Q + A

Laurie Drake is a former staff writer for Vogue and has contributed to Allure and Self.

I Didn't Feel Beautiful

Jamie Lee Curtis, 47, is an actress and author of children's books who swore off plastic surgery and the whole chasing-youth thing

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Question: When you were young, what films or TV shows or people influenced your beauty ideal?

Answer: I didn't have a beauty ideal. I didn't feel beautiful at all. Music--you know, Janis Ian. I attached more to Janis Ian and Joni Mitchell, because of what they were saying.

Q: You identified with Ian's song "At Seventeen"?

A: I identified with Janis Ian's song; I completely related to Joni Mitchell. I mean, I had girlfriends, I would see the way they looked and I would kind of want to--I certainly never wanted to look like me.

Q: What cosmetic work have you had done?

A: I had lower eyelid surgery 14 years ago, which resulted in complications--allergies to things that they gave me. It was also the first [time] I came in contact with painkillers, which then started a cycle of addiction, which I finally arrested after a long time. I had some liposuction done in 1999, which also had complications. And that's it.

Q: Botox?

A: Oh duh, I forgot. Tried that a couple times. In my frown spot.

Q: A Google search for Jamie Lee Curtis turns up images from films such as "Perfect" that suggest you once had a lot of body confidence.

A: I had a good genetic structure, and I just traded on it. When I first was an actress, I made horror films, and I was always the sort-of-ugly-duckling, girl-next-door person. And my body was never an issue. It was really after I did all those films that someone realized that I had a nice figure.

Q: Did it feel flattering?

A: No. Because anytime someone focuses his or her attention on something external, you always wonder what are they really interested in.

Q: You said in an interview a few years ago that you had begun to feel the encroachment of middle age, and that there was a possibility you would become plump?

A: I remember being on "Oprah" once and waving goodbye to the audience, and my arm kept waving. And it was the first time that I'd felt that, and I thought, "Oh my! What's that?" And, of course, genetically I'm of Hungarian Jewish lineage. Hungarian Jewish women are full-figured gals. The reality is that we get heavier to protect our hips and our pelvises from fractures. It's not just an accident. This is how we age. I'm trying to keep fit, keep comfortable in my clothing, keep up with my young children, and at the same time have a quality of life that doesn't mean that I am chasing youth.

Q: Your new book focuses on competition.

A: It's a book for children, asking "Is life nothing but a competition? Is all life about beating somebody else?"

Q: You've also said plastic surgery doesn't work.

A: Oh, yeah. I'm talking about face rebuilding, Botox-injected, scalp-lifted. People who put Kleenex boxes in their breasts and think they look good. The grotesque disfiguring. When you see someone, and they look like they've been away on a vacation, that's subtle.

Q: Is there anyone in Hollywood you could point to and say, wow, the scalpel loved him or her?

A: I would never say that.

Q: You've sworn off plastic surgery, but what about cosmeceuticals?

A: My bathroom towels are turquoise, so all of my beauty products have turquoise packaging. I buy the Lubriderm sea kelp formula because the pusher top is turquoise. That's absolutely the God's honest truth.

-- Laurie Drake

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I Think That I'm Done

Maria Gould is 'over 60,' and now, after a few procedures, the retired engineer has tapped her 401(k) for the last time

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Question: You had your first surgery, an eyelid lift, in 1999?

Answer: I'm sorry I did it. When I look at pictures, I look so much better before than after. I liked the puffiness from before. I don't know if he cut too much. I don't think it was the doctor's fault; it's just that I don't think I even needed the surgery.

Q: But it was your idea?

A: Oh yeah. He was not a plastic surgeon. He was a laser surgery guy who also specializes in eyelid surgery. And then I went to another doctor in La Canada, because I wanted to see what it would cost to fix the wrinkles around my lips. But I didn't go through with it. I got scared, I guess.

Q: So that was your first procedure?

A: I only had it done because my sister had hers done 10 years before. And she's sorry too. A lot of old people get droopy eyelids and it affects their vision, and we didn't have that.

Q: But last year you wound up getting a chemical peel?

A: I went to Dr. Kotler for a face-lift. He evaluated me and recommended a peel instead. For the first month I was pretty sore from it. You had to scrub and keep it moisturized. It got rid of all my wrinkles. If I'd go to T.J. Maxx or one of the stores around here, people would say, "Oh, your face looks good. Give me your doctor's name and number." You're not going to put the "before" pictures in, are you?

Q: Why Dr. Kotler?

A: I found him through TV. I've been watching "Dr. 90210." I actually called Dr. Rey first, and I asked the girl if they worked on older people. And she said, "Yeah," but we're booked up for a year, so we're referring older patients to Dr. Kotler.

Q: And six months later you had a neck-lift?

A: Even though they had to cut me a little behind the ear, I think the neck was much easier. I was pretty sore from it. With the peel, I had to wear gloves at night because I would dig my nails into my tender skin and I'd wake up with scratches. That part was pretty bad.

Q: Do you think having one cosmetic procedure sparks the desire to have another?

A: We don't realize it, because we're not the doctors, that you have to do one thing first, and then another.

Q: Plastic surgery is expensive?

A: It was $16,500 for my neck. And the face was about $11,000. I have my little 401(k), and if I need money I just go get it. And I take care of all the taxes, so my husband doesn't even see.

Q: How will you know when it's time to let nature take its course?

A: A lot of people get addicted. But I think that I'm done.

Q: You're how old?

A: Can't you just say that I'm in my mid-60s? None of my friends, the friends I used to have at work, the friends I go to lunch with, no one knows my age. I'd freak out saying that number. I've always managed to keep 'em guessing. But they know I'm over 60.

Q: What are your secrets for looking younger?

A: I believe in keeping your hair done. I keep my hair cut and groomed. I go about every five weeks, she does a weave or highlights.

-- Laurie Drake

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I Want to Be Joan Rivers

Kathy Griffin, 45, is an actress and stand-up comedian who tours about 15 days a month, and wants to keep working until she drops

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Question: When you're an actress and comedian, there's no one to tell you when to retire. You can go on until you drop?

Answer: I want to be Joan Rivers. I want to be Phyllis Diller. Comedy is one of the few parts of show business where they can't say, "You're not young enough, you're not hot enough, you're not thin enough." You've either got the goods or you don't.

Q: The liposuction you had done in 1999 must have been satisfying, because you later had work done on your nose, teeth, upper arms and eyebrows?

A: The lipo was a disaster. I ended up in the hospital. I'll never do it again. And then I had a bunch of procedures in 2003, and the doctor was, like, "Let me throw in a little lipo." I think he only did it on my arms.

Q: And you had a face peel?

A: Yes, they put me under and basically burned my face off.

Q: Anything else?

A: Name 'em again.

Q: Nose, teeth--

A: Oh, the teeth were great, the veneers. I love those veneers.

Q: And an upper brow lift?

A: Yeah.

Q: I guess you felt that your perceived physical flaws were holding you back?

A: Even when you're a comedy chick, you're still expected to look your best. I'd see an old episode of "Seinfeld" or something, and I'd think, "Oh, I want to look like that again!" Not like I was so beautiful, but I would notice a difference. I took a big hit for going public with the face work I had done. To this day, people talk about me like I'm Jocelyn Wildenstein. And the truth is, I haven't had any more or less than any of the girls on the TV or in the movies. Michelle Pfeiffer. Or Madonna. Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger. I mean, to me, he's way more pulled than I ever looked. Look at Larry King. Look at Burt Reynolds! Good God.

Q: At what point did you decide to speak openly about your surgery?

A: The minute I started seeing how ridiculous the whole process was. First of all, it's humiliating, it's degrading, it's embarrassing, it's freaking costly. There's this Beverly Hills plastic surgery culture that I just thought was hilarious. There's a celebrity door, for the big doctors. And I would always try to get in the celebrity door, but they wouldn't know who I was, and I'd be standing outside the celebrity door screaming my name. And there's something funny to me about having scars on your head and thinking it makes you look younger. Like, at what point did we start looking like Frankenstein to look hotter?

Q: How do you respond to people who say that you already had a perfectly lovely face and body?

A: People have said really cruel things [about my surgeries]. When you go on the Internet and look up yourself, you better have a highball. And I don't even drink. For me, it's Diet Pepsi, but still it is mortifying. And when I had my brow lift, a lot of people are like, "I'm going to be honest with you, I really don't see the difference." So I've laid off it, at least for now. I'm also working too much. I'm not willing to take a month or two off to heal.

Q: But you still like the Botox?

A: I do forehead and crow's feet.

Q: Do you ever tell jokes about the surgeries in your routine?

A: Constantly. I used to--this is so sick--I used to show my recovery slides in my act. They were so disgusting. The audience would be groaning, and I'd be like, "This is what it takes, fellas. This is what we're doing to try to look hot. Take a good, hard look."

-- Laurie Drake

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I Mean, It Hurt, But...

Liz Kelley is a 26-year-old mother of four young children, and she just wanted to get her body back with a 'mommy makeover'

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Question: You had your first cosmetic procedure a few months ago?

Answer: I had breast augmentation and a tummy tuck. I had a ton of extra skin on my stomach, and I was all stretched out. It was what doctors call the mommy makeover. I gained so much weight when I was pregnant, like 70 pounds each time. So when I'd lose it, I had all this extra skin. No matter how much I worked out, it wouldn't go down. And I figured I'd just go ahead and get my breasts done too.

Q: Did you have them lifted as well?

A: I think Dr. Handel had to lift them a tiny bit because I got silicone implants.

Q: You were used to having a pretty good body?

A: I tried to stay halfway in shape. I play in a women's basketball league. But after the babies, it was uncomfortable. You wear jeans, and you sit down and you've got this extra skin. It's ugly. Very ugly.

Q: So it wasn't flab? It was skin?

A: Yeah. Now my stomach is totally flat. It's very nice. I like it.

Q: What sort of results did the doctor tell you to expect?

A: He thought I would have good results. He could tell that I work out.

Q: You're young enough so that everything repairs itself quickly.

A: A lot of people I had talked to said, "This mommy makeover is the most painful thing you can do." And it wasn't that bad. I mean, it hurt, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. You can't stand up straight for a couple of days.

Q: And thank goodness for painkillers.

A: Exactly.

Q: You didn't need to have any drains?

A: Yes, just in my stomach for three days. They're just gross.

Q: How did you explain it to your kids?

A: I just said, "I'm getting my stomach fixed from having the babies." I did not tell them about the breast augmentation, and I don't think they noticed it because they're too young.

Q: You went from a what size cup to what?

A: Well, I was a B, but after I had the babies I shrank to an A. So I went from an A to a D.

Q: If time and money and child care were no object, would you have other procedures?

A: Maybe when I get older.

Q: Are we talking $10,000, $20,000 for what you had done?

Will you say?

A: It was $20,000 for both. It's a lot of money.

Q: Were you worried about what people would think?

A: Other moms, they're like, "Oh, I want to get it done too!" I rarely run into anyone who says, "You're so vain." Because you're just putting your body back to where it was.

Q: You have two daughters. How old would you want them to be before getting any cosmetic work done?

A: At least 18. I'm not sure that I would approve it. I would just hate for them to get something early and then have regrets.

-- Laurie Drake

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