Naomi Watts Talks Extinguishing “Stigma of Menopause” at The New Pause Symposium
“Let’s be honest. Let’s just face it. We needed a poster child for the dry landscape that is menopause,” said Naomi Watts, kicking off the first West Coast event for her Stripes line of menopause-focused beauty and wellness products on March 11 in Santa Monica.
“The reason I called the brand Stripes is because I feel like we have earned it,” she continued. “We can now hold our heads high and know that these cumulative experiences lead to something. We deserve respect and we can feel our best.”
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The sold out The New Pause Symposium, held in partnership with New York-based digital community The Swell at the Santa Monica Proper Hotel, included a day’s worth of talks by medical experts and the actress’ friends. Among them were actress Molly Ringwald and writer-podcast host Elise Loehnen, previously chief content officer at Goop. Tickets ranged from $195 to $595 and included a dinner with Watts.
Initially launched in October 2022 with a daylong symposium in New York, Stripes’ products ($15 to $85) include hair care, skin care, vaginal wellness and supplements that Watts, who experienced menopause in her late 30s, describes as “simple solutions for some of our most common symptoms.”
While Watts sported a blindingly bedazzling diamond ring on a significant finger that was hard to miss during introductory remarks, Ringwald inadvertently made it official by announcing Watts’ engagement to Billy Crudup during an afternoon panel.
Asked about her future ambitions, Watts responded: “I literally just started this [company], so I can’t think of yet another thing on my plate; my boyfriend would think I was insane!” Ringwald responded, “Um, fiancee?”
LB Media founder and former InStyle Editor in Chief Laura Brown, who was hosting the panel, jumped in. “It’s a secret — women’s code of secrecy. You sir, you better zip it,” pointing to one of a handful of men in the audience. (Watts and Crudup met in 2009 and were first linked after co-starring in the 2017 Netflix series Gypsy, making their official debut at the 2022 SAG Awards.) The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to a rep for Watts for comment.
“The size of this crowd tells me we’re getting comfortable with asking for real answers and companionship and relief after generations of invisibility and a lack of sufficient research,” said Watts. “It’s time to extinguish the stigma of menopause and fix the inequities in health care. The focus with women’s health and aging, in terms of the public imagination, has been on anti-aging. Aging is not a failing. Aging is actually a fantastic sign that we’re living and we should celebrate that!”
“Menopause can be rough, but it doesn’t have to be,” she added. “We can embrace aging with dignity if we’re supportive and have some of the right tools like education, open dialogue, better research.”
According to experts on site, there are currently 50 million women in menopause in the United States; 51 years old is the average age of onset, and the median duration is 7.4 years. By 2025, the North American Menopause Society estimates the number of postmenopausal women will rise to 1.1 billion worldwide. Symptoms include mood swings, hot flashes, insomnia, weight gain, thinning hair, joint pains, heart palpitations, difficulty concentrating, vaginal dryness, bladder and urinary issues, and loss of sexual desire. Hormone replacement therapy (a combination of estrogen and progesterone) can lower symptoms by 80 to 95 percent.
“Women continue to conceal their symptoms for fear of reinforcing negative stereotypes like the weak lady or the unsexy lady or the crazy old crone lady,” said Watts. “It’s time to challenge those stereotypes by augmenting our voices and shifting the tropes from the weak and crazy to the strong and wise.”
The day wrapped with 54-year-old Watts and 55-year-old Ringwald speaking to Brown on the topic of “Thriving in a Dried Up Market.” Ringwald and Watts, who have known each other for over 20 years, star in Ryan Murphy’s upcoming Feud: Capote’s Women as Babe Paley and Joanne Carson, respectively. Ringwald’s first gig was in a Capote play at age three and a half.
Following early fame in John Hughes’ films (Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club), Ringwald — who has written about her experiences of being sexually assaulted in the movie business — moved to Paris in the 1990s. “I quite frankly was not being offered projects that were interesting to me,” she said. “I didn’t want to do more teen movies because I didn’t want to become known as a teen idol. Now looking back on it, I feel like I could have done a few more of them. Why not?”
For her part, Watts says she underwent a decade of rejection in her career for being “a bit intense, a bit nerdy, not funny, not sexy, too old, too short” before landing a role in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive in 2001.
Both women also talked about the challenges of being parents. After her oldest daughter Mathilda, now 19, called her “a very bad word, starts with a C,” Ringwald was so shocked that she marked it on the calendar so it would show up every year.
“Finally [Mathilda] said, ‘Can you please take it off the calendar?’ I mean, in her defense, she was watching a lot of English television, where the word is very common. I thought that I was going to have a special market on teenagers, that I was going to be an expert after doing all these movies, and I realized I was just not prepared!” Ringwald said, laughing.
She and husband Panio Gianopoulos also have 13-year-old twins, Roman and Adele. Ringwald shared that her twins have yet to see her films. “We keep wanting to make a date, but it’s really kind of heavy for me to watch them, so I want to be in the right frame of mind. It’s a bit like taking out the family album. Also, Adele is very woke, in a very good way, so she’s going to have a lot of questions that need to be answered and there’s going to be a lot of pausing, a lot of explaining — ‘how could you do that’ — so I want to be sure that I’m emotionally prepared for the process.”
Watts is mother to 15-year-old son Sasha and 14-year-old daughter Kai with ex Liev Schreiber, from whom she parted in 2016, chimed in. “Someone said, ‘Have you seen a toddler have a tantrum?’ Well, have you seen a teenager? Right now, we are living in a home where doors are slamming, eyes are rolling, I’m being told I’m stupid…it’s tough, the collision of the raging hormones and the plummeting hormones!”
“Menopause has been a hush conversation for generation upon generation,” said Watts. “The tide needs to change. I want to keep working as an actor. I love my job. I love being part of a story and helping people access their own story and feel the feelings. So this is kind of another version of that…. Get ready, Hollywood. The stories need to continue for women in their 50s and up. They have been doing a much better job of that. I’ve seen the change. I’m witnessing it in real time, people like Ryan Murphy are creating roles for fantastic women.”
Watts added, talking to THR between sessions, “Normalizing it was the whole point, bringing people together to understand it better. I think the tide is changing, finally.”
Adding that her next goal is directing, Ringwald said, “I hate to use this word, but Ryan Murphy is like a savior for women of our age and it’s been really meaningful to begin working with him.”
The actress also added that she has a few projects of her own in the works. “There was a movie that I wrote, adapted from a book, and I was really getting excited about doing that and then COVID happened and everything kind of shut down,” she said. “So I’m gonna come back to that and then I have a couple of other things that I’m planning to do.”
Summing up the day’s event, Watts said, “The idea that menopause means the end is just the most ridiculous, absurd notion! I feel full of energy and I feel much better about myself. I know what I like and I don’t like and I’m much more up for it.”