Cate Blanchett on glamour and chaos
WEAR ARMANI TO THE SUPERMARKET, PUT YOUR FAMILY (AND SOMETIMES YOUR CAREER) FIRST AND SAY YES TO NEW ADVENTURES. THE ACTRESS, BEAUTY ICON AND INSPIRATIONAL FORCE GIVES HER TIPS FOR LOOKING AND FEELING GREAT
The actress and beauty icon talks family, fashion and beauty secrets
Cate Blanchett is texting, and mortified. “Remember back in the day when having your phone on the table at a restaurant was the worst sin?” she asks, tapping frantically between half a dozen apologies. She would never normally be so rude, she insists, but she’s texting home and “life’s a bit chaotic at the moment”, while Blanchett, 47, and her husband, Australian playwright Andrew Upton, relocate from Sydney to London with their four children (Dashiell, 15, Roman, 12, Ignatius, eight, and Edith, whose adoption was confirmed last year). “We adopted our little girl 17 months ago, so that’s been my focus, really. It’s been really important to make sure that everyone’s all together, on the right ship and taken care of.”
Given they only left Brighton to go home to Australia a few years ago, what brings them back to Britain? “School for the kids and also work,” she says, politely flipping her phone upside down to avoid further distraction. “We were in Australia for eight years; my husband was running a theatre company there and felt it was time to
wind that up. Sometimes it’s a good thing creatively to switch it up a bit, so you can think differently.”
In theory, Blanchett’s meant to be having a quiet year – a Broadway show this winter and a few weeks filming Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok. Except today she’s hosting the international launch of Giorgio Armani’s new Sì Le Parfum, a fragrance she’s been involved with, and worn, from the start. It was formulated by leading perfumer Julie Massé, well known for her warm, elegant creations, but Blanchett – a long-time friend and admirer of Armani – was invited to collaborate. A gourmand-chypre floral whose sparkling top notes give way to spicy patchouli and warm vanilla, the scent is era-defining, but manages to transcend it, too.
Blanchett has taken on an additional role as ambassador for Armani’s positive message initiative, the Sì Women’s Circle, which showcases women who have changed career or faced difficult challenges. “It’s celebrating the duality of women,” she says of her friend’s cause. “Women are often focused on their family or community, but they have such a range of interests and abilities, and challenges. It can be difficult to reconcile the two things, so it’s good to have a place that celebrates and encourages women to say yes.”
T“Life’s full of DOUBT and challenge, but if you PUSH through it a door will open up to something new”
he Sì Women’s Circle is currently a series of videos (find them on Youtube – search for Sì Women’s Circle) designed to inspire women to face those challenges that typically occur midway through a career, or as it becomes clear that life is not about to slow down or become less complicated any time soon. “Even though we do different things as women, we face similar obstacles and the way we surmount these can make all the difference,” Blanchett says. “The Sì Women’s Circle encourages women to say yes. It’s not easy as we invariably have a pull towards family and community, but we also prize our individual space and passions. Life’s full of doubt and challenge, but if you push through the doubt, there will be a little door that opens up to something new. And that’s empowering.”
How does Blanchett’s own trajectory fit this picture? “There was a time when I was doing things back to back – working, running the company with Andrew – and it all felt very squeezed, but I was afraid to slow down and say yes to what I really wanted.” That included expanding her brood and, indeed, “what has been great has been saying yes to slowing down, to reclaiming time for myself and my family. It has been a luxury and a necessity. It doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to going back to work. In a way,
that’s a mental space for me away from the need or the cacophony of kids. Which I absolutely love.”
While she has been taking her foot off (-ish) the career pedal, Blanchett has been saying yes to more things on the home front. She’s in training for a 28km run organised by her son’s school, though she suspects it was ambitious. “You’ve got to train first thing in the morning and you have to have someone else say, ‘I’ll meet you there,’ otherwise you wouldn’t do it. I’d think, ‘No, I should be doing something with the kids,’ or ‘I’m too tired.’ But if you’re going to let someone down, well, that’s often a big motivator to women.” And so, it seems, is the fear of abject embarrassment. “I’m just using the fear of shaming my son as the motivator!”
She has been cooking and gardening. “I’ve been thinking a lot more about what I eat since having children.” (Blanchett considers herself a lapsed vegetarian and is careful about what she eats, “but not in a way that’s about denial; more, if you’re full, then stop”.) You become aware of how over-processed things are, she says, “and it becomes more natural to reach for fresh, healthy things”. To make home cooking less onerous? “Embrace chopping! They should introduce it in mental health institutions. Get a carrot and chop it. It slows you down a little bit.” She says gardening is relaxing, too.
Today, in her immaculate pale grey Armani suit, Blanchett couldn’t look further from a carrot-chopping mum. But that’s the point. “It goes back to that duality,” she says. “Clothes and scent affect your mood and some days it’ll be tracksuit pants and unwashed hair, then the next day I’ll think, ‘Ooo, I haven’t worn that Armani suit for ages,’ and I’ll go to Waitrose in it. Ridiculous, but it’s mood-enhancing.”
Does Hollywood’s relentless fashion parade sometimes feel less than empowering? She nods. “Everyone talks about the pressure of getting ready for an event because the scrutiny has increased to such a ridiculous degree. And we’re all party to it. But I absolutely enshrine the right to have a good time, to enjoy getting dressed up so it doesn’t feel like a job. I tell myself I’m excited. I tell myself they’re taking pictures but no one is ever going to see them. I just claim the space, I think.” It’s that kind of sensible, grown-up attitude that has secured Blanchett’s reputation as the thinking woman’s Hollywood star and kept us interested in her lifestyle and how she looks after herself.
As befits her vellum-like complexion, Blanchett’s main beauty focus is her skin. “I use SK-II serums, moisturiser and masks. The SK-II Whitening Mask boosts my skin before an event and I use the LXP line morning and night. And I always wear sunscreen. I don’t wear a lot of make-up these days, maybe mascara and concealer.” Blanchett fares less well with hair. “I hate hair. It’s always the last to go. I don’t know what I, or the army, did before dry shampoo.”
Today she looks glorious – hair and all – though in her down-to-earth way she says this is due to the hair and make-up team hiding upstairs. Her relationship with make-up artist Mary Greenwell is an old one, but Blanchett says she still picks up tips: “I’ve learnt all about layering and application.
It’s about lots of sheer layers to treat skin and build up a natural glow. And people put make-up on top of skin, but Mary really massages it in. If you’re not awake first thing in the morning, you will be after about 15 minutes because [with Greenwell] you’re slapped around a lot!”
So it’s yes to more beauty tips, yes to more kids, yes to moving halfway across the world – again. Blanchett says she’s not afraid of change and her personal mission is also “to push through those doubts and open little doors” whenever she can. And now she’s inspiring women to do the same. We’ll say YES to that!
Cate Blanchett is the face of Giorgio Armani Sì Le Parfum, £115, and an ambassador for the Sì Women’s Circle
“I absolutely enshrine the RIGHT to have a GOOD time, to enjoy dressing up so it doesn’t feel like a job”