The Art of Embracing Aging: Helen Mirren Talks Confidence, Gray Hair & Her 12-Minute Workout

Helen MirrenPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

When Helen Mirren strutted down the L’Oreal Paris runway in a black printed pantsuit and equally bold black eye makeup, it was clear this 76-year-old actress mastered the art of giving her audience a show and has no intention of stopping anytime soon. 

Far from being a rookie in the Hollywood spotlight, Mirren spoke about growing comfortable in her own skin, starting with her smile. “It was a long time ago but I remember the moment I learned to smile,” she told Vogue. “I always had fat cheeks (and I still do!), so I was always sucking my cheeks in. But you can’t suck your cheeks in and smile at the same time! It’s absolutely impossible. So I guess I never smiled. Then I discovered that, actually, it’s nice to smile openly and with freedom, not a tight little smile, a big one.”

That confidence — and the fact that her naturally blond locks typically turned white from basking in the sun — made it easy for Mirren to transition to gray. “I think it can be more difficult [to go gray] if you have much darker hair, but the women of my age who have made the leap recently look so spectacular,” she said. “Going gray is to be encouraged—that’s not to say you can’t have fun with your hair, because it’s a very important part of how you feel about yourself. People should do whatever makes them feel comfortable.”

It’s no wonder she advises to “work from the inside out” when asked how to approach growing older, happily. That means following a diet that makes you feel great because “what you’re putting inside your body does influence how you feel about yourself.” She also keeps up with a daily fitness routine but nothing too intense. “I’m a big believer in the Canadian Air Force women’s exercise regime, which is 12 minutes,” Mirren said. “It is an exercise regime that starts from very low and easy, then if you follow it through, it can become quite difficult. I’ve never gotten past the second level, but it’s a nice little exercise program. Nothing extreme, but you need to do it every day.” 

Simply put, Mirren understands the assignment on how to embrace growing older: It’s a lot about taking control of one’s life.