It’s mid-afternoon in Paris on a Sunday in early October when Andie MacDowell, an icon of my 1990s youth, joins our online chat. It’s Fashion Week, and just hours later, she’ll walk the runway for L’Oréal Paris, the brand she’s worked with for decades, at the Ecole Militaire. The 270-year-old military complex is a French national monument, and MacDowell says it’s never been used for an event like this before. “It’s an honour to be here and get to walk with all the beautiful spokespeople and models. It’s an honour to get to be in Paris,” she says. “It’s going to be a full-on event—very theatrical. My dress is very much an elaborate display of fashion. So, it’s nice because it’s not a super-serious event.” It does have a serious message, however: the event is in partnership with Right to Be, a non-profit with the goal of ending street harassment.
MacDowell started her career as a model in the 1970s but says it’s a long time since she’s walked for a designer. “A lot of times [the models] walk down serious and stone-faced. They look angry almost. It’s much more relaxed with L’Oréal. It’s about being who you are and authentic to yourself—a little less pressure that way.”
That’s an idea that resonates deeply with MacDowell: being who you are. She says she’s always been contemplative—a deep thinker—and, when she was younger, she thought a lot about who she would like to be in later life. “I used to look for women all the time and say, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” she says. “It could be someone at an airport. I would look over her and just think, ‘That’s it.’ There was an essence of … creativity to her, maybe. I hate using the word acceptance, but I can’t think of a better one. Embracing. Comfortable. But glamorous at the same time.”
Often these women would have silver hair, just as MacDowell has had as of 2021, when she ditched the dye. “I think I feel more comfortable now with silver hair. It’s not that it’s for everybody, but it’s what I’ve always wanted, and it was time for me to embrace this dream of who I was going to be as a mature woman,” she explains. “It’s like how I looked at my grandmother. To me, she was a very strong person. She wasn’t a weak, frail person. Yet she was not ashamed of her age. That’s who I want to be. I have no problem with where I am at this time in my life.”
In fact, says MacDowell, the only sad thing she sees in growing older is the sense that time is running out. “But on that note, there is no time to waste feeling less than and not worthy, because you cannot waste a day not enjoying who you are and the skin you’re in.”
MacDowell has worked steadily for more than 40 years, but the last few years she’s been on a career high, with critically acclaimed performances in movies like Love After Love and Ready or Not and Netflix show Maid, where she costarred alongside her daughter Margaret Qualley and was Golden Globe nominated. “I do find myself more confident now,” she says. “I feel more useful as well. I’ve lost count of how many [projects] I’ve done but it’s well over 100. It’s a long time. Sometimes I’ll sit and watch things and see problems and I don’t speak up because it’s not my position. But sometimes I just can’t help myself. I can see things because I know.”
I tell her it’s inspiring to find someone so comfortable and confident in her 60s—someone who refuses to be dismissed. “I think I do have to sometimes fight the idea of what it is to be older. Especially if someone else is writing the material and they’re younger and have no idea,” she says. “I talk to my mature friends. We don’t sit round and look in the mirror … you can’t be obsessing with the way you look. What you need to obsess over is how you feel. People will project things onto people in their 60s that are not our reality. It’s all a projection. We don’t feel old.”
A couple of hours later, MacDowell is on the runway in a dress that is theatrical, dramatic and exuberant. Makeup artist Val Garland has created a dramatic look with silver liner. And MacDowell’s corkscrew curls are big and wild. She’s dancing, proud to represent this great French brand that she’s worked with since 1986. And proud to be doing so in this grand and historic French complex. A national treasure, walking for a national treasure, in a national treasure. What could be more inspiring than that? —Aileen Lalor