Natalie, ma cherie

An interview with the new face of Miss Dior Chérie, Natalie Portman.

By BEATRICE THOMAS-WACHSBERGER
July 31, 2011 09:50
Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Actress Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Her father is an Israeli doctor, and her mother is an artist from Cincinnati, Ohio. Portman left Israel for Washington, D.C., when she was young. The Oscar winner is the face of Miss Dior Chérie and was recently nominated as Best Actress by the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Do you feel blessed?
I definitely do. It’s nice for all the people who worked on the film The Black Swan that it is being appreciated so much. A team is always involved in making a movie, and it is a great feeling when an audience reacts that way to it.

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What does recognition represent for you as an actress?
I just hope for the ability to keep working. I love what I do and hope I’ll continue working for a long time. But it’s definitely time for a pause. I was busy doing press conferences for this film and a few others I have coming up this year, but it’s time for a break. I have No Strings Attached, Hesher, Your Highness and Thor all coming out in 2011.

How did you feel when Dior chose you as their ambassador?
It was a real honor. Dior has an amazing history and is an elegant brand. It has been wonderful to see how supportive Dior has been of both my artistic endeavours like the Black Swan première in New York and the non-profit organizations I work with such as FINCA and a girls’ education project Dior and I are working on. It has felt really wonderful to have their support.

What did you learn through this experience?
It was really interesting to learn about how they actually create perfumes, how they get vanilla from Madagascar and sandalwood from India, how they grow flowers in so many different places. It’s amazing to see how much they do for the sense of smell.

Can being a Dior spokesperson help your voice to be heard?
Absolutely! It is very meaningful to me that Dior has been so supportive of the things I believe in.

Were you familiar with Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s song “Je t’aime, moi non plus”?
Yes, I was. My father is a real fan of French music from the 1960s. He grew up on it in Israel, where it was popular then. He played this type of music all the time when I was growing up.

Who inspired you the most?
My parents were definitely the ones who were always encouraging and supportive of me. Career-wise, Mike Nichols has been wonderfully encouraging and supportive, and to have someone I respect so much believe in me was very helpful.

What is the most important thing your parents have taught you?
The desire to go to any length to be good to another person. They will stay up all night to help you with your homework or make sure you have the right doctor, not just for me but for my friends or theirs, other family members or people they barely know. They will go out of their way to help them. That is really unique. It gives you a sense of security to know that your parents will drop everything to help you. They showed me what true friendship and true love are.

How do you relax?
I love being home. My work takes me away so much that it really feels like a vacation being at home and being able to stay in bed all day and not get up. However, I also love traveling and have had amazing trips to many parts of the world.

How do you overcome stress?
I do not meditate, but I would like to learn. To me, exercise is definitely the best way to combat stress, whether swimming or hiking. I do yoga sometimes but not regularly anymore. And I also get acupuncture and massage when I am feeling stressed.

What is your favorite retreat?
Probably in the Maldives. I went to the Four Seasons there. Not only was it really amazing, but the diving there was incredible.

Are you a country girl?
Yes, I love nature and meeting the people who live in these places.

Has traveling changed some of your views?
Yes. It’s so abstract to imagine someone else’s life going on at the same time, so different from yours. There are literally billions of parallel lives. To actually travel the world, meet all kinds of people, talk with them and hear what their day is like, what makes them happy or sad, their problems, joys and successes it takes you out of your own petty circumstances.

What are your favorite shopping destinations?
I am not that much of a shopper. I like Steven Alan and Bauman Rare Books in New York. I like American Rag and Galerie Half in Los Angeles.

What is your favorite time of day?
I love getting into bed at night. I really love sleeping! It is always fun to know that work is over and it is time to sleep.

What things do you have a real distaste for?
I do not like coffee or beer; my tastes are like a kid’s. And I do not really like techno music. However, not many things offend me too much.

What is elegance to you?
Elegance seems to be related to effortlessness. You see it with someone who is comfortable in their own skin, feels comfortable with what they are wearing…

Who are your favorite designers?
I love Rodarte and Lanvin (Albert Elbaz). They are probably my favorites.

Do you dress according to your mood or circumstances?
I do both. I might just stay in my pajamas if I am able to stay at home all day, but I will put on a nice dress if I have to go to a wedding. It is both mood and circumstance.

What makes a woman “feminine”?
It is usually the way a woman moves that makes her more or less feminine.

What is the most powerful life experience you’ve had?
Meeting the women who were clients of FINCA in Uganda, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico, all of whom have been very inspiring. Seeing the depths of poverty in those places, that really stays with you forever. I have also seen the hopeful side; it is possible to make changes -- it just takes a lot of work. You do not encounter them in a middle-class upbringing in the United States.

Do you have any icons of your own?
I don’t think there is one person in particular, but I admire the wisdom and strength of women like Jane Goodall and Hilary Clinton.

Who would you want to meet?
Probably writers I love like Chekhov or Nabokov.

Was there something you really had to fight hard for to obtain?
To try to convince people I was a ballerina for Black Swan was probably the most difficult work experience I have ever gone through.

What are your views on nutrition and how do you stay true to this philosophical choice?
Everyone has to find what is right for them, and it is different for everyone. Eating for me is how you proclaim your beliefs three times a day. That is why all religions have rules about eating.

Three times a day, I remind myself that I value life and do not want to cause pain to or kill other living beings. That is the most important thing to me beyond my personal desires, and that is why I eat the way I do.

What is a typical breakfast or your favorite meal?
There is so much variety! I will have oatmeal or eggs and toast for breakfast like most people. Lunch can be pasta, rice and beans, a vegeburger, tofu, tempei and all sorts of different vegetables. Dinner is obviously the same. There is a wide variety of choices, it just requires a little more imagination.

What is a treat you can’t resist eating?
I am definitely a bread and pasta person.

Do you watch what you eat?
I was very careful with what I ate on Black Swan because I was on a pretty restricted diet. But as I eat healthy food, such as vegetables and salads, I usually eat what I want. I am not picky, but I am not an unhealthy eater.

What other art forms are you interested in?
I see a lot of movies with my friends, but I love art and try to keep up with music, photography, literature and theater. I listen to everything from soul, such as Etta James, Otis Redding and Aretha, to hip-hop and classical. Regarding books, I read a lot of contemporary American fiction, but I also read older and international writers. I love Nabokov and David Mitchell and Flaubert. In photography, I love Hiroshi Sugimoto and early Stieglitz. For painters, I love the work of Schiele and Anselm Kiefer.

What are your passions?
I would say my friends and family are a passion, as I spend most of my time with them. I love dancing, not necessarily ballet, and I love watching dance as well. Those are definitely passions of mine.

In your profession, one is often judged on looks and appearance. Does that bother you?
I think you get used to it, it’s normal. We categorize our world and make judgments.

Do you like playing with your screen image as you did for V for Vendetta, where you shaved your head?
Yes, it is a lot of fun as an actor to be able to disguise yourself and surprise people, to be different from what people expect.

What do you hope others see in you?
I hope that people can lose themselves in the story and the character and not wonder about me.

Which parts of yourself do you like best?
I stopped picking myself apart a few years ago. I do not really look at myself in terms of what I like or do not like; I just say, ‘That is me,’ and I accept that this is my shell.

Which details in this shell would you want to change?
I think I used to, but it is not like that anymore because wishing you were someone else is not a way to live. You are who you are. You can learn more, you can learn a skill, learn a language, read more books, you can work out, but certain things are just part of you, which you just accept.

Are you loyal to one perfume?
I am pretty loyal in general. I choose one thing and stick with it and wear it more on special occasions, not every day.

Is Miss Dior Chérie close to who you are?
It is both playful and womanly. Its character is seductive but at the same time does not take anything too seriously… and that is how I would hope to be.

What is the most important cosmetic product?
When you feel your skin looks good, it really makes a difference; you forget the little things you feel insecure about. A good product makes you feel more confident in yourself.

Hair care product?
I don’t have one. I am not very good with my hair.

Makeup?
I like the Dior Show mascara.

Do you have a sports routine?
I swim, hike and tone, and I use the elliptical machine as well, but more like three times a week since I finished the film.

What is the best beauty advice you were ever given?
Someone told me when I was really young not to touch my eyebrows, and that was a really good idea because it was the time when everybody was making their eyebrows really skinny. I am glad I didn’t do that because they don’t really come back.

Is there any beauty advice your mother gave you?
My mother always said not to pick at my skin and keep my hands away from my face.

Beauty tip?
Use sunscreen!

Beauty tip for surviving a big night out?
Don’t drink.

Ultimate beauty don’t?
I bleached my hair and dyed it bright pink when I was 20. That same week, I realized I didn’t like it and decided to get rid of it, so I bleached it and went back to brown. It’s not a good idea to bleach your hair twice in one week!

What spas or massage do you love?
It is more about the people who do it. I have an amazing acupuncturist in LA, and a great bodywork woman as well. There is a great physiotherapist in New York who does physical therapy massage, which helps you when you get real physical injuries.

What beauty product do you wish someone would invent just for you?
There is this great lip ointment called Papaw ointment, which you can only get in Australia, and I always wish you could get it in the States. I get my friends in Australia to send it to me.

What is your favorite book or poem?
Lolita and Robert Hass’s poetry; he is a contemporary Californian poet. And E.E. Cummings’s poems.

What for you is a beautiful piece of music?
The Schubert Impromptus, the Bach Goldberg Variations and the Chopin Nocturnes.

Piece of art?
Schiele’s drawings and paintings. He is probably my favorite.

Film or performance?
There are so many, Days of Heaven, Brief Encounter and Manhattan.

Taste?
It would be a strawberry popsicle.

A poem or a book?
St. Exupery’s The Little Prince.

A movie or play?
Godard’s film Breathless.

Favorite color?
Pink.

A sound?
A laugh.

If you were an animal?
It would be a baby lioness.

Which causes are closest to your heart?
Right now it is girls’ education. Seeing how many girls in the world do not have that opportunity, I feel so lucky that I was able to go to school. It affects the rest of their lives, the age at which they have children, their susceptibility to disease, their job, earning power and their status in society. Education really is a powerful way to change the lives of girls and women in the world.

What ultimately makes your heart soar?
Being with my friends and family does that.


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