Katie Holmes is re­fus­ing to set­tle.

ELLE (Canada) - - Guest List - By Kathryn Hud­son

THE GIG NYC na­tive Er­langer styled this month’s cover girl, Katie Holmes. FASH­ION FAN­TASY “If I could style any­one, it would be Olivia de Hav­il­land, Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe and Katharine Hep­burn: iconic women who had style, pres­ence and grace.”

KATIE HOLMES is sit­ting on an al­abaster couch, star­ing into the brick fire­place. Her navy cash­mere cape re­flects the cool tones in the paint­ing hang­ing across from us. Grey New York light fil­ters through the win­dows. She looks com­fort­able in this calm en­vi­ron­ment—maybe be­cause it’s chic, pol­ished and just a touch im­per­sonal. Af­ter all, this min­i­mal­ist set­ting is ac­tu­ally the stage for a photo shoot that will spring to life later in the day.

It’s a fit­tingly neu­tral scene for the ac­tress, who is no­to­ri­ously pri­vate. Af­ter years of tabloid fer­vour sur­round­ing Holmes’ mar­riage to, and sub­se­quent di­vorce from, Tom Cruise, she rarely sits down for in­ter­views and barely en­gages with so­cial me­dia, ex­plain­ing that she didn’t grow up with it so it still feels for­eign to her.

Although Holmes must be used to liv­ing a some­what ex­posed life, sit­ting across from her evokes the same feel­ing you get when you spot a fawn at the edge of a clear­ing: She is del­i­cate and much more beau­ti­ful than you would ex­pect, but you know that at any mo­ment she might dart off, pre­fer­ring to be alone rather than stared at.

Holmes chooses her words care­fully, of­ten stop­ping to brush a twist of dark hair off her face. For ex­am­ple, when she’s asked what makes her feel con­fi­dent, she pauses and then asks to move on to the next ques­tion. She ap­pears to pick her projects with just as much care. “It’s a very hard busi­ness,” she ex­plains. “You have to work hard ev­ery day and hope for the best. Some­times of­fers are fly­ing in, and some­times they’re not.”

De­spite the fact that she scored projects like last sum­mer’s The Giver, along­side Meryl Streep, she also lived through a fal­low pe­riod in her ca­reer af­ter the birth of her daugh­ter in 2006. She tried her hand at Broad­way twice— to mixed re­views—and launched the now-shut­tered cloth­ing line Holmes & Yang with her then stylist.

Today, how­ever, the 36-year-old ac­tress is on a roll. She’s the global am­bas­sador for Olay skin­care, she re­cently starred in the quirky indie film Miss Mead­ows h

and she’s gear­ing up for her di­rec­to­rial de­but on All We Had, a film adap­ta­tion of An­nie Weather­wax’s best­selling book by the same name. “There aren’t as many movies be­ing made, pe­riod, so the chal­lenge is to cre­ate projects for your­self,” she says. “But that’s fun too. You have to make your own op­por­tu­ni­ties.” That’s one of the rea­sons she was so taken with the idea of di­rect­ing All We Had. The story, which is about a mother and daugh­ter strug­gling to build a life to­gether in small-town Amer­ica, is one that res­onated with Holmes, who grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and is now rais­ing her daugh­ter, Suri, eight, in New York City and L.A. “I think that see­ing two peo­ple on the edge of poverty in Amer­ica is an im­por­tant story to tell,” she ex­plains. “It re­minded me of Terms of En­dear­ment. It’s a sim­ple story but with two great roles for fe­males.”

When we start to talk about her de­ci­sion to direct, Holmes’ quiet guard­ed­ness lifts and she be­comes gen­uinely an­i­mated. “I’m scared, but I’m go­ing to give it a try,” she says with a grin, adding that she was inspired by direc­tors like Sarah Pol­ley. Af­ter all, Holmes is al­ways “look­ing for sto­ries that re­ally show women in the best light,” which is why she was ea­ger to jump on board with Olay. (Its lat­est cam­paign en­cour­ages women to put them­selves first. In the ad spot that launched the se­ries, Holmes purrs “Why set­tle?”) “I have three sis­ters and a ton of aunts and a lot of friends, so I’m con­stantly amazed and inspired by all kinds of women and the ded­i­ca­tion it takes to have a ca­reer and be a mother,” she says. “I’m also amazed by the com­mu­nity of women it takes for one per­son to re­ally suc­ceed. I think that that’s re­ally im­por­tant to re­mem­ber.”

Grow­ing up as the youngest of five sib­lings in the Amer­i­can Mid­west, Holmes started mod­el­ling classes at 10 years old but was told as a teen that she would never be tall enough. (That seems hard to imag­ine as I watch her stroll about un­hur­riedly in tow­er­ing Chris­tian Louboutin suede boots.) She soon be­gan get­ting act­ing au­di­tions and fa­mously turned down the of­fer to try out for Daw­son’s Creek be­cause she was star­ring in her high-school pro­duc­tion of Damn Yan­kees. She sent in a video­tape in­stead, filmed in her base­ment. The raw footage was enough to score Holmes the now-iconic role of Joey Pot­ter in the teen odyssey about love, loss, friend­ship and grow­ing up.

The role firmly so­lid­i­fied her as Amer­ica’s tomboy sweet­heart. “I don’t know if I have moved past it, but I don’t re­ally care,” says Holmes with a smile. “I had a ball do­ing it, and it’s re­ally nice to be a part of some­thing that did af­fect peo­ple. And it cre­ated a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties for all of us. You can’t re­ally ask for much more than that.”

Daw­son’s Creek fans are “all grown up now,” says Holmes, jok­ing that these days they’re prob­a­bly more apt to be watch­ing Dis­ney shows with their kids. Which suits her just fine be­cause she doesn’t sit around think­ing about past suc­cesses. “I just keep go­ing,” she ex­plains with charm­ing Mid­west­ern prac­ti­cal­ity. “That’s what I do: I don’t re­ally think about it; I kind of just keep go­ing.” I ask her if she con­sid­ers her­self to be a par­tic­u­larly am­bi­tious per­son—af­ter all, she lights up when she talks about get­ting around chal­lenges, like an ath­lete step­ping through tires in an ob­sta­cle course. “No, I’m re­ally not,” she says with a laugh. “I think am­bi­tion is a won­der­ful thing, but I see a lot of peo­ple who might be a lit­tle bit more am­bi­tious [than me]; I just do what I do and go home. I have a bal­anced life. I like hav­ing dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences, and I like be­ing inspired.”

It’s hard not to spec­u­late about whether Holmes, who went from be­ing a bud­ding young star to the fe­male lead in one of the world’s most fa­mous cou­ples to a work­ing New York mom in only a mat­ter of years, would have done things dif­fer­ently if given the chance—if she would have cho­sen a dif­fer­ent set of “ex­pe­ri­ences.”

When asked if she’d go back and give her­self any ad­vice, Holmes is firm. “I’ve al­ways been ad­ven­tur­ous, so I wouldn’t tell my­self any­thing,” she says. “I liked who I was at 20, and I think that you just have to go along for the ride with ev­ery­thing.” As if to si­lence any fur­ther de­bate on the mat­ter of re­grets, she smiles and continues with a steady tone: “I have a lot to be grate­ful for, so I do count my bless­ings ev­ery day. I re­ally do.” ■

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