Cloris Leachman: A Late-Blooming Star Tells All

The beloved actress on staying positive, staying flexible and beating Betty White in a Jell-O wrestling match.

Cloris Leachman wearing items from her own clothing line, clorisline.com.
Photograph: Photo by: www.charlesbusch.com

She’s drop-dead hilarious and wildly unique, that we know. But Cloris Leachman—Oscar winner and the most lauded actress in Emmy history, with eight prime-time statuettes—has plenty of surprises in her yet, from the uncanny flexibility she demonstrated on Dancing With the Stars to the swimsuit-clad body she displayed in a recent photo shoot for In Touch magazine. The star we’ve loved in everything from  The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Young Frankenstein to Malcolm in the Middle shares her insights on staying positive, staying flexible, and staying true to herself.    

MORE: Tell us about a time when you made a life-altering decision.
CLORIS LEACHMAN: I decided not to smoke cigarettes at age six because I had this wretched picture in my mind of people in opium dens, and I thought that’s what would happen to me if I smoked. I made a lot of major decisions when I was six. Some kid spit in my lunch at school – that’s when I decided I would never get bitter.
Although you started in this business in your twenties, you didn’t have the easiest journey; acclaim didn’t come until you were in your mid-forties. How have you maintained a positive outlook, taking adversity and rejection with ease? What’s your advice for people struggling in today’s tough climate?
Start breathing. Whenever things go differently than expected, we stop breathing. If we think negatively, we react negatively to our own thoughts. And really, how many times do the things we most fear actually happen? Yes, there’s a lot of bad stuff going on, but that’s always the case. You can attract good things; you just have to know what you want. Somebody once said – and I think it’s so true – "If you’re clear about what you want, people tend to want to give it to you."
You’ve always been into healthy eating and taking care of yourself. What’s your philosophy?
Draw a big O, and put a diagonal line through it. If it’s bad for you, don’t put it in that hole – your mouth, that is! [She laughs.]
What inspired you to create your own clothing line (www.clorisline.com)?
I hate going into someone’s closet and thinking, "Oh, god. It’s all so stale." I love our clothes because they’re flattering, easy and sexy. They truly work for all ages and sizes, night and day, plus everything is under $50. They’re just fun.

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