Real and relatable. Grounded and genuine. Outspoken and open. Google Jennifer Lawrence and they’re the phrases constantly used to describe Hollywood’s much-loved megastar. From her hilariously ribald talk-show interviews to her strong stance on gender equality and pay parity, Lawrence is ferociously fearless and frank.
Yet the Oscar winner admits she wasn’t always at ease speaking her truth. “When I first started [in Hollywood], I’d shy away from uncomfortable conversations so I’d just be agreeable. But then I realised: what’s the point of saying something if I don’t say exactly what I mean? I made the decision to tell the truth, even when it’s difficult, and it changed my life – in work, relationships and friendships. Now, everyone knows exactly how I feel and I’m always myself.”
Lawrence is speaking exclusively to marie claire in the luxury Beverly Hills Hotel, her pocket-sized pooch Pippi curled in her lap. We’re chatting about feminism, film, fashion and fragrance, notably because she’s in LA to launch Parfums Christian Dior’s first new scent in 20 years – Joy by Dior. This floral, feminine perfume joins Miss Dior and J’Adore in the French fashion house’s iconic collection of fragrances, and Lawrence says being asked to collaborate on the launch was “a real honour” and “major moment” in her stellar career.
Lawrence may be only 28, but she’s been part of our collective cultural psyche for nearly a decade. At just 14, she persuaded her mum to allow her to sign with a New York talent agency and then landed a string of TV gigs before hooking Hollywood’s attention in 2010 with her Oscar-nominated performance in Winter’s Bone. Soon after, she was catapulted to superstardom in multibillion-dollar franchises The Hunger Games and X-Men, followed by extraordinary performances in Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, Joy, Passengers, Mother! and this year’s spy thriller Red Sparrow.
But now, after eight relentless years shooting a film every few months, she’s decided to opt out and take a well-earned breather. “I’m on vacation from work right now where I’m not thinking about roles. It’s been really nice; I’m relaxing and doing lots of reading.” But don’t expect to see lit-lite or romance novels on her bedside table; instead she’s devouring political tome Republic, Lost by Lawrence Lessig – “Oh yes, a very relaxing read,” she says sarcastically.
Which brings us to her other great passion: political science. “I’d love to go to school for it – I’ve really thought about it.” Even so, she’s aware that with her current clout, she’s in a powerful position to agitate for change. She’s working with Represent.Us, a bipartisan grassroots organisation that aims to “fix America’s corrupt political system” by engaging young people on a local level. Would she ever consider entering politics herself? “I am really, really over celebrities being presidents,” she deadpans.
Spend time with Lawrence and it’s impossible not to be impressed by her easy ability to eloquently swing between topics from politics and activism to couture and fragrance, all served with a sassy sense of humour. She’s an appealing crop of contradictions.
A self-confessed “open book” whose candid interviews have endeared her to millions, she’s also fiercely private (“I have a lot of people working 24 hours a day to keep people from knowing about me”). She’s vocal about loving reality TV – momager Kris Jenner is a friend – but keeps off social media because “it’s unhealthy to willingly put yourself out there”. Is she ever tempted to join the Twitterverse? “Oh, yeah! I write so many imaginary speeches, they get deleted, and life moves on. Write it down and burn it.”
One perfectly penned essay that thankfully didn’t reach the bin was her now-famous contribution to Lena Dunham’s feminist newsletter Lenny Letter about gender pay equality. When news broke in late 2014, leaked during the Sony hacking saga, that Lawrence was earning less than her male co-stars in American Hustle, Lawrence found her voice. “I felt that no matter how hard I worked, how many accolades I received, or how much money my movies were making, I kept hitting this brick wall because I was a woman. When you put your heart and soul into something and work so hard, it’s just frustrating and heartbreaking. But this is something that affects all women in the workforce. The only thing to be done about it is change. We have to close the gap.”
For her, feminism is simply about equality. “I don’t think that overreacting about what someone wears or doesn’t wear is important; I don’t see that as feminism – it’s a distraction,” she says. “I want to be treated equally, I want to be paid equally, I want to have the same opportunities. It’s cut and dried for me.”
Read more in the October issue of marie claire starring Jennifer Lawrence – out Thursday.
Joy by Dior is available now at Myer and David Jones.
Photo credit: Emma Summerton for Parfums Christian Dior.