'It' girl: Hendricks on stardom and body image

17:00, Sep 12 2010
Christina Hendricks
Christina Hendricks

She was recently named the most beautiful woman in the world and from one glance at Christina Hendricks, dressed in a tomato-red shift dress that hugs every one of her sumptuous curves, it's easy to see why.

The 35-year-old star of the cult hit TV series Mad Men (set in 1960s New York) looks like a cross between Jessica Rabbit and the matchbox redhead come to life. Her skin is porcelain white and her pinky-red lipstick, ink-black liquid eyeliner and classic up-'do are done to perfection.

"This," she says, running a perfectly manicured hand down her dress, "is Joan."

Joan, of course, is Joan Holloway Harris, Hendricks's character from Mad Men, a sassy, confident woman whose skill at delivering a cutting one-liner is unmatched.

It's a role Hendricks is relishing after recently garnering an Emmy nomination for best supporting actress in a drama series. "I've been so flattered, really. If this show never ends, I'd be quite happy. Honestly, I would," she says, her sapphire-blue eyes fixing their gaze.

But even if it does, Hendricks needn't worry.


Since taking the role, her face has graced the covers of magazines such as Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and Esquire (which declared her "Most Beautiful", with Hendricks easily beating competition such as Victoria's Secret model Adriana Lima and Megan Fox).

She was even named by the British government as having the ideal body shape to which women should aspire.

That's doubly satisfying to Hendricks, considering she, by Hollywood standards where a size zero is the norm, is something of an anomaly.

"I am curvy," the former model shrugs. "This is the way I'm built and I like it. I've always had hips and boobs."

Grounded and confident, Hendricks says her healthy attitude to her shape and the fame it has brought stems from her family. Growing up in Idaho, she says her figure was simply never discussed.

"I had some very awkward years in high school, sure, but I didn't grow up in a household where there was ridicule regarding body image or anything like that," Hendricks says. "There was very little talk about image in general."

To maintain that shape, however, does take work. Weights, for example, are a big no-no.

"Matt (Matthew Weiner, the show's creator) would go crazy if he saw a defined arm," she laughs. "He's very strict about everything being just right and you have to be very careful when you're doing a period piece. It's important you don't see sculpted 2010 bodies."

As a result, Hendricks's workout schedule involves meeting with a private trainer three times a week.

"I hate exercising but I do it as much as I can," she says. "My husband and I work out with a trainer. I'm someone who needs that extra motivation of having an appointment with someone saying, 'You have to be there at this time."'

The happily married actress tied the knot to actor Geoffrey Arend in October last year. When she's not working, Hendricks says the couple love having dinner parties in their Hollywood home.

The self-confessed foodie likes to spend her weekends at home, poring over the pages of food magazines, deciding what she will make for her husband, family and friends.

"I am a good cook. There, I said it," she says, laughing. "I like to make a bit of everything and I rarely cook the same thing twice. I'm constantly trying new things but our favourites are Indian food. I also like to make soups. We try to keep soups in the fridge all the time. That way, when you feel like a snack, there's always something healthy."

Hendricks's secret for keeping her killer curves is "everything in moderation" but also "not depriving myself, either". "I know what looks good on me and I work with that."

What looks good on her are tailored clothes, created for her by Mad Men's award-winning costume designer, Janie Bryant.

"Janie has taught me so much about what looks good on me," she says. "I've learnt so much about my own figure. Because I have curves, I have to show my waist. If you don't show my waist, you can't see I have one, so I always have to have that pinched-in look.

"Tailoring is key ... if I go into a department store and something doesn't fit, I get it tailored. Very rarely do I walk in, try something off the rack and it fits perfectly. I've also learnt that a pencil skirt can do a girl wonders."

The styles in Mad Men change as the show moves through the '60s. Hendricks was initially worried about what her character would end up wearing. Will Joan's curves be hidden under a paisley muumuu, heaven forbid?

"God, no," Hendricks says. "I think a lot of fashion from the '60s can be boxy and strange and really unflattering. Janie and I spoke about it and she said, 'Joan knows what looks good on her and she's sticking with it.' At the end of the day, as women, we know what looks good on us, right? You can't deviate too much. You can change it up a little but you don't go crazy."

With the show now in its fourth season and gaining in popularity, Hendricks says she is slowly getting used to the attending fame; however, it can still take her by surprise.

"People do recognise me a little more now," she says modestly. "But if I'm at the grocery store in jeans and a ponytail and someone asks, 'Are you Christina Hendricks?' my first reaction is, 'Did I just drop my ID?"' she says, laughing.

"It's those moments when I think my life has changed on every single level and I have to say," she says, pushing a loose pin back into her perfectly coiffed hair, "I'm absolutely loving it."

Sydney Morning Herald