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Beauty is not defined by the size of your jeans
by Degen Pener, Glamour, March 2007
Back at work for the first time in nearly two years, Liv Tyler talks about her new movie, her two dads and why she'll never give in to Hollywood's obsession with thin.
Ask Liv Tyler what she's been up to lately and she'll tell you she's been making baby food, not blockbuster movies. The former teen model turned actress - most famous for playing Arwen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy - became a first-time mom in December 2004, when she had her son, Milo, with musician husband Royston Langdon, and she took almost two years off from her film career to devote herself to the baby. But this spring the 29-year-old returns to the big screen in the new film Reign Over Me, a drama starring Adam Sandler as a man trying to pull his life together after losing his family on 9/11. When we meet up at one of her favorite Greenwich Village cafes for Sunday coffee, she's completely unassuming in her little red plaid shirt and jeans, even as she waves to Calvin Klein and Bianca Jagger, who are sitting a few tables away. That's Liv - the perfect balance of capital-F fabulous (she's the daughter of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and former model Bebe Buell) and downright normal (she grew up in Portland, Maine). Here's what she's up to now.
What was it like working with funny guy Adam Sandler on your new movie, Reign Over Me? The film isn't your typical Adam Sandler movie. It's about a man who loses his family in one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center. I was sooo blown away by what a truly amazing actor Adam is. There is a scene in the film where he tells his best friend, played by Don Cheadle, what happened on the day he lost his family. I was so moved by what he was saying, I started to cry and couldn't stop. Tears were streaming down my face! But because I was off-camera, I had to be quiet: I couldn't even sniffle. I have never, ever had that happen to me working with any other actor. He was so good and so shockingly real, he just broke my heart.
What drew you to such difficult material for your first return project? You ofter hear stories about what went on in the two towers, in the planes and on the ground on 9/11. But you rarely hear details about the family members the victims left behind. I want to know what those people have had to endure and what their lives are like now. It was a deeply touching story.
So what has it been like switching gears from being a full-time mom to making movies again? I feel so blessed that I have a job where I can spend long periods of time with my family. Most moms don't have that choice. But wearing so many hats - mother, wife, actress - does take hard work; you always have to be thinking about your family's best interests. I was very worried about how I would feel when I signed on to do Strangers [a thriller Tyler shot on location in South Carolina; it's slated for a fall release]. I'm in every single scene, and we worked day and night. I was so scared Milo would have a hard time because of that.
Did he? He really surprised me! So far, Milo seems to be flexible and happy whenever we go away. He loves it! I guess it's what you're used to. I have been traveling since I was little, so new experiences feel very natural to me. In fact, I need them to survive - I get restless if I'm in the same place for too long.
Was it strange to be away from the movie business for nearly two years? I've always enjoyed acting, but there's a part of me that's shied away from living a celebrity life. I don't feel comfortable being noticed all the time. Sometimes I even fantasize about doing things other than acting. But I can remember being back on set the third day of my latest project and going, "Ahh, this is what I have to do for a living." It's what makes me happy.
That's so interesting that you've fantasized about doing other things with your life. Like what? Moving to the country and opening a spa or a restaurant, or being a photographer or a facialist. I love skin care. I give everybody facials all the time!
You mentioned the paparazzi were photographing you on your way to this cafe. How do you deal with it? I'm not happy about it at all. My neighborhood [has become] a very fashionable, happening place, and the paparazzi just sort of patrol around. I keep thinking it would be fun to turn the situation around and do a TV show where the paparazzi were the ones being followed. Can you imagine if you had three photographers follow one of them home at night and wait outside his house and follow him in his car? It would be really interesting to see.
But you grew up around all these rock and rollers - aren't you used to that kind of stuff? Actually, I grew up in Portland, Maine, with my aunt and my mom. I didn't even realize my real father was Steven Tyler until I was 9! I never went on tour with him or [musician] Todd Rundgren, who I had thought was my dad. [Rundgren was dating Buell at the time of Liv's birth and agreed to sign her birth certificate at Buell's request.] I went to school and had a basic life. I was a normal girl with normal friends.
Was it awkward to balance your relationship with both Todd and Steven after you realized Steven was your father? I did go through a lot of internal struggle when all of that happened, and I still do. On one hand, I was overjoyed to meet my real dad and family. But it was always incredibly important to me that I not forget about Todd. He knew I probably wasn't his child when I was born, but he felt I needed a father, so he stepped up to the plate to be that man. Though Todd and my mother broke up when I was about a week old, he supported me financially and sent me to amazing private schools. So now I have two lovely fathers who are very different, and I get so much from both of them.
And now you're a mom yourself. Has having a baby changed you? It's been transformational. Is that a word? [Laughs.] Getting pregnant and caring for a baby gave me a confidence I'd never had before. I really felt I'd done something well, and I can't say that about anything else in my life. I've never watched a movie I've appeared in and thought, wow, I was great. I always think, oh, I could have done this better. So it was the first time I ever felt completely satisfied. I was proud of myself and my husband.
You said recently that when you were breast-feeding, you didn't worry about pregnancy weight. How did you manage to be so laid-back about it, when so many Hollywood moms lose their baby weight instantly? I've been a model and actress since I was 14, so I've been on a diet my whole life. But once I gave birth, I didn't want to think about myself or feel insecure about my career; I wanted to think about my child. So I stopped worrying about diets.
But you'd really been on a diet your whole life? Pretty much. I have to be conscious of what I eat. If I have on big dinner, I gain a pound by the next day. If I eat lots of salt, I instantly get puffy. It's so annoying. But the strangest thing happened recently; I've been eating and not gaining weight. In fact, I recently lost 10 pounds.
And you're not making yourself unhealthy doing it? No, I've been eating like a pig. I think it's because I hired this chef on the set of Strangers to cook for me, and I ate a lot of vegetables and protein. Filming was also incredibly intense: We were supposed to be out of breath in every scene, so I would run around the stage to achieve that. I just went to Marc Jacobs and I bought a red dress in a size 4. I've never been a size 4 in my entire life!
Speaking of getting skinny: There's this crazy thing going on right now with so many models and actresses who are superthin. You have a lot of friends in the fashion world. Do you talk to them about what's happening? I definitely think the girls look too skinny now. I'm friends with [models] Helena Christensen and Linda Evangelista, and I remember Linda telling me that when she was a model [in the nineties], a sample size was a 6 or an 8. Now a sample dress size is a 0 or a 2. That's pretty alarming. There's a lot of pressure on [the models]. It's not healthy. I can't even imagine what that's like.
But you've dieted a lot, so you must have some sense of it. Well, when I'm not working I try very hard to let my hair down and have a glass of wine or two, and cook yummy meals for my family and friends. Yes, I've been on lots of diets, but I don't kill myself. My fave treat is a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup that's nice and cold in the fridge. That makes me sooo happy!
So the lesson here is balance. It's pretty refreshing to hear you have such a good attitude. If I worked out three hours a day, everyday, I'd be such a boring person. I've always been a big girl - I'm 5'10", with a broad back and wide shoulders - and I have always felt pretty comfy in my skin, no matter how big or small my bum is at the time. But it's not how I measure my happiness. I just want to be myself - I can't try and be somebody else. Beauty is not defined by the size of your jeans.
Liv's style picks
Shoes: Heels or flats? I love heels. But I never seem to wear them, because when I do, I'm over 6' tall and feel like a giraffe! I'm usually in my Converse All Stars.
Tops: Cleavage-baring or up to your neck? I'm not one for major boobie-showing tops. I like to wear a turtleneck with a little short-sleeve top over it.
Formal dress: Cocktail-length or long? I feel more comfy in a sexy cocktail dress, but I love the drama of a gown.
Jeans: Low-rise or regular-size? Normal, or even high-rise. I'm not so crazy about the ass-crack low-rise. When you sit, they dig into your tummy fat!
Lips: Lipstick or lip gloss? Lipstick!
Earrings: Small or humongous? I like both. I don't wear much everyday jewelry, just my wedding ring. But for big events, if I can borrow some amazing diamonds, you'd better believe I will!
Clickhere to see Liv's audio slideshow by Glamour!