Jamie Lee Curtis wants to expose herself to you. It is, she says, the only way to make things right.
Look at her, traipsing around a whitewashed Los Angeles photo studioin nothing but a sports bra and tight spandex briefs. When she strikes a pose, her dark blue eyes stare unabashedly into the camera lens. But don’t let the swagger fool you: She knows she’s taking a risk. The 43-year-old movie star, who bared her breasts in Trading Placesand did a bawdy striptease in True Lies, has certainly showed more skin in the past than she’s flashing right now.But in a very real way, she’s never been more naked.
At her insistence, the photographer, Andrew Eccles, is shooting her with no makeup, no manicure, no professional coif, no diamond jewelry and no high couture. The lighting is unforgiving. So is the full-body camera angle and Curtis’ straightforward stance. But everything is just as the actress wants it. She says it’s the least she can do.
“There’s a reality to the way I look without my clothes on,” she says. “I don’t have great thighs. I have very big breasts and a soft, fatty little tummy. And I’ve got back fat. People assume that I’m walking around in little spaghetti-strap dresses. It’s insidious—Glam Jamie, the Perfect Jamie, the great figure, blah, blah, blah. And I don’t want the unsuspecting forty-year-old women of the world to think that I’ve got it going on. It’s such a fraud. And I’m the one perpetuating it.”
But not anymore. In an age when divas often use their clout to nix unflattering photos in magazines, Curtis has demanded the opposite: Glam Jamie will pose only if Real Jamie gets equal time. See that worry line between her eyebrows? It exists, she earned it and she wants it to show.
She even knows what this article should be titled. “True Thighs,” she declares.
You might think that the Scream Queen—as she’s been known since her star turns in a string of horror films, starting with 1978’s Halloween—has lost her marbles. She hasn’t. Quite intentionally, Curtis is reinventing herself. It’s a process that started ten years ago, when she began writing books for children and discovered something more gratifying—she likes to say more “authentic”—than the pretending for which she gets paid millions. Her first four children’s books, which are not only smart but also tend to land on best-seller lists, have dealt with issues as varied as adoption and mood swings. But they all share a common thread: It’s okay to be you. The fifth, which hits bookstores this month, is the most directly self-affirming so far. Its title? I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem(HarperCollins).
Which, in a roundabout way, is how Curtis ended up here, in this airy photo studio, wearing unflattering undies, not a smudge of eyeliner and a big fat smile on her face. She knows that her body, held up as an icon of female perfection in movies such as, well, Perfect, has made some women think that they don’t measure up. She knows how that feels—not being good enough. The daughter of two members of Hollywood royalty, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, this actress has struggled with feelings of inadequacy all her life. So while she knows that part of her still clings to her bodacious physical image, she is enjoying the hell out of poking a hole in it.
“You know, a G-string would make me look a lot better because G-strings make your legs look longer,” she says, clearly pleased. “This underwear, it cuts you off. It’s not good.” When the “before” photos, complete with worry lines and exposed midriff, are in the can, Curtis looks radiant. “I love you people!” she yells at Eccles, before ducking into a back room, where a makeup artist and manicurist await. Only now, with Curtis’ blessing, can the transformation to Glam Jamie begin.