The roles she’s portrayed on screen run the gamut of the human psyche – from controversial philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch to Steve Jobs’ right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman – but every character that Kate Winslet has played has one thing in common: they are all interesting, gutsy, multifaceted women. In fact, the British-born actress has built a career out of dodging ‘safe’ pretty girl sidekicks in favour of steelier, nuanced female characters; as a result, she’s racked up seven Oscar nominations and one win.
Next up, she’ll be seen in similarly eclectic Hollywood fare: Collateral Beauty, an ensemble dramedy with an A-list cast including Helen Mirren, Jonah Hill and Edward Norton; disaster movie The Mountain Between Us with Idris Elba; and she’s also set to star alongside Justin Timberlake in Woody Allen’s as-yet-untitled new film – a surprising choice, some say, as it’s the first time Kate, who turns 41 this month, will work with the controversial film-maker.
Against the grain
But then, the mother-of-three is more than used to going against the grain and coming out on top. For starters, she is one of the few women in Hollywood who has kicked back against the unrealistic standards of beauty set by the industry; refusing to starve herself to sample-size proportions or go under the scalpel for a role.
Instead, she’s developed a unique way of dealing with body pressure. “When you go through the sort of scrutiny that I have, you have to choose a means of dealing with that level of judgement. My way has always been to take a good look at how my career is going. The way I see it, I have an incredibly fulfilling, rewarding career that has nothing to do with the size of my [buttocks].”
Not that she is immune to the odd confidence wobble, of course; it’s just that she chooses to reinforce her self-belief with the love of her family (husband of four years Ned RocknRoll, and their son Bear, two, plus Kate’s children from her previous relationships with Sam Mendes and Jim Threapleton respectively, Joe, 12 and Mia, 15). “I still dip in and out of feeling confident as much as the next person, but I can genuinely say, now more than ever, that I really do love the fact that I’m curvy. I’ve got boobs and a bum and a man who loves me.”
It seems, at 40, she’s happier than ever in her own skin – and looking naturally radiant as a result. “Well, it’s definitely happening on the old face, that’s for sure,” she laughs. “The wrinkles are here and they’re here to stay.” She adds, “I’m baffled that anyone might not think women get more beautiful as they get older. Confidence comes with age, and looking beautiful comes from the confidence someone has in themselves.”
If she has laughter lines (though they are impossible to detect), they are doubtless exacerbated by her husband, Ned. The nephew of Richard Branson, Ned gave up his job at Virgin Galactic to be a full-time house husband after marrying Kate in a low-key New York ceremony in 2012 (where best friend Leonardo DiCaprio gave her away). Kate hasn’t stopped smiling since, she says. After all, life can’t be dull with a man who officially changed his surname from Smith to RocknRoll because “people take life too seriously”.
“Ned is really the most fantastic, hands-on daddy. He’s like a superman. And that makes such a difference… I’m so lucky. I can’t believe how lucky I am actually,” she gushes. Adding, “He’s just so incredibly supportive, and he’s so much fun. He’s absolutely everything to me. And to all of us.”
To look at Kate now, it might surprise you to learn she wasn’t always blessed with that killer confidence. As a child, she was overweight – weighing 13 stone (around 83kg) when she was 15 years old – earning her the nickname ‘Blubber’. “I suffered from the ‘No one will ever fancy me!’ syndrome well into my teens,” admits the actor. “Even now I do not consider myself to be some kind of great, sexy beauty. Absolutely not.”
These days, Kate is determined to help other young women nurture a positive body image. “You know, we walk down red carpets. You know, it’s part of the job. But I think I feel very strongly that it’s important to also say to young girls that we don’t look like that all the time.”
In particular, Kate has tried to help her daughter Mia nourish a healthy relationship with her body from a young age. “When I was growing up there wasn’t one woman in my environment who I heard saying something positive about her body. Everything I heard was negative, negative, negative,” says Kate. “I accept my body. I accept how I am and make the best of what I am given. Children orientate towards examples.”
She says, for this reason, she will only talk positively about her body in front of her daughter. “I say things like ‘Hey, look at my strong arms!’ Or I shake my butt and say ‘Look at my fabulous butt!’”
After more than two decades in showbiz, Kate has managed to keep her private life private for the most part – an astonishing feat considering her tumultuous love life. “No one really knows what has happened in my life. No one really knows why my first marriage didn’t last; no one knows why my second didn’t. And I’m proud of those silences.” She adds, “I know lots of people who are not in the public eye who have gone through several marriages, I really do, and it’s just those are the cards that life dealt me. I didn’t plan on its being that way… it hasn’t been easy, you know.”
Perhaps part of the reason she has managed to fly under the paparazzi radar is that she doesn’t view herself as a ‘movie star’. “I’ve always been so uncomfortable with that. I just don’t feel like one, and I don’t live like one — not the way I imagine a proper movie star living.” She is refreshingly unpretentious. Proof in point, she keeps her Oscar in her bathroom for guests. “The whole point is for everybody to pick it up and go, ‘I’d like to thank my son and my dad’— and you can always tell when someone has, because they’re in there a little bit longer after they flushed. They’ll come out looking slightly pink-cheeked. It’s hysterical.”
Make no mistake, this is one happy, fun-loving, vivacious woman. “I am incredibly passionate about my life, I am absolutely unable to hide any emotion.” She admits. “If I wrote a book, I’d have to call it P is for Passion. I don’t go in for anything halfway. My feelings about things are instant, on the spot. And my heart is always, always on my sleeve.” And we wouldn’t want it any other way.
The Kate diaries
Although she has won an Oscar, is on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and starred in one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, Titanic, Kate is refreshingly modest and grounded (she keeps her Oscar in the loo).
Friends and family
Kate has three children from three different relationships, the most recent of which is with Richard Branson’s nephew Ned RocknRoll (he changed his name from Smith), who she says is an amazing father and house husband. She’s also best buds with her Titanic co-star Leonardo DiCaprio, who gave her away at her wedding to Ned.
Body positivity role model
Always stunning on the red carpet, Kate is keen to point out to young girls that she and her celebrity peers don’t always look like that – having been overweight as a child, she feels strongly about nurturing body positivity in her own daughter as well as in other girls.