It’s time to end breast can­cer now Why el­iz­a­beth Hur­ley is head­ing up this worth­while cam­paign

Global Am­bas­sador for The Estée Lauder Com­pa­nies’ Breast Can­cer Cam­paign, El­iz­a­beth Hur­ley talks to Nathalie Whit­tle about what it means to her

Woman & Home - - In This Issue… -

From that safety pin dress she wore to ac­com­pany then-boyfriend (and now best friend) Hugh Grant to the 1994 pre­miere of Four Wed­dings and a Fu­neral to those flaw­less In­sta­gram self­ies taken on sun-soaked beaches across the globe, the glam­orous life of El­iz­a­beth Hur­ley, 53, seems worlds away from our own. But when we meet at Lon­don’s Blakes Ho­tel, it doesn’t take long to re­alise there’s some­thing very “nor­mal” about this A-list celebrity.

She tells me she’s had to skip break­fast be­cause she’s been rush­ing around like mad all morn­ing to get her 16-year-old son, Damian, ready for a test shoot (he wants to be an ac­tor), and to pre­pare for a meet­ing she’s sched­uled with her ac­coun­tant straight after this. And just as she fin­ishes her sen­tence, she stares at her phone and gasps.

“I’ve ac­ci­den­tally replied to a text from Damian’s board­ing school house­mas­ter with a kiss,” she says. “It could be worse though, I sup­pose,” she adds. “I once said ‘love you’ at the end of a call with my ac­coun­tant – I had to phone him back and say, ‘I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean that at all.’”

El­iz­a­beth’s ca­reer has seen her ap­pear in Hol­ly­wood block­busters in­clud­ing Austin Pow­ers and Be­daz­zled, launch her own swimwear range, El­iz­a­beth Hur­ley Beach, and most re­cently star as the ma­tri­arch, Queen He­lena, in hit US drama, The Roy­als.

But per­haps her most no­table role has been serv­ing as Global Am­bas­sador for The Estée Lauder Com­pa­nies’ Breast Can­cer Cam­paign. Since sign­ing as a spokesmodel in 1995, she has em­bod­ied the late Eve­lyn H. Lauder’s – the daugh­ter-in-law of Estée Lauder who launched The Cam­paign and cre­ated the fa­mous pink rib­bon – pas­sion for speak­ing about the dis­ease and rais­ing funds to find a cure. And now in her 23rd year, that pas­sion ap­pears to be stronger than ever. El­iz­a­beth is sin­gle and splits her time be­tween Here­ford­shire and Lon­don.

When Eve­lyn Lauder came to me 23 years ago and said, “Would you help me with this breast can­cer cam­paign I’ve just started?”, I didn’t have to think twice about it. Back then, women all over the world were dy­ing of the dis­ease and no one was talk­ing about it. My grand­mother was one of them and like her peers, she was too em­bar­rassed to open up. It might sound hard to be­lieve now, but there wasn’t even a ques­tion of a mag­a­zine like woman&home talk­ing about breast can­cer in those days.

I never dreamt the cam­paign would be­come what it has. Right at the be­gin­ning, I re­mem­ber think­ing, “Gosh, I’m go­ing on the same TV shows, talk­ing about the same thing, for the third year in a row.” I thought peo­ple would get bored. What I hadn’t re­alised though was that with every year that passed, some­one else would have had their own ex­pe­ri­ence with breast can­cer. It was rel­e­vant to ev­ery­one.

I’ve had some re­ally emo­tional mo­ments over the years. I’ll never for­get do­ing per­sonal ap­pear­ances with Eve­lyn where we’d meet mem­bers of the pub­lic who wanted to buy gifts – T-shirts and pink rib­bon pins – to help raise funds. We’d sit at a ta­ble with this huge line of peo­ple in front of us, and every time we saw a teenage boy in the queue, we’d just know that his mother had breast can­cer. And sure enough, he’d come over and tell us ex­actly that. It’s still hard now to hold it to­gether in those mo­ments.

My first mam­mo­gram was a gift from Eve­lyn her­self. It was my 40th birth­day and she made me prom­ise to have one reg­u­larly from then on, which I’ve done. I must have had 10 by now and every year I sit there think­ing, “This could be the year I get the news.” I worry about it all the time, not just be­cause it would af­fect me, but be­cause of what it would mean for Damian, too.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s how strong women are. One of my friends, Emma, has had an un­be­liev­ably tough time. She was strug­gling to have a se­cond child nat­u­rally, but man­aged to get preg­nant with triplets through IVF. And then? She got di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer. She ended up be­ing a sin­gle mother of four kids un­der the age of four while bat­tling the dis­ease – and she’s just got on with it. She’s an amaz­ing woman and there are so many more like her who I’ve met along the way.

The theme of this year’s cam­paign is #TimeToEndBreast­Cancer – and it re­ally is, isn’t it? Even though mor­tal­ity rates have de­creased by 39% since the late 80s, 32 women a day in the UK still die of breast can­cer and one in eight women will still be di­ag­nosed in their life­time.

It’s time for peo­ple to pull to­gether and think, “What can I do?”. We can all make a dif­fer­ence, how­ever big or small.

I feel like the time has come for me to take on a proper chal­lenge. So next >>

year I’m go­ing to do some­thing phys­i­cal to raise funds. I’m not al­lowed to tell you ex­actly what it is yet, but it’s go­ing to be sporty – and let me tell you, I’m not a very sporty per­son! Watch this space.

Peo­ple think I look rea­son­ably fit, but I’m in my fifties now and my body is very dif­fer­ent to how it was in my twen­ties, thir­ties or even for­ties. I’m be­com­ing in­creas­ingly aware that if I don’t walk or stretch enough, I feel stiff. My big­gest fear is be­ing an im­mo­bile 60-year-old, so I’m try­ing to find ways to in­cor­po­rate ex­er­cise into my life. I’m al­ways ac­tive when I’m at home in the coun­try – walk­ing the dogs or out in the gar­den – but it all goes to pot when I’m in Lon­don.

Jug­gling work and home life is a con­stant bat­tle; I feel like I’m chas­ing my tail most of the time. The way I dealt with it when Damian was lit­tle was by stop­ping mak­ing films and TV shows. I was 36 when I had him, I’d worked non-stop since I was 20, and I wanted him to feel like a very reg­u­lar kid and not be sat in my trailer with a tu­tor. Then, when he was about eight, I started tak­ing jobs again and to be hon­est, it was fan­tas­tic to go back to work. I don’t re­gret tak­ing that time off but once I worked again, I felt a lot more ful­filled.

My big­gest in­dul­gence is binge­watch­ing box sets. I was very late to TV – I didn’t have one for years, but when I started film­ing The Roy­als, I was work­ing 16-hour days and found I couldn’t read when I got home, so I bought a TV. I re­mem­ber watch­ing Break­ing Bad on my own in the pitch black for the first time and I was like a Rus­sian com­ing in from the Cold War – I couldn’t be­lieve how good it was. I then watched Home­land, Nar­cos, Out­lander… I love them all.

My off-duty look is very re­laxed.

I spend about four min­utes putting a lit­tle bit of make-up on and pin my hair up in a bun. My “uni­form” is sweat­pants, gym shoes and a black cash­mere jumper – and I’ll of­ten nab Damian’s Nike or Adi­das cast-offs! Is it pa­thetic that I wear my son’s aged 14-15 clothes? I hope not.

The per­son I ad­mire most for glam­our is Joan Collins – I want to look like her when I’m 85. She’s taught me some bril­liant beauty tips over the years. She keeps pots of eye cream all over the house and every time she sees one she dabs some on. She also told me to keep hand cream in my hand­bag and in my car – and put it on all day long.

The one thing I swear by is mois­turiser – and lots of it. I’ll mois­turise my face about six times a day and my neck about 10 times a day. Many years ago, a make-up artist taught me that even when you’re fully made up, you can still put mois­turiser on. Just put a lit­tle bit on your hands, lightly dab it over your face, and it in­stantly makes you glow. I might ap­pear con­fi­dent, but I get shy and awk­ward in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions, just like ev­ery­one else. I learnt one of the best strate­gies to over­come shy­ness from Eve­lyn. There was no such thing as awk­ward­ness with her and when there was a mo­ment where you or I might hover un­easily with a stranger think­ing “Am I kiss­ing this per­son or shak­ing their hand?”, she’d just go straight up to them, arms wide open with­out any hes­i­ta­tion. That’s what I do now, and it re­ally works.

I don’t have a vast friend­ship group

any more, but I don’t mind that. When you’re an ac­tress and you’re never in one place, you form very in­tense friend­ships very quickly, but some­times you might not see them again for a re­ally long time and they be­come “birth­day” or “Christ­mas” friends – we all have some of those. I’m lucky though that I have five or six friends who I can tell all my prob­lems to. I like to call them my “tough weather” friends.

One of the best things about get­ting older is that you care so much less, don’t you? We all go through big mo­ments in our lives – los­ing a par­ent or hav­ing a child – and as they hap­pen, you let go of so much trivia. I know I have any­way. I’ve learnt to dis­tin­guish be­tween what’s im­por­tant and what doesn’t mat­ter. Hav­ing a spot, putting on two pounds, not be­ing in­vited to a party – who cares about that stuff? I feel much more con­tent hav­ing let go of the rub­bish.

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