The stories we have read about Catherine Zeta-Jones over the course of her immense acting career describe her walking into interviews with all kinds of elegance and poise. She’s old Hollywood, wisdom and youth all rolled into one. A combination of sweet and savvy, Catherine is an actress who genuinely understands the fame she carries around with her, yet she’s the first to remind you that she is just a lucky girl who got famous doing what she loved.
Sitting by my phone, waiting to interview an actress who has won countless awards, including an Oscar (Chicago) and a Tony (A Little Night Music), it was difficult to not feel nervous. I may not have looked Catherine Zeta-Jones in the eye, but the pressure was still there.
My experience? Catherine Zeta-Jones is indeed a movie star, but she is also the most down-to- earth person to whom I’ve ever spoken. Born in Wales, she and her two brothers grew up the children of a seamstress and a candy factory owner. Family remained an important part of Zeta-Jones’ identity, even after she started to seriously pursue an acting career, moving to London to star in stage shows such as The Pajama Game and 42nd Street. Years later, that grounding has held up; now one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, Catherine still manages to make her family and friends the most important things in her life.
“My family, my husband, and my two kids are very important to me,” says Zeta-Jones. “I love to entertain. I bought a big home—not just for the four of us—so that we have room for everyone to stay. 17 years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, I was kind of sequestered for a while and I was kind of a homemaker. I thought it might be time to get a collection going, the kind of things that are affordable, accessible and elegant. So I started putting the collection together ... and then I had my two kids, I was busy and did Chicago ... and so for 17 years, that’s what I did in my spare time.”
That collection, now formally transformed into a new signature home collection called Casa Zeta-Jones, which officially launched September 28th on QVC, encompasses everything from down blankets and rugs to bath towels and holiday décor. Much like Zeta-Jones herself, the style of the collection aims to be relatable to everyone by marrying elegance with warmth.
“Like all of us, I’m a woman on the go,” Zeta-Jones explains. “I’ve been a professional since the age of nine, and it’s passion that I can’t even put into words, because my life is my acting. I’ve been very lauded, I’ve been very, very lucky, and [I’ve] worked hard in this industry to make it my life. And then I had a family. I was living a very transient life, always on the go, renting apartments for two weeks sometimes, or renting a room in a house.”
Zeta-Jones doesn’t hesitate to call herself a “gypsy,” but is also quick to point out the other side of her—the side that appreciates having a place to call your own.
“What I do have is this kind of fundamental homemaking quality to me, which really comes from my mother, who was a seamstress and her own designer for interiors ... before she became a stay-at-home mom,” she continues. “So I had a blueprint of what a home should be. This is something that didn’t just pop up because I like decorating. It’s not that at all. It’s something I’ve been doing all my life.”
The new venture comes at a time when Zeta-Jones is reconsidering what it means to have a long and illustrious career, as well as how to sustain that career given the type of roles that are currently available for women over 40.
“I’ve been very specific with the roles I’ve chosen in the past, so I don’t want to start just taking roles to keep acting and being in the public eye,” she admits. “It’s really not an attribute I want to add to my career, to just do stuff so that it seems like I haven’t stopped doing it. The work I was looking at doing, I wasn’t interested in, and I really felt like, what do I do now? And that’s when I went back to 17 years of files and I really started just putting together something. I called up Daymond John, because I’m a huge Shark Tank fan, and so is my husband. I said, ‘I have an idea,’ and he said to me straight up, ‘Ah, celebrities ... it’s just such an influx of people wanting to put their name on something.’”
There’s a chance most actresses would feel affronted by this response, but Zeta-Jones is not one of them. Being a brand ambassador, of sorts, is something Catherine has been doing for over 10 years; her face and prestige are almost synonymous with high-profile companies such as Elizabeth Arden and T-Mobile.
“[Daymond John] gave me a homework assignment, and in two hours, I emailed him probably about seventeen look books of [everything from] furniture to loungewear [and] sportswear to jewelry,” says Zeta-Jones, explaining her insistence about showing that her dreams weren’t just about another celebrity looking for more fame. “And he went, ‘Okay, I get you.’ And that was two years [ago], and here we are talking about it.”
The success of her long-awaited business collides with the actress taking on a role she has waited to play for years: Miami drug lord, Griselda Blanco. Zeta-Jones stars as Blanco in Cocaine Godmother, a film based on the life of the woman who pioneered the drug trade from Colombia to the United States in the 70s and 80s.
“When you want to play a character for so long, as an actor, you do your research,” she tells me. “And with her, she’s such a paranoid sort of person because there were so many people who wanted her out of the picture. There’s not a lot that talks about her. So what I wanted to do was get inside of her on an emotional level.”
The film will premiere next year on Lifetime, and Zeta-Jones is almost unrecognizable in her role as Griselda, giving a performance that is truly mind-blowing.
“There was no redeeming quality about her and I wanted to throw myself into that,” she explains. “For me, that became a physical transformation. And genetically, I worked hard to gain weight. I didn’t want to do any prosthetics; I wanted to get into her mind and my body language is more important to me than a prosthetic nose or chin. We shot it in Vancouver and it was just me, away from my life, away from my family, and I did nothing but be her.”
Features Editor Andrea Towers
Photography John Russo
Hair Patrick Melville at Tracey Mattingly
Makeup Vincent Oquendo at The Wall Group
Styling Style by Zeta