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Justine Bateman's skin-care and makeup routine is pretty simple: moisturizer and black eyeliner. And yet, even during a time when most women are simplifying their daily look, Bateman, 55, says she's still criticized for it.
“I’m like, ‘Fuck it, I don’t care, I like how it looks!’” she tells Glamour. “Some people even say, ‘If she would just change her makeup, she’d look a lot prettier,’ but I don’t care. It’s cool-looking, so I’m going to keep doing it.”
The actor, best known for playing fashion-obsessed and gossip-loving middle child Mallory Keaton on the hit ’80s NBC sitcom Family Ties, has been doing things her way for decades. But now she's gotten to a point that she no longer feels she has to make excuses for it.
“Put stuff out there that you want to do, because if it gets rejected, at least you know you were faithful to that work,” she says. “But if you put it out there to do what you think people like, then you betrayed that piece of work. So why not try to become totally deaf to the criticism? Then you can do whatever you want.”
Is she ever. Following the success of her best-selling book, Fame: The Hijacking of Reality, she's written a follow-up of sorts, called Face: One Square Foot of Skin, about how viscerally society reacts to aging. Through a selection of short stories, she examines just how complicated it is for women to get older, both in and out of the spotlight.
She's also a filmmaker, and her latest project, Violet, is an official 2021 SXSW Film Festival selection starring Olivia Munn, Justin Theroux, and Luke Bracey. “It's been really neat even though the film was supposed to come out a year ago,” she says, citing the pandemic. “I wouldn't want the movie to overshadow the book or vice-versa because they are both important, but I'm really excited people are starting a conversation around the topic of aging. The idea that women need to change their faces has been absorbed as a matter of fact in recent years. And I find that really disturbing.”
Bateman, who is a mom to two teenagers, has seen it firsthand, noting that she often comes in contact with women who have fewer lines on their face than her 17-year-old daughter. The point of Face, she says, is not to deter someone from getting work done but to examine why they're really afraid of aging in the first place. “Personally, whenever I can identify the root fear that has taken hold of me that doesn't really suit my purposes, then I can really get somewhere,” she says.
And now, after years of trying to get to the root of her fear, Bateman has answers. Here, in a candid conversation, she reveals why she was never influenced by the ’80s ideal of beauty, and why seeing the words “Justine Bateman looks old” was actually a blessing in disguise.
Glamour: What do you remember your mom telling you about beauty and makeup as a kid?
Justine Bateman: I don’t remember my parents saying anything about looks or what a woman can and can’t do. I don’t think my parents were trying to be forward-thinking. And maybe that's because I grew up in the ’70s, when things were natural. The braless look was very sexy. The no-makeup look was very natural and sexy. And I remember my dad taking us to the movies and I'd see women like Ali MacGraw, Jacqueline Bisset, and all these European actors whose confidence I was enamored with. If that’s what confident women looked like, then I wanted to look like that. I was so attracted to how they behaved, how they carried themselves, how they walked. I wanted to be a broad too.
What a freeing upbringing.
Even with guys I was attracted to, it was the same thing. A guy could be so-so looking, but if he had confidence or swagger, I was like, Oh my God. I’m just very attracted to that.
Did you think you were pretty growing up?
Friends of my parents would say, Oh, she's so pretty, but I didn’t think it was really anything to think about. But when I started on Family Ties, I remember hearing, “Oh, she’s so beautiful,” and I was like, Oh, okay, I guess I am. Then that became: I guess that’s how I’m considered. But then years later, when I was in my early 40s and I googled myself, the autocomplete came up as “Justine Bateman looks old.” I was so taken aback. I had never been through an awkward period in my life, and I just didn’t really think about looks that much. I was more focused on school and getting good grades.
When you saw “Justine Bateman looks old,” how did that affect you?
I go into it in detail in my last book, Fame, but it was basically a foreign idea to me, at the risk of sounding conceited. I just never had a challenge about my looks, so I didn’t know what to do with it. Instead of thinking, I’m right and they’re wrong, I decided that they were right and I was wrong. It settled inside of me and took a long time to get all that out. Why did I make that choice to accept that? I had to really examine why. And now when I see lines or loose skin on my neck, I think, That’s what a cool neck looks like.
What was your skin-care routine growing up?
One thing my mom impressed on me was to wear moisturizer. That sounds so clichéd, doesn’t it? Oil of Olay was the go-to, the hot product. Sunblock wasn’t a thing back then. It was all about the number 2 or number 4 Hawaiian Tropic oil so you would get tan when you laid outside. And it smelled really good.
What’s your skin-care routine like now?
Twice a year I'll do a scrub, but I pretty much just spend my money on Restorsea's face moisturizer. I love the smell and feel of it.
You have a son and a daughter, who are 18 and 17. What have you talked to them about when it comes to looks and self-esteem?
I definitely wanted to pull the curtain back for them so they can see all the things done in Photoshop. Even in movies, Photoshop is sometimes done on actors while they’re moving. It’s VFX that follows an actress’s face through an entire film. I don’t think humans are naturally concerned with how they look; I think that’s taught to them. And then it can become a source of confidence. But why not build the confidence with something that has the potential to not change, like your academic prowess or your ability to play sports? Something that can’t be removed?
The strange thing now is that teens are comparing themselves to not just girls at school, but to everyone that has an Instagram account. I can’t imagine. If someone is prone to comparing themselves, it’s just too much. And then I’ll see women who use filters on Instagram who don't even have lines on their face to begin with. That's wild to me.
The cover of your new book, Face, is fascinating. You're marked up as if you’re about to have plastic surgery.
I asked my dermatologist to give me the name of a plastic surgeon who would be willing to mark my face up and then take a picture of that. She put me in touch with Dr. Andrew Frankel, and I have to say, he does have some of the best before-and-after photos. If someone is hell-bent on getting work done, check out his work, because I’m telling you, it's very natural. He told me his experience with clients who want to change a lot, and how he sometimes says it may not be your face that you need to change. But he told me what he would change on my face. Apparently I’m a candidate for the works.
Did you even want him to tell you this?
Yes. And then I wanted him to take a pen and mark up my face as if we were going to do surgery right then and there.
I’m sure some people will say you are brave to put a picture like that on the cover.
To me, whenever somebody tells me what they think about something I did, they’re just telling me about themselves. They’re not really telling me about me. So I think they’re saying, “If I did that, I would want to die. So it’s so brave of you!” For others it might be, “Holy shit, I wish I could do something like that, and if I did, it would be an act of bravery on my part because I don’t feel comfortable doing that.” For me, I just think it’s cool. I don’t think it’s brave at all. I think I’m just thumbing my nose at that societal belief because you’re not supposed to do that. And I love doing things that go against certain societal beliefs—not against society as a whole, because society as a whole is a very complex entity.
You’re 55 now. When you think back to the actresses you admired when you were younger, do you think, I finally look like I’ve always wanted to?
Yes. I do. And when I was 40, I was like, I’m finally on the precipice of looking like I’m not 25 anymore, or going in the direction of Charlotte Rampling or all these actors.
Do you have the confidence you hoped you would have?
Yeah, and I want more. Maybe I’ll achieve that on my deathbed? [Laughs.] That’s the goal—to have impenetrable confidence. I think I have the level I assumed they do, but I still have moments where I feel insecure and go, Whoops, I slipped off track a little bit. How come? But it’s human. It’s totally natural to have moments of insecurity; it would be strange not to. It’s just important not to go down that rabbit hole.
I think things are going to come my way whether my face is wrinkled or my skin is loose on my neck and under my eyes, or not. Am I going to enjoy it or not enjoy it? Because right now I have a book coming out and I have a film that just premiered at a big film festival. If I was fixated on the fact that my face looks like it’s 55, I would be completely screwing myself out of enjoying this moment in my life. It’s happening whether I’m happy with the way my face looks or not. So what’s my attitude going to be? Am I going to spend time obsessing on the fact that my face is naturally aging? It’s ridiculous. No. I’m going to have a good fucking time!
Face: One Square Foot of Skin is out now.
Jessica Radloff is the Glamour West Coast editor. Follow her on Instagram @jessicaradloff14.
Originally Appeared on Glamour