July 31, 2021

Helen Mirren is a spokesperson for L’Oreal Paris, but the key to her beauty routine is something that can’t be bottled, jarred, or added to a cart. It’s simply swagger, and she brings it with her everywhere she goes (see: showing up to the strictest red carpet with pink hair, casually taking a shot of tequila at the Oscars, and twirling a walking stick like this on a Parisian runway).

Naturally, she brought it with her for her glorious return to the Cannes Film Festival, where the Dame rolled up in a pair of green Caruima low tops, rocked big headbands, and helped celebrate the launch of L’Oreal Paris’s Lights on Women Award, a new prize honoring one rising female filmmaker in partnership with the Short Films competition. Kate Winslet, fellow L’Oréal Paris spokesperson and the award’s first juror, picked the inaugural winner: Berlin-based director Aleksandra Odić, who took home the honors for her 22-minute film, Frida. 

The Cut caught up with Mirren while she was in Cannes to talk embroidery, eyelashes, and why you should consider pursuing swagger, too.

What feels “worth it” to you now?
Travel is always worth it. Travel is always a good thing. Learning a language is worth it. I tried to learn Italian in my COVID lockdown. Every day, I would do an Italian lesson, and my Italian is not bad — it was improving rapidly when I was doing my lessons — and then of course, I stopped doing them, because I can never keep anything up for long. But that was definitely worth it. Maintain your friends, keep in touch with them. I’m very bad at that, because I kind of forget; I go off somewhere else, so keep in touch with your friends, that’s always worth it. And also, scour the sales [laughs].

Gender equality in Hollywood is a very topical conversation; how do you feel the industry is addressing it? What did you think when you learned about L’Oréal Paris’s new Lights on Women award?
Well, I was thrilled to hear about the award because there are two things that are important: opportunity and role models. As I’ve gotten older in life, I’ve come to understand that opportunity is everything, which I didn’t understand at the beginning. Without opportunity, you can do nothing, and with opportunity, you can do anything, no matter who you are. It’s all about opportunity, really, and then, recognition.
What’s great about this award is it affords recognition. So often, I think what women do is ignored; it’s not recognized. I look at the embroidery, for example. You go into the museum and you see these incredible pieces of embroidery. I don’t know about you, but I collect old linens because I find hand-embroidered and hand-crocheted old linens such beautiful works of art, and they’re ignored. Nobody looks at them, no one says, “Look what this woman did. This is beautiful. This is extraordinary.” Recognition of work is very important, and for far too long, I think what women do has been undervalued, underestimated, and unrecognized. For L’Oréal to make this award is very important. I’m sure a point will come — and I applaud that moment — when the women say, “You know what? Let’s just let it be for anyone, because we don’t want to be put in a category of just women anymore.” But for now, I think it’s very, very important.

Read the full interview/article in our press library.