Acclaimed actress Naomi Watts is having a second wave as an empowering voice for women to rewrite the narrative on aging.
Whether through her work as a leading lady on the screen or as an advocate for women, acclaimed actress Naomi Watts is a storyteller first and foremost. The British-born beauty has become a leading voice for spotlighting previously taboo topics like menopause through her company, Stripes. She continues to advocate for women and for more medical research and a more positive approach to celebrating aging.
“It’s funny because, for me, Stripes is, as well as being a solution platform for symptoms, also an extension of the work I do as a storyteller,” she shares. “So much of what we’re doing is creating a platform and space for women of every age and demographic to share their menopause stories. So, in a sense, Stripes is an extension of that,” Watts offers. “We do a lot of healing, discovery and growth through stories, and I think when people connect to a story, they’re taking the time and connecting with something already within themselves. Films can give them the vocabulary for what they’ve been experiencing. That’s the work of storytelling, and I think that is why it’s so highly revered: Filmmakers speak directly to the human condition. Nothing can replace that.”
Watts has become an advocate for women’s health topics like menopause after being surprised at the lack of community conversation when she went through it herself at an earlier age. “I’ve never felt empowered to speak to any cause until now,” she says. “I’ve become passionate about this subject, and I would say that my advocacy for women’s health has been a gradual journey, though. Life experiences, especially as a woman navigating through various life stages, have a way of molding one’s perspectives.” She shares how the importance of bringing light to these issues overpowered her hesitations to speak out candidly over time. “Th ere are little moments that reinforce it whenever I have any doubts,” she shares. “I was walking down the street by my apartment early one morning walking my dog, and this woman ran up to me. I was thinking, ‘Oh, gosh, she’s going to ask for a selfie. I look frightening’... but she actually came up to me and said the work I was doing with Stripes empowered her to have a conversation with her husband. It’s those little moments that reinforce the work and its importance.”
Despite being an empowering voice for women, that doesn’t mean Watts claims to have all the answers, and change is still needed. “I’m still searching for the appropriate euphemism for ‘getting older,’” she says. “I’m definitely anti ‘anti-aging,’ and ‘pro-aging’ feels like it’s just trying to soften the inevitable; anyway, I’ll get back to you on that one, but for now, there is no alternative to aging, so let’s lean into the privilege of aging. That’s what I’m advocating for right now. I’d say that whatever you’d call the movement, it’s definitely heading in a positive direction, but there’s much more ground to cover. It’s essential that we continue Mystique The to challenge and change societal attitudes toward aging and menopause to create a culture that celebrates rather than stigmatizes these natural life stages. There’s a lot of empowerment in owning it. Once I permitted myself to speak about it, a lot of doors opened up, and a lot of my anxiety dissipated.”
Watts also highlights the need for more medical research on women’s health issues. “Time and time again, I hear from doctors and researchers that there’s a need for a more gender-balanced approach in medical research to address the unique health needs of women, especially concerning menopause. Increased funding, awareness and research are crucial to bridge these gaps and ensure women receive the support and solutions they need. Society has underserved this demographic, and certain groups are at higher risk than others. We’re aware of the discrepancies. Prior to 1993, women were oft en excluded from clinical trials. ... Not everyone is a middle-aged man, yet they predominantly made up the group examined in studies. Menopause, in particular, appears to be neglected when compared to other women’s health conditions, which goes hand in hand with the oft en prescribed ‘grin and bear it’ solution.”
Watts, known for her diverse film roles like Mulholland Drive, will next dazzle on screen as the iconic Babe Paley in Ryan Murphy’s anthology series Feud. The new season, titled Feud: Capote’s Women, focuses on the high society women Truman Capote called his “swans” and is set for release this winter. "It's the American dream we all long for: watching these people live enviable lives with perfect houses, perfect relationships, perfect outfits," Watts says. "Just being able to get a glimpse into the corner of these people's lives, it's the envy of everyone, but at the same time, you're looking for the cracks and assuming that it's not all as good as it looks. We are just waiting for that moment when it all comes undone, because how could life be so perfect? Why does it appear that way? My belief is that they're experts at hiding things. And I think what’s behind the curtain is what's more interesting."
Watts married fellow actor The Morning Show’s Billy Crudup this year, making for quite the Hollywood power pairing as the talented twosome light up the screen in some of the season’s buzziest series. Yet her storytelling through Stripes is clearly her most passionate project—and reimagining the narrative for women of all ages.
Photography by: Photographed by Carin Backoff/COURTESY OF TRUNK ARCHIVE