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Interview: Jamie Lee Curtis on Living a Healthy Life, Parenting, and Adoption

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

I recently had the chance to talk with Jamie Lee Curtis, mother, actress, children’s book author, and spokesperson for Activia yogurt. We spoke about her continued support and endorsement of Activia (which has lasted for almost four years), her challenging and rewarding moments as a parent, and her advice for couples who are interested in the adoption process. Check it out below!

Jamie Lee CurtisHow did you become involved with Activia?
After the More magazine article in which I did the proverbial “show the real Jamie,” the Activia team wanted to work with somebody who had gravitas in telling the truth about something people didn’t like to discuss. When they came to me, it seemed like a good idea, and very soon after I was parodied on Saturday Night Live, which is the ultimate form of flattery. Then, for the first time, everywhere I went people came up to me and talked to me about digestive health. They thanked me and gave me big thumbs-up. They sang the Ac-ti-vi-aaa! song. That made an impression on me.

What did you hear from women about how Activia has changed or affected their lives?
I’ve heard some very personal stories, which I’m not going to relay here, but ultimately what people have said is that a digestive health issue was in their life until Activia came along. They credited Activia and its probiotic nature with helping them. When you feel better, everybody is better. And then you can go off and tackle the rest of life. Now Activia is launching a whole new element to it. Everybody is gaga over Greek and French yogurt, and they want it creamy or more tart or crunchy, so the company has come out with all these varieties.

In addition to inspiring adults to maintain good health, you’ve written a lot of great children’s books. What message do you hope kids take away from your books?
What I really hope is that they understand I get it. That’s all I care about with anything I do — that people relate to me, and I to them. Self-esteem is complicated and big words are scary to use, but moods and feelings don’t have to be so frightening. I’m not a prophet. I’m not a teacher. I have no degrees. My degree is from the University of Life. I hope a child understands that I’ve navigated childhood, I’ve raised two kids, and I understand kids very, very well.

What are some lessons that your kids have taught you?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my children is to look in the mirror at myself, not at them. I’ve realized that everything I’ve done has had an impact on them. We have to understand that they are like little paparazzi. They take our picture when we don’t want them to and then they show it to us in their behavior. I have to watch myself. If I eat well, if I treat myself well, if I don’t self-flagellate and say “I’m a fat pig” in front of my daughter, she’s not going to grow up looking in a mirror thinking “I’m a fat pig,“ because she heard me say it.

What are some meaningful ways you spend time with your family?
Well, that’s a challenge. We’re a disparate group of people coming together to make a family. It’s easy to watch a movie, but that’s not really being together; that’s just watching something. We’re struggling through it like everybody else — how to find things that everyone wants to do. Games have always been a fun way to bring people together and we do that. We’re like every other family, where I’m trying to unplug and connect, but it’s hard.

Can you touch upon some of the more challenging aspects of parenting?
The challenging part of parenting for me is to make sure that an individual person is an individual and not some sort of cookie-cutter version of me. At the same time, I want to make sure that I impart my sense of the world as an adult. So it’s tricky to try to create an authentic person with his own mind about things but also inculcate him with the things that are important to me.

And the most rewarding aspects of parenting?
The most rewarding aspect of parenting is seeing my children be authentic. The most rewarding thing for me is to see them do anything that they’re proud of.

We have a lot of readers who either want to adopt children or are in the process of adopting. Based on your experiences with adoption, do you have any advice for them? Or are there things you wish you knew when you went through the process of adopting your children?
Adoption is a very complicated road filled with incredibly emotional and challenging aspects. At its core, adoption is about loss. It’s one that needs a lot of good support for everybody, so that everyone is clear about the feelings that are being stirred up for everyone. Birthdays, for instance, are very hard for adopted children. For everyone else it’s a celebration of the moment of birth, but for adopted children, it’s the remembrance of a birth family that they don’t have. So it’s complicated terrain but still a beautiful way to make a family. You have to just be really open to all sides of it.

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