Friday, April 11, 2008

Not Just Anybody: Thandie Newton

The actress talks about diet, plastic surgery and Bikram yoga

Laura Deeley From The Times April 11, 2008
You trained in contemporary dance. Why didn't you make a career of it?

I tore some ligaments in my lower spine preparing for an end-of-year show when I was 16. I couldn't practise or audition for dance schools, such as the Rambert in London, where I really wanted to go. Instead, I auditioned for a film. Then acting took over.

How do you stay so svelte?

I used to do Bikram yoga.

So you're part of the bendy brigade. How does Bikram yoga differ from yoga?

The room is heated to a really high temperature so you sweat a huge amount. Your muscles stretch farther in the heat so you get rid of more toxins. I gave it up when I became pregnant with my second child, Nico, now 3, and I didn't start again.

Would you describe yourself as a couch potato now?

Not entirely. I love horseriding and walking, but I don't want to exercise for the sake of it. I want it to be part of my life.

Do you ever diet?

No. I eat healthily. I drink wine and have pastries, but I tend to buy organic produce. When I was pregnant with my first daughter Ripley, now 7, I was eating whatever I liked.

Tendency to yo-yo when it comes to body shape?

It comes and goes. I've had every shaped ass there is, skinny ass, scrawny ass, big ass. It doesn't change who I am.

You were a bit on the Twiggy side a few years ago. Were you ill?

I lost a lot of weight after Nico's birth. I was grieving and stress really affects my weight. I lost a lot.

Who were you grieving for?

It's not something I want to talk about. I went through a hard time but, as Buddhists say, challenge is a gift.

Every wrinkle tells a story?

Yes. I remember when I was really distressed my frown lines were deep from crying. A make-up artist who was working on me said: “You can remove these; they are just not you.” A part of me thought you're right, this isn't me. But now I see that it was. The hard times marked my face and are marks of my experience.

Ever consider a nip'n'tuck?

No. Once you start where do you stop? Plus, after having children I feel really happy with my body.

And peaceful of mind?

I'm tangle-free.

Bit of an academic?

I like learning and I did well at school. I won a scholarship to go to a performing arts boarding school in Tring, Herfordshire, when I was 11 and then I went off to Cambridge University to study anthropology.

Was boarding difficult?

Yes, for the first two years. We weren't allowed to call home until we were 13. I think that's why I articulate myself better, more sincerely, in a letter.

Do you feel the need to hide your true self in person?

It's not that, but I think we are taught to hide our true selves.

When we're children?

Yes. Children have honesty and frankness drilled out of them. Children are born free and outspoken. When they say things like, “Oh, that woman's really ugly”, we shouldn't shush them. I'd rather deal with the fall-out of a kid being brutally honest than stop them expressing themselves.

So honesty's the best policy?

I think so. Dishonesty is a route to confusion and negativity. Even if it reveals things you're ashamed off, you'll get past it if you're honest about it. I'm comfortable when I'm being honest with myself and everyone else.

You're the face of a new campaign to provide clean drinking water to Africa; what's the plan?

The basic premise is that each time you buy one litre of bottled water, Volvic provides ten litres of clean water for countries in Africa.

Not in bottles, surely?

No, of course not. The project Volvic is supporting is run by the charity World Vision. Volvic has already committed the money to install 22 water pumps in Africa.

When you're supporting a charity, do you ever worry about its motives?

It's easy to see the project as a money-spinner for Volvic, but who cares what Volvic's motivations are? The money is going to be used by World Vision to do an enormous amount of good. Buying the water shows a company that it's worth investing in charities; that's what's important.

And you can use your fame to do that?

It does give some influence. I went on a TV show the other day and after I'd made my appeal World Vision received loads of donations. It feels good to make a difference.

Thandie Newton is supporting Volvic's 1L-for-10L programme. For more details visit,

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