80 IRISH TATLER JULY 2016
BELINDA LANG, 62
Dear 40-something Belinda,
I’m afraid I’ve got some rather bad news for Belinda then
you. That irritating little mole on your chin is
going to sprout hairs in a few years and you’ll out something more sensible to do? Couldn’t you at least have
have to pluck it. Please try not to fiddle with it. arranged how to pay off the mortgage?! Did you give me a
I know it’s easy to do, in an absent minded sort thought? Oh no! Too busy having FUN. So selfish.
of way, but you don’t want to draw attention
to it. And I’m sorry to say that this is only the Oh well, at least it turns out that coffee is good for you and
tip of a hideous iceberg. It was all true. Everything all that buttered toast wasn’t such a disaster after all. And
does go south and there is no bra that can hold you’ve kept most of your teeth. And you still love tea in bed
them up further than 90 degrees and no amount in the mornings and a walk in the park and your family and
of support tights that can lift that sad flat thing friends and the sky and the birds and the trees and the hills
at the top of your legs. Speaking of which, you and the sea and…actually…come to think of it…I wouldn’t
have developed a few rather tiresome varicose really want it any other way.
veins and high heels are out of the question for Oh, hell. Alright...I forgive you.
more than an hour or two at the most. Also,
you’re finding it quite hard to cover those grey Love, Belinda
hairs with the right vegetable dye and it has a
rather distinctly green tinge upon occasion. As PS: The car has lasted well.
for cellulite and wrinkles, let’s not even go there.
Turns out there was no lotion or potion that
was going to help with that, so you may as well
have saved your money.
And can you believe it? You still haven’t got
around to reading Proust’s A La Recherche Du
Temps Perdu! Ridiculous! What have you been
doing with yourself! You promised that you
would. And in French. Nor have you written
your memoirs, or even sorted your photographs
into albums.And as for all those unfinished ideas
for plays and short stories, not to mention the
Now I know that you’ll say ‘Yes, well, I’m
actually rather busy trying to be a wife and
mother and housekeeper and actress and all the
rest of it, but it isn’t quite good enough, is it?
And I know that it’s tempting to live for the
moment and go with the flow and all, but I don’t
think you’ve been considering things from my
point of view at all. Selfish, I call it. Because I’m
the one who has to pick up the pieces now. I’m the one that
has to live with all your irresponsible mistakes!
Oh dear, Belinda, you really must try to pull yourself together.
You have a brain. Well, alright, half a brain. Now there’s even
less, I’m afraid. You have to make lists for everything and let’s
not even discuss trying to remember what happened yesterday,
or anyone’s name. And it’s all very well admitting now that
perhaps your red wine intake could have been halved. Where
was your self control when you needed it?
If you’d only pulled yourself together in time, I could have
had a wise and sensible old age. But no, you just went on
enjoying yourself and throwing caution to the wind, didn’t
you? And now look at me! Still staggering around on the stage,
for God’s sakes. So undignified. Couldn’t you have worked
Caoimhe O’Malley, Tara Egan Langley and Belinda Lang currently star in Somerset
Maugham’s The Constant Wife, directed by Alan Stanford, at The Gate Theatre.
Tickets from €20, available at 01 874 4045 and at gate-theatre.ie
80 IRISH TATLER JULY 2016
GUIDE TO THRIVE
Actor, author, and L’Oréal Paris spokesmodel: it is Julianne Moore’s belief that
pursuing your passions and committing to the things you really care about
allows you to truly thrive in life. Here, she shares how she stays engaged in
the world around her. In conversation with Jessica O’Sullivan.
IT’S YOUR LIFE, IT’S NOT AN ALGORITHM. to be humane, and to make sure people are treated fairly. I think
I don’t think there is any such thing as a balance. It’s always a tough that’s absolutely a necessity in life.
one. Sometimes you’ll be more successful in one endeavour and
sometimes in another. I think the great thing is that we [women] IF YOU HAVE A VOICE, USE IT.
are lucky to be able to have the opportunity to do both things. I I’m not interested in having a platform. I really just want to be a
love my work and I love my family and I don’t want to have one citizen and a human being, so it’s not about having an individual
without the other. I want to have them both. So when people say, platform, but I want to work on things that I think are important
‘Oh you can’t have it all.’ It’s like well, yes you can. Why can’t you for all of us. It’s about how you move things forward for a community.
have a life that’s big and full and interesting and varied? If I join something I’m often able to be a megaphone for the
organisation. So I’m really able to talk about the work that people
BEAUTY, REALLY IS ON THE INSIDE. have done and bring attention to that issue, which I think is great.
When you’re young I think you have fixed ideas of beauty. When That’s a real benefit to what I do.
your mother says,‘Beauty is on the inside,’ you think,‘No, it’s not’.
But I think as you get older, that’s really what you come away with BE PART OF THE CHANGE.
– that something that seems beautiful but doesn’t have any content I work with Every Town For Gun Safety, which is an organisation
eventually loses its allure. Whether it’s a thing or a person, you’re that is working on changing gun safety regulation in the United
like, ‘Huh, I don’t know why that isn’t appealing to me any more.’ States because 91 people a day die from gun violence in the United
So really, as you get older you really value what something is States which is far too high. It is not an anti-constitutional issue.
internally. It’s a safety issue. When the automobile was introduced there were
huge numbers of fatalities because we hadn’t yet introduced speed
PRIORITISE YOUR MENTAL WELLBEING. limits, seat belts, drunk driving rules and collapsible steering wheels.
I do yoga. I’m not great at it. I’ve been doing it probably for at least There’s so much that can be done to prevent these instances of
15 years. But I just seem to stay in the same spot. There’s always violence, first and foremost, universal background checks. In the
somewhere farther you can go with yoga and people progress 18 states that closed the background check loophole, which is the
sometimes really fast, I’m not one of those people, I’m very slow ability to buy a gun online, there has been half the number of
and steady. But what has been important about it is the consistency instances of gun violence. So if we do that alone we’ve already made
and the community, the people that I’ve met and then what it does enormous progress. It’s become an argument and it doesn’t need to
for me mentally as well as physically. be. That’s why I felt compelled to talk about it.
YOU CAN FIND INTEREST AND CREATIVITY IN LOTS STAY GROUNDED AND IGNORE NEGATIVITY.
OF DIFFERENT ENDEAVOURS. I think you have to be willing to take that kind of scrutiny [when
One of the things I just say to my kids all the time is follow your you’re successful] and also try to be aware of what it is. You kind
interests. Just do what you like doing. There’s a book by Angela of have to sit in it in a way and you have to know what’s real and
Duckworth [Grit: The Power of Passion and Perserverance] that what’s not real. That is definitely challenging, certainly these days
says really human beings are only successful at things, and pursue with the internet and social media and everything. It’s a much
things that they are truly interested in. So rather than just tenacity different game.
and grit you also have to have this interest in it that drives you and
guides you. So, I think everything I’ve done, I’ve done because I’ve DON’T REGRET, LEARN AND GROW.
been curious about it and interested in it. I don’t look back on what I’ve done, because there is nothing I could
do about it. You’re only going to give a certain performance at a
IT’S EVERYBODY’S RESPONSIBILITY TO GIVE BACK TO certain place in time because that’s where you are and you wouldn’t
THEIR COMMUNITY. know better to do anything. I think what’s great about what I do
If you’re going to be a citizen of the world and a member of any or what’s great about what anybody does is that the more experience
kind of community you have a responsibility to enact with it, and you accrue hopefully the better you’re able to do your job.
80 IRISH TATLER JULY 2016
“ONE OF THE
THINGS I SAY
TO MY KIDS ALL
THE TIME IS:
JUST DO WHAT
Actress Fionnula Flanagan talks life, love and loss with Katie Byrne.
Fionnula Flanagan has a rare quality that is both instantly recognisable one of the few Irish women to carve out an enduring career in Hollywood.
and utterly indefinable. It’s a power – albeit an assuming one – which She made her Broadway debut in Brian Friel’s Lovers in 1968. In
some women get with age; a light that seems to burn brighter. Some
call it agelessness. Others notice the soul-piercing gaze and unyielding later years, when she had difficulty breaking into the US film and TV
self-possession and know, implicitly, that women like Fionnula are not industry, she wrote the screenplay for Joyce’s Women, a well-received
to be fecked with. one-woman show she had previously produced. It was a bold move
that reaped dividends. She later won an Emmy for the 1976 mini-series
Unsurprisingly, the Dublin-born actress has little time for naval-gazing Rich Man, Poor Man, followed by a second Emmy nomination for her
about this mysterious quality when we chat by phone. She’s an engaging recurring role in the series How the West Was Won.
but straightforward conversationalist and, at 74 years of age, she says
she’s just happy to be healthy and full of energy. Fionnula, the eldest It was also in America that Fionnula met her late husband, fellow
of five children, has always had boundless energy, coupled with an Dubliner, Dr Garrett O’Connor. The recently-divorced actress was on
indefatigable spirit.Through sheer grit, the Abbey-trained actress became a national tour with Lovers in Baltimore, Maryland, when they were
introduced by mutual friend, actor Eamon Morrissey. The story goes
80 IRISH TATLER JULY 2016
that she opened her hotel room door after “WHAT’S then you can exit from the present scene. I
hearing peals of laughter only to discover PREDOMINANT think a parent’s job to combat that, and fight
O’Connor on all-fours and mid-way through FOR ME IS TO KEEP through that noise to get to a child,
raconteuring a story to Morrissey. He later is very difficult. Generations before us didn’t
told her that he fell in love at first sight. It have to contend with kids who just tune out
took Fionnula a little longer – “About three and go into another universe. Why should
days”. ON LEARNING women be expected to know how to win
“I think we had in common a sense of the that battle? And then they’re supposed to
absurd and the surreal,” she muses.“Finding SOMETHING. THE look 20 years younger at the same time! I’m
that common ground with people is difficult surprised that more women aren’t bald and
– we had a lot of laughs.” While Lovers STILL THERE AND have become axe murderers.”
brought Fionnula to America, it was love that YOU THINK, ‘AHA! Fionnuala never succumbed to the pressure
kept her there. She married Garrett in 1972
and became a “wicked stepmother” to his to look 20 years younger, despite living in the
two sons from his previous marriage. This is body beautiful capital of the world for the
better part of every year.While she gets‘dolled
followed by a hearty laugh. “They’re ANOTHER LITTLE up’ for the occasional premiere or awards
wonderful,” she adds.“And I have wonderful ceremony, she otherwise prefers to keep it
grandchildren and a granddaughter who is STEP FORWARD’” low-key in jeans, T-shirts and flip-flops.
my favourite, favourite person on the planet.” Her low-maintenance approach also
The couple eventually settled in Los compelled her to stop making appointments
Angeles where Garrett became the Professor with her colourist. In 1996, shortly after
of Psychiatry-in-Residence at UCLA. In 2008, he became the first wrapping filming on Some Mother’s Son, she decided to stop dyeing
president and CEO of the Betty Ford Institute, his own personal recovery her hair and have it stripped back to its natural colour. “When I was
from alcoholism inspired the career move – and the many patients he younger it was an auburn colour, but when I got into my thirties and
helped along the way. Fionnula later followed him into recovery by forties I started to get grey hair so I began to dye it,” she explains.“Red
joining the 12-Steps programme.“I would have described myself as a is a very difficult colour to maintain and I didn’t want to look hard-
problem drinker who then quit because it was getting to the point faced. And I was curious to find out who I was; what I really looked
that...well, I would say that I was probably an alcoholic...because I like under the dye.”
came to depend on it and I didn’t like what was happening to me,” she The first hairdresser she went to refused, telling her that her hair
rationalises. “And I come from a long line of alcoholics.” Her career would fall out if she stripped it. The second hairdresser agreed, but
went from strength to strength when she quit drinking.“I think it was warned her that it was a risky procedure. “I went around for four
because I felt better in myself,” she adds. “I felt more confident and I months with pinky-orange roots and then this is what grew out. I didn’t
felt healthier.” consciously say ‘Oh, it’s going to be a lovely grey or silver’. People said
Fionnula is perhaps best known for her roles in films like The Others, ‘Don’t do that – you’ll never work again!’. Well, I haven’t stopped. And
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Transamerica, as well I have to say, I was pleased with the colour that came out and also that
as her guest appearances in the Star Trek spin-offs and the groundbreaking I don’t have to do anything with it. It’s a great relief.”
drama Lost. However, one of her proudest performances was in an Other than that, Fionnula doesn’t dwell for too long on the physical
Irish film based on the true story of the 1981 hunger strike in the Maze side of the ageing process. This is partly because she has reached a level
prison. Some Mother’s Son explored the unlikely friendship between of self-acceptance that makes the pursuit of ‘anti-ageing’ seem
two mothers (played by Flanagan and Helen Mirren) whose sons inconsequential, but mostly because life has taught her what ageing
embark on a hunger strike to protest against the removal of Special really means. She lost her beloved husband in September of last year.
Category Status of paramilitary prisoners. The role was particularly “It’s a different feeling to lose a long-time partner and someone who
close to the actress’ heart. “My anxiety was that I wanted to really be has had your back for 44 years,” she reflects.“It’s a whole different life
sure to honour those women,” she explains.“But I think it’s a fine, fine when they go. I hear a funny story and I have the thought that I’ll tell
film – I really do.” Garrett and then I realise that there is nobody there to tell…and that’s
“It’s interesting,” she continues, “when we opened the picture in a pang. Ageing has its fears for me,” she continues.“Getting old, being
Belfast, so many women in the audience were related to prisoners and alone and the possibility of getting sick. That is of much more concern
so many of them came up to me afterwards and said things like ‘You to me than ageing per se...”
were just like our Kathleen’ or ‘You were just like our Eileen’. It was After her husband’s death, his family bought a rose bush and planted
so unbearably painful for them – and the hunger strike was still so it at the bottom of the garden of their other home just outside Aughrim
fresh in their memory – that nobody came up and said ‘That was me’.” in Co Wicklow. In mid-November, Fionnula noticed that 10 buds were
Fionnula is acquainted with many of the leading lights of Hollywood, waiting to open in spite of the inhospitable winter climate. It’s a sweet
but it is women like this that she especially admires.“They live their vignette that says a lot about her attitude towards life after loss.
lives and they help their neighbours and they raise their families and Fionnula recently delivered one of her proudest performances in a
they stand for what they stand for. They’re incredible women,” she Brazilian film which is opening in November; there are four pending
says. “And yet we don’t talk about those women at all because they’re projects on her IMDB page and she’s trying to get a screenplay she
not models and they’re not hanging out with some rock star. It’s pathetic wrote produced and she’s in the process of writing a play. In her spare
what generates interest in some people.” time, she’s helping her friend Lelia Doolan raise funding for an arthouse
She’s equally vocal about the struggles facing modern women. When cinema in Galway. The rose bush continues to bloom...“What’s
our conversation turns to the challenges of the acting profession, she predominant for me is to keep on learning something. The mountain
remarks that motherhood is the hardest job of all. “Honest to God, is still there and you think,‘Aha! Another little step forward’. And then
they should all be given medals,” she says. “And Swiss bank accounts sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back.”
with gold bricks paid into them on a regular basis. It’s a very difficult It’s difficult to define ageless women, but it could be said that they
job and I think the modern world is so competitive with parents. There refuse to accept the supposed limitations of their age bracket, just as
are so many distractions these days and easy ways for kids to get out they don’t rest on their laurels or hang up their hats. Fionnula Flanagan
of growing up.” defies ageing but I didn’t bother asking about her beauty routine – her
“There’s a whole thrust towards alienation – plug into an app and wisdom was prescription enough.
Ferri shares why at 53,
she refuses to place
limitations on herself
or her dancing.
By Jessica O’Sullivan
To find your true calling in life, is to find the Holy Grail. had lost part of herself. With this feeling, fresh doubts, this time about
Some come to it late, others never do. Then there are the her retirement, set in. Could she really retire from her calling?
Alessandra Ferri’s of this world, a woman born with a
passion that defined her from the moment she could walk. “I realised that you can’t retire from who you are. You can retire
from a job, but for me, dancing is not a job, it’s my passion. It’s who I
Born in Milan, at 19 Ferri became the youngest principal am, and I feel completely alive and fulfilled when I’m creative and when
dancer at the Royal Ballet and while her career is sometimes defined I move to music. I get in touch with my real self which is the same as
by that great achievement at such a tender age, she is reluctant to use the little girl when I was four. That part of me has never changed.”
age as a way of defining any other milestones in her work. For instance, Realising that the only voice telling her that she should not dance
though 53 and still dancing professionally, she dislikes being referred was her own gave her the fortitude to start the long road back to
to as the oldest leading lady in the company, but not for vanity reasons. dance-ready fitness. “That gave me a lot of strength to accept a time
“Oldest compared to what?” she asks with a laugh as we sit in a in my life when I’m destined, as everybody else is, to get older – it has
dressing room at The Shaw Theatre after a performance to launch the given me a new approach. Once I realised that I didn’t have to compete
new Protect and Perfect Lift and Luminate Triple Action Serum by with myself, I could just be who I am, I found an amazing freedom.
Boots No7 of which Ferri is the new face. You must be in the moment and dance what you are now.”
“Yes, probably to the people I dance on stage with. On paper I’m Ferri looks at the fact that she is not the same dancer as she once
the oldest, but oldest compared to what? If you was as an evolution rather than a deterioration,
say,‘This is the oldest, you are the oldest’ we put as she wholeheartedly believes that life
a limit on people. There should be no limits.” experience make you a better artist, especially
The most surprising thing about Ferri in person intense experiences likemotherhood – when you
is her stature.Watching her perform an emotional must express yourself, you must have things to
pas de deux with a male dancer earlier I could say.
have sworn she stood closer to six foot. On stage “Life and art feed off each other. You’re not
she seems to grow in presense, her elegant limbs two separate things. I’m not Alessandra at home
seem to fill every space and she exudes strength. and Alessandra on stage. I got to a point when
At 53 Ferri holds the title of prima ballerina I was 44 or 45 where I was saying, ‘Can I still
assoluta, a title awarded to the most exceptional dance like when I was 20, when I was 30’. The
dancers of their generation, recognising the most answer is I cannot, so I accept that, but I can still
inspiring of careers. The TV advert for the Boots dance very beautifully at 50. It’s about doing
No 7 Ready For More campaign,which shows other things or doing them in another way.”
her dancing alongside a hologram of herself But while Ferri is adamant that it is up to every
performing the part of Juliet at 19, the part that woman to push through self doubt, she also
made her famous, is an emotive watch. It is quite advocates showing yourself kindness. This is
obvious that she is every bit the dancer today why she listens to her body and gives it what it
that she was 30 years ago, maybe even more so. needs.“I really do take care of myself. My body
This June she agreed to reprise her role as Juliet is my instrument. I have a body which is like a
at the Metropolitan Opera House for the “I CANNOT DANCE Ferrari and I’m the driver. I am continuously
EXACTLY LIKE WHEN I
American Ballet for one night only, a suggestion WAS 30. I ACCEPT THAT working on feeling good. I rest as much as I can.
she at first thought impossible. But then in tru After I’ve had some very difficult weeks or
eFerri fashion, asked herself, “I’m only alive performances, I rest and go to bed early, I enjoy
once: Why not?” using products I like, anything that makes me
Why not indeed. She acknowledges that to be AS I CAN STILL DANCE feel good. You need to enjoy taking care of
born with a passion like hers is a real privilege BEAUTIFULLY AT 50. yourself. It’s a lovely feeling, so do it.”
as she believes there are many young people
Ferri hopes that the campaign message will
today, her own two teenaged daughters included IT’S ABOUT DOING speak to women as she is keen to start an honest
,who still have yet to find that calling. THINGS ANOTHER WAY” dialogue about what beauty is as we age, which
is why she agreed to the collaboration with No7.
“To be born knowing what you have to do
with your life at the age of three, is a privilege “There is honesty in not trying to fool women,
because I’ve always had a focus and light. Even in the darkest moment but in honestly talking about what beauty is. I thought if it can be
of my life, I had that light to follow, so I was never lost.” turned into a meaningful opportunity to tell the truth and to tell who
However, like many women, there was a time when Ferri questioned I am – then I would like to do it.
that light, in turn questioning herself and her abilities. When doubts “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to age anymore, we’re going to
began to creep in in 2007 she decided to retire from dancing to look like we’re 20 years old because you never will look as if you’re
concentrate on motherhood, leaving the world of professional dancing, 20 years old again, ever, or 30 or 40...but you can be powerful. I’m
she believed, forever. talking about inner power.You can be full of confidence and that comes
“One of the reasons was that I started to feel insecure asking myself through as luminous beauty.You can also have as much energy as when
‘should I stop or not?’. I was competing with the way I felt 10 years you were 30, but you have to have the will to do it and the inner strength
earlier. Because I had these doubts, I wasn’t enjoying dancing as much. to fight against yourself.”
I thought, ‘If I doubt myself every time I go on stage, then I shouldn’t On the question of what the future might hold for her, Ferri keeps
do it anymore. I had so many years of great experiences, why ruin my her beautifully-arched feet planted firmly and philosophically in the
memories by going on stage not completely at ease with myself?” present. “Remember, who we were is not there anymore, who we will
Just like any other working mother, Ferri also felt the guilt of not be neither. So, you really only have what you are, that’s it. What you
spending enough time with her children.“I was travelling a lot. There’s are now determines who you will be as you make up your own future
a lot of expectation as a mother. If you leave your kids to go on tour, day by day. If you ask me,‘how long are you going to last?’, I have no
you’re made to feel guilty. I’m the same as every other mother in the idea. I don’t think many people have danced at 50, but right now I can,
world. I love my children and I miss them when I am not with them, and I will enjoy my life.”
but I’m also very happy when I dance.” And so it seems that in life, as in her performances, Ferri gives her
In retirement Ferri did not dance at all, and felt in a way that she everything to being present and in the moment.