Feeling great at 50

Feeling great at 50

Michelle Yeoh on work, play and the importance of taking care of yourself

Feeling great at 50

Malaysian superstar Michelle Yeoh reckons she now qualifies as half-French since her Other Half - Jean Todt, president of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile - is a citizen of that country.

That connection may partially explain why an Asian visage like Yeoh's has been chosen to represent Guerlain, one of France's oldest cosmetics firms which was established way back in 1828.

"Guerlain used to cater to royalty. Today, we're the royalty," Yeoh said, referring to customers of the Gallic fragrance and beauty-products brand.

Being a brand ambassador is not only about being the public face, however. Yeoh said she can relate to Guerlain's traditions, philosophy and its corporate social responsibility programme.

"Guerlain took me on an adventure and introduced me to a different world when I visited the Tianzi Exploratory Nature Reserve [in China] where the gold orchid is grown in the best environment according to principles of jungle farming that promotes reforestation," she said of one of the brand's eco-friendly projects (see related story on page 8).

The gold orchid, Dendrobium chrysotoxum, provides one of the key ingredients for an anti-ageing skincare product from Guerlain called Orchidee Imperiale, which Yeoh says works wonders on her 50-something skin.

Ageing gracefully, the actress and former beauty queen believes in living healthily and thinks it's vital to keep on learning how to take care of oneself through the different stages of life.

Who is your beauty idol?

My mum. She's like the beauty guru and fashionista. Watching her put on her make-up, I was fascinated as she did her eyes, her brows.

My grandmother had flawless skin just from using basic skincare _ an old herbal remedy in the form of a white powder and cream. I don't actually know what was in it because when you're young, you're not interested in skincare and I didn't want to walk around the house with a white face.

Are you also a fashionista?

I'm not a fashion victim, and I don't closely follow trends. I dress the way I feel comfortable because at the end of the day you have to be comfortable.

I don't like cutting my hair. I did that once, and my mum thought I was a boy. Long hair makes you look feminine, and you can easily change style, like putting it in a ponytail or a bun. And I can just wear a wig if I want to have a short hairstyle.

Tell us about your beauty routine?

I like to be low-maintenance, taking five to 10 minutes, and get out the door.

One of the main things is to keep yourself hydrated, not only by using skincare but by drinking a lot of water. This is particularly important when I travel. I'm literally on the plane every three or four days, and my skin can get very dry. Applying sunblock is also very important to me because I love being outdoors.

What are your views about having cosmetic surgery?

There's one thing that I have always accepted. When we're born, we age and die, but we worry about what happens in between. Instead of spending time worrying, you should consistently know how to take care of yourself and it only gets better. But if you don't look after yourself, the tell-tale signs of ageing will come earlier.

Nowadays, non-invasive cosmetic procedures can be helpful, but I don't believe in cosmetic surgery that changes your look because we are all individuals. Beauty shouldn't be superficial and should come from within, and your eyes will tell the story.

How do you feel about being in your 50s?

When I was turning 30, it felt like a big thing. Thirty then becomes 40, then 50 and I feel great!

Don't pressure yourself about it. Because my attitude has always been: it's going to come, it's going to happen; there's no denying it. So don't think too much about it.

I never use numbers to define myself. Sometimes the biggest problem that we have is that we put limits on ourselves, thinking that "I'm already this age, I shouldn't be doing this and that".

I exercise and do different kinds of sports. With ageing, you have to know your body and learn how to adjust to it.

What kind of workouts do you prefer?

I incorporate exercising as a part of my lifestyle and I have to get my exercise done to start off the day. When I have a good sweat-out, I feel more energetic.

I do it every day, just like brushing my teeth after waking up.

Even in bed, I would start off stretching for five to 10 minutes to slowly warm up my body.

While standing, brushing your teeth, you can also do leg kicks or squats. You don't need a lot of space to do some exercise, but of course for a heavy cardiovascular workout, I would have to go down to the gym.

How do you get the time to exercise?

The worst thing for us is when we find an excuse not to exercise, like we don't have the time. When we say, "I will go to the gym tomorrow", "tomorrow" becomes "later" and "later" becomes "next week" and at the end of the day you will realise that you haven't done any exercise in a long time. But if you make it a part of your lifestyle, you will do it every day.

How do you balance work and play?

Again, I make working a part of my lifestyle so it doesn't become work. When you enjoy what you do, a busy day flows very easily.

What keeps you going?

I really enjoy what I do and make working a part of my lifestyle so it doesn't become work. Life is about living, learning and enjoying a new adventure every day. But if you don't understand what makes you happy, then you can't be. Just learn to be happy with yourself. Don't sit there waiting for someone to give you happiness.

When you're happy inside, you will be happy on the outside. People around you will be happy, too.

The most important thing, you must take care of yourself. It's not about selfishness, but it's one of the biggest responsibilities in life.

Once you know how to take care of yourself, you can take care of other people around you.

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