She was one of the first celebrity tots loved and admired by millions. As she launches her tenth children’s book, My Mommy Hung the Moon: A Love Story, celeb mom Jamie Lee Curtis writes an essay for More and opens up for the first time about her late mother, screen legend Janet Leigh, her parents’ split, and distorted body images that have “reached epic proportions.”
On her mother’s rocky marriage and divorce from her father, fellow movie star Tony Curtis: “By the time I came along, following my sister, Kelly, by two and a half years, my parents’ bond had deteriorated precipitously as their stardom grew. And like any other save-the-marriage baby, I failed.
Janet suffered public embarrassment as Tony chose a 17-year-old replacement, a German actress with whom he was working, and she felt the slings and arrows of tabloid gossip and innuendo. She told me that she did the memorable scene on the train in The Manchurian Candidate the day she found out that Tony had filed for divorce.
My mother persevered through it all and survived; I’m not sure if my sister and I did. There was no Demi-and-Bruce amicable divorce or joint family vacations for us. No love was left between them.”
On her mother’s body-image issues: “I think the most complicated relationship my mother had, both loving and often cruel, was with her own body. Her face was undeniably beautiful, like a shot of something strong, and her body—that body was the chaser. She was intoxicating. Like anyone who becomes famous for what they look like, when that commodity starts to change, the relationship with it deteriorates. Her friends noted her slimness by calling her Bird Legs, and my mother was incredibly proud that she returned to her 20-inch waist mere weeks after pregnancies; she judged other actresses whose bodies grew and softened. I think she was afraid that it would happen to her too.
It feels like that fear is now global. Our dissatisfaction with what we look like has reached epidemic proportions. Just look around you: People don’t look right. Lips, eyes, hair, weaves, implants. It is a freak show being fed by the business it generates, a modern-day Surgical Industrial Complex. I’m sure my appearing without the usual styling and makeup tricks in this magazine, in the 2002 article I titled ‘True Thighs,’ was my unconscious way of saving myself from the same fate. By acknowledging my own changing body, I rebelled against my mother’s fear of it. I know the article and the attention it got were difficult for her.”
Continue reading at More and hear about how Jamie’s daughter Annie made a profound observation at her famous grandmother’s funeral…