at age 92. She defied every rule of aging gracefully.

I respect women who aren’t afraid to push the envelope, women who are inappropriate, women who do what you aren’t supposed to. Women like Katharine Hepburn. Didn’t she wear pants under a Chairman Mao tunic to the Academy Awards? Outrageous! And what about 27-year-old Lena Dunham, who has redefined what a star can look like. I think she’s one of the most beautiful women on TV. “There’s little doubt Girls will be too explicit . . . and too young-and-female-centric to appeal to everyone,” wrote Robert Bianco in USA Today. That’s the point: Why try to appeal to everyone?

I admire women like Joan Rivers, even though I can’t count how many times she’s hauled me before her Fashion Police. Joan was among the first to openly discuss her multiple cosmetic surgeries. It takes strength to fess up to your imperfections. People have asked me why I’ve never had work done. The truth is I respect women who have had work done just as much as I respect those who haven’t. We’re all just trying to get through the day.

To me, the most beautiful women are independent, like fierce and sassy Jennifer Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe alone in the desert, strong Kathryn Bigelow, defiant Kate Moss, Grace Coddington and her orange hair, unstoppable Hillary Clinton, brilliant Tina Fey, fearless Joan Didion, and and and and . . . each found her place in the world. Each has her own style, her own voice, her own stamp, her own method, her own wrong that she’s made right.

Just yesterday Dexter, my daughter, found a story online called “Top 10 Female Celebrities Who Are Ugly No Matter What Hollywood Says,” by someone named Valdez_Addiction.

There was a picture of number one, Angelina Jolie, with this assessment: “She looks like Skeletor from He-Man.” Number four was Reese Witherspoon, and number five, the fifth-ugliest female celebrity no matter what Hollywood says, was Diane Keaton.

“How this chick got a lead role in anything is beyond me. And I know what you’re thinking. It’s not because she’s old as dirt and they still try to give her sexy roles. She’s even ugly in The Godfather when she was young.”

Old as dirt. Wow. I went to my bathroom and looked in the mirror. “Let it go, Diane. No wallowing in self-pity. You have a family. You have a brother and two sisters. You have a daughter and a son. You have work. You have friends. You can feel. You can think, up to a point. You can see. Seeing is the gift that keeps giving. It’s much more engaging than being seen.”

These old-as-dirt days have one advantage: I’ve learned to see beauty where I never saw it before. But only because my expectations are more realistic. My favorite part of my body is my eyes. Not because of their color and God knows not because of their shape, but because of what they see.

First published in the May 2014 issue

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