There is one little word that has long represented a challenge for the actress Amanda Seyfried. “I’ve finally become good at saying ‘No,’ she says. “By nature, I tend to be flexible. But with time, I’ve come to understand what makes me uncomfortable and I’ve learned how to make others respect my decisions — even though saying no to my kids is really tough.” Fortunately, her children, Nina, 5, and Thomas, who turned 2 on Sept. 28, give her less of a hard time than she gave her mother when, at 11 years old, she was already trending sets and shooting her first commercials. “As a child, I was undisciplined, impatient and noisy,” she admits.
With her husband, the 46-year-old actor Thomas Sadoski, who she married in an ultra- private ceremony in 2017 only days after their daughter Nina’s birth, Seyfried, 36, has settled on a farm in Upstate New York. After a Best Supporting Oscar nomination for her role as Hollywood starlet Marion Davies in the 2020 film Mank, she took the decision to cut back on the pace of her commitments. “Up until a few years ago I was working so much, and I was worried that if I gave myself a break, I wouldn’t be able to get back into it,” she shares. “But now I have a husband who, like me, loves his work and two children that need somebody to be with them. Because of this I only accept roles that I consider impossible to miss out on.”
In keeping with her new set of priorities, Seyfried is continuing in her role as a Lancôme global ambassador and selectively choosing new projects, like her latest two, which are different from each other but each equally special.
The first is the Hulu series The Dropout: the true story of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, who was convicted of defrauding investors in connection with her blood-testing startup. “It was the biggest challenge of my career,” Seyfried says of her Emmy-nominated performance.
The second project is a movie that came out last year, Mouthful of Air, in which the actress plays a children’s book writer dealing with trauma that resurfaces after the birth of her daughter. “The screenwriter and director, Amy Koppelman, is a friend,” Seyfried says. “More or less, we have all experienced postpartum depression. It’s a topic that women absolutely must talk about to help each other.”
Did becoming a mother change you a lot?
“It led me to let things go, to accept that certain things are how they are. And to take care of myself, because otherwise I couldn’t protect my children. Plus, having children turned me into sort of a superwoman: it’s amazing what your body is capable of doing. My mother filmed the births of my two kids, and I recently rewatched my son Thomas’ delivery. I thought, ‘Wow, I’m incredible! It’s enough to give you a new sense of security, to cancel out all the years of not being satisfied with your appearance. Why would we want to be different?”
Did that happen with you?
“I remember an audition when I was still working as a model. I would have been 15 years old, and I liked to eat and I still had a little bit of roundness typical in children that age. There was a girl at the audition with an incredibly flat stomach. The first thing I thought was: ‘Why am I not like her? How can I be like that?’ The anxiety that arouses isn’t good for us. I wonder if it’s a phase we have to go through in order to accept ourselves? But after seeing the physical changes resulting from pregnancy and motherhood, I understand that you can’t waste your time on stuff like that.”
So your relationship with the mirror has improved?
“As time passes, I feel more and more comfortable and at ease with myself. Also, my body has done so many beautiful things for me and it’s gotten me to this point. At 36 years old, I feel much better than I did when I was 22.”
The passing years don’t worry you?
“I hate to have to admit it, but anti-aging is a term that is now playing a part in my life. I’ve never done Botox, but I’m careful when it comes to sun exposure, and every night before going to bed, I apply an anti-wrinkle mask. But at my age, beauty is no longer just about what’s on the outside. I feel beautiful if my mind is free, if I can get rid of negative thoughts and I have a clear idea about what I want and who I am.”
What makes you happiest?
“Knowing how to accept myself for who I am and paying attention to the little things in life. It’s always possible to be satisfied with what you have and optimistic about the future. Most of us don’t pay attention to these moments of happiness because our heads are elsewhere. It’s enough to just stop and take a look around ourselves. Watching my children play together: this, for me, is happiness.”
Is that the reason why you decided to live on a farm?
“I think I’ve always known what makes me feel well and I’ve always loved to be in the middle of nature. What’s changed is that today I appreciate it more. And I try to share my happiness with others.”
“On Valentine’s Day I send little presents to friends, especially those who have just become parents. This year I made some paper heart decorations. Other times I’ve baked cookies and sweets.”
Is there a place that you feel at peace with yourself?
“I’m trying to think about somewhere that isn’t our farm, but nothing comes to mind. One of my most beautiful memories is a day I spent with my daughter the summer before the pandemic. We were sitting outside by the pool, surrounded by the sunflowers we had planted and that had grown really tall. I felt something close to spiritual peace.”
Do you practice meditation?
“Every morning, after I’ve washed my face, the first thing that I do is a walk around the farm. My meditation is to feed the animals on the farm and to be among them. It has a calming effect. And, every so often, I take the opportunity to do some physical exercise. This morning, after breakfast, I jumped rope while waiting for our oldest horse to finish eating his hay.”
In the past, you’ve spoken openly about your battle to achieve mental wellness. How did you do it?
“By speaking about my problems. Every time I see someone having problems, I say: ‘Try to confide in someone.’ Perhaps on the first try you won’t find someone able to help you, but there’s always someone who, sooner or later, will offer you a different point of view and will completely change your way of thinking.”
Is this how you were able to get better?
“I’ve always sought help when I wasn’t doing well. I know very well what it’s like to suffer from OCD. I take medication and I do therapy every week. I also listen to a lot of audiobooks. I believe talking and listening are the two cornerstones of mental wellbeing.”
Are there any authors who you look up to?
“I read a lot of books by feminists and psychotherapists. I really trust the viewpoints of other women. I also love the poet Mary Oliver for her ability to express life’s most beautiful moments in an eloquent way that’s simple at the same time. You just have to read a few pages of any of her books to completely change your day. I turn everything that she’s written into advice.”
Do you have a piece of advice that you would give to your 20-year-old self?
“Simply: ‘Take a breath.’”
And to your daughter?
“The same: ‘Breathe. You’ll see that everything passes.’”
Whose style do you look up to?
“I really admire Zendaya. She’s a good example for girls. Whether she’s dressed elegantly or sporty, wearing makeup or none at all, she is always beautiful. But it’s my overall impression that she’s always true to herself. And I’m crazy about Cate Blanchett. She knows how to be elegant and ‘regal’ but also original. She maintains an aura of mystery that allows her to live in a way unlike anyone else.”
Uniqueness is a good trait to have?
“We should choose what we like without fear of making mistakes. Not basing choices on what we see on Instagram is a way of trusting ourselves. I find it alarming that on social media everybody has their eyebrows done in the same way.”
When you were younger, did you ever feel intimidated by finding yourself face to face with one of your idols?
“It happened to me a billion times. Mostly with actresses that were a part of my childhood: it’s weird to find yourself in front of a person that growing up you watched in movies or on television. While at the preview of Mamma Mia! I was speechless when I met Jane Seymour. I told her, ‘You’re Dr. Mike from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman!’”
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Now that it’s your turn to be an icon, do you feel a sense of responsibility?
“Over time the pressure has decreased because today I know I have something to offer. I like the contact with people, listening to what everyone has to say. And also sharing my views. But I do so carefully, thinking a lot about the effect I could have, both in real life and on social media.”
How do you know when something’s okay to post?
“I ask myself: ‘Is this what I would like for my daughter to see?’ If the answer is yes, then it means it’s alright.”
Is it easier today for women to have their voices heard?
“Absolutely, yes. We feel safer. And the more we freely express ourselves, the more we want to continue to do so. We have a platform at our disposal like never before.”
What kind of principles did your parents raise you with?
“My mother taught me the idea that less is more. She lives according to this principle. And she taught me that you have to carefully consider what you say and do, to be kind and be aware of your actions. My father always knows how to find the funny side of situations. He’s neurotic, but he was able to cultivate a sense of irony. This is also a great lesson.”
How would you describe your relationship with Lancôme, the brand you’ve been an ambassador for since 2019?
“In my work, in general, I need to find something that I can relate to, otherwise it comes across as fake, and that’s exactly what I want to avoid. It was a relief to discover that my relationship with Lancôme was founded on something real and important.”
What would that be?
“When we did the photoshoots, I spent a lot of time with the brand’s creatives, incredible women that I found myself completely at ease with. Lancôme also has a long history, and women trust the brand’s products.”
You’ve also collaborated with the non- profit Inara, which provides medical assistance and mental health care to children impacted by conflict.
“They suffer because of conflicts they have not chosen. It’s terribly unfair. Up until now, we have helped around 300 children receive the immediate care and psychological support they need to build a future. It doesn’t take much to help them feel less alone.”
And what do want for your future?
“I prefer to go forward one step at a time. The only thing that I would like right now is to show my son a little bit of the world. Ever since Nina was young, she’s traveled extensively with me, while for Thomas, who was born during the pandemic, it wasn’t possible. I would like to take him to Turkey and Egypt, and on a safari to see the animals in their natural habitat.”
Story by Enrica Brocardo
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