Confidently Cameron: Meet Our Spring Cover Star

Cameron Diaz, a poster child for southern California if there ever was one, is lamenting the car-centric culture of her palm tree-laden native land. “Being in LA, it’s difficult [to stay active], because you have to drive everywhere,” she says on the phone from her sunny home base. “New York is great—I can do my entire day walking…. Here in LA, if I don’t make the effort, I can literally not walk more than a hundred yards in a day,” she says with her trademark girlish laugh. But make the effort she does; a self-professed gym lover and sometime surfer, Diaz has made physical activity a fundamental part of her lifestyle. It’s also one of the central tenets of her new lifestyle tome, The Longevity Book, which chronicles how and why we age, and how what we do—physically, mentally, and emotionally—can impact the aging process.

At 43, the actress and author is looking and feeling better than ever, but just before hitting 40 (the age at which one would inevitably hear the Hollywood death knell), journalists began asking Diaz if she was afraid of reaching this milestone birthday. “There was an insinuation that I should be scared to turn 40 and I wondered why,” she says. “I felt pretty vital and strong, and I was wondering: ‘Why is everybody so afraid of aging?’ And I started thinking: ‘I see these changes in my face and body, but what is happening on a cellular level?’ I wanted to understand why everybody was so scared and it’s because they don’t know anything about aging. We’re afraid of things we don’t understand.”

Thus, Diaz’s curiosity was piqued and the seed for her second book was planted. She called upon best-selling author Sandra Bark, who previously co-wrote The Body Book with Diaz, and set about researching this weighty topic, interviewing preeminent experts in the field of aging and longevity. The book is essentially about living well, but it’s also a women’s health manual chronicling the changes of midlife (positively dubbed a “midlife celebration” as opposed to a “midlife crisis”), and acting as an important treatise on accepting one’s body and embracing the aging process, which, in the long run, could help us to age better. Her goal is to reframe the conversation about aging. Rather than shaming women for growing older, Diaz wants us to recognize the process as a privilege, as well as realize that while we can’t stop the process, there are things we can do on a physical and emotional level to age well and live longer. “I wanted to continue the conversation I started in The Body Book in a way that I felt was empowering to women so that they can understand that they have control over these things,” says Diaz. “Ideally, we would start to take care of our bodies when we’re young; when it’s easier to build bone and muscle mass, and be more delicate on our systems. But it’s usually in our forties when we see the accumulation of age and we go: ‘What the hell is going on? What can I do to fix this?’ There’s a lot you can do—you can undo a lot of damage—but you can’t stop the process.”

It’s hard to believe that Diaz has been acting for more than 20 years. It seems like only yesterday the 22-year-old blonde beauty starred opposite Jim Carrey in the 1994 fantasy/action/comedy, The Mask. Since then, she’s played everything from a butt-kicking Angel in the Charlie’s Angels franchise, to the voice of Princess Fiona in the animated Shrek series, and, in what is perhaps her most memorable role, the endlessly stalked ex-acquaintance in There’s Something About Mary. But for now, Diaz is more interested in talking about the role of telomeres (bits of DNA that protect our chromosomes) and the links between stress and aging than about her latest movie role.

Timing-wise, The Longevity Book is well tuned to the rallying cry of women in Hollywood, for whom roles become fewer and farther between as they age. (Just witness the endless stories of the 20- and 30-something actresses not getting the part because they were considered too old to play the wife/girlfriend of X actor, who is usually at least 10 or 15 years her senior.) If you’re an actress over the age of 25, it seems the message is that you might as well pack it in. That being said, perhaps it’s no surprise that so many actresses are taking the entrepreneurial route, building businesses of their own. Count among them Diaz’s coterie of besties: Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, and Reese Witherspoon—all of whom have successfully made the transition to creating lifestyle/media empires or production companies. But while Diaz supports the efforts of her close-knit group of friends (which also includes Nicole Richie, wife of rocker Joel Madden who is the brother of Diaz’s husband, Benji Madden), she insists her newfound role as an author is not an effort in brand building. “This is just pure passion,” she says. “This is about something that’s really important to me—it’s really about wanting to share information with people.”

Diaz insists there’s no magic solution that will turn back the clock, but it’s simply what we do on a day-to-day basis—from good nutrition to physical activity, stress relief and loving relationships—that really counts towards living a long, healthy life. “We don’t have to harvest some worm in the middle of the Amazon to help us live longer,” she says. “All we have to do is live well: don’t eat junk food, move your body around, walk to the places your friends are at, get a good night’s rest, sit for 20 minutes in meditation. To me, that’s just living—we just have to do our best.”

But even Diaz trips up every once in a while. Her vice: fried chicken. “It’s my favourite thing in the world. I never pass it up,” she says. “If there’s fried chicken on the menu, I’ll get the fried chicken—if I’m feeling like I can handle it. And I’m not going to beat myself up for it if I have it.” In the end, it’s about balance and making good choices most of the time: “More good than bad is the equation.”

The biggest message Diaz offers is positive acceptance and being grateful for making it this far in life. “Aging is a decline—that’s why it’s so important to engage with [the process] and be ahead of it,” she says. “I’m not the same person I was at 25, mentally, emotionally, or physically. That’s life, and I’m okay with that and I’m willing to accept that. We should all just embrace the fact that we get to do this thing that is new to us, which is having a long life expectancy. You have to start now—no matter where you’re at, it’s not too late to begin. No matter when, when you take care of yourself, your life gets better.”

With these words, you can’t help but think that Diaz is starting a revolution of sorts (and maybe also symbolically giving the finger to those in Hollywood who underestimate the power of women—no matter what their age). “You really have to not care about what other people think,” she says. “It’s hard because we’re fighting against the force of society’s viewpoint and expectations, and they’re not realistic. As soon as we acknowledge that and call it out and say ‘Get outta here, you’re not wanted anymore, it’s none of your business. This is my journey—you don’t get to dictate to me who I’m supposed to be, or what I’m supposed to look like, or how I’m supposed to feel,’ the more we change the perspective. If we can embrace what is actually happening, then I think we’ll live in a healthier, stronger, more vital society.”

Cover Photography by TK. Featured Image by Andrew Cowie/AFP/Getty Images.

Cameron Cover