Enjoying a 40-year career that shows no signs of slowing down, Oscar-nominee Sharon Stone reflects on taking agency over her rich life.
Dress, shoes, Zuhair Murad Haute Couture. Photo: Nima Benati. Vogue Arabia, September 2022
Close your eyes and think of Sharon Stone, the glamorous Hollywood star, the preternaturally beautiful icon, and AIDS-research crusader. A household name in almost every household, one word I’m certain you would never use to describe Stone is “invisible.” But that’s exactly why the 64-year-old actress tells me she recently posted a picture of herself poolside in her West Hollywood home on Instagram. My first question to Stone, as a way to break the ice on a crackly Zoom call, was what she’d made of the huge reaction to what I described as a photo of the star “topless.”
“I wasn’t topless,” she corrects me rather sternly. “I had on my bikini bottoms and a beach towel over my shoulders. I posted it because I feel like women become invisible once we become moms and you’re 45 and people walk by you like you’re not there,” she tells me of the photo taken by a friend. I can hear the frustration in her voice grow as she describes how women feel tossed aside after a certain age, at the dreaded intersection of ageism and sexism. In response, she says, she and some of her friends have made a conscious decision to form a “joyful sisterhood” to support each other, instead of responding in anger, because “life doesn’t always make you feel like a winner as you grow older.”
It’s hard to imagine someone who appears on magazine covers, wearing couture looks by top designers like Zuhair Murad and Dolce & Gabbana, feeling anything but delighted with her appearance. “At one point I had a wire cage that came down over my face all the way to my nose that had plucked feathers on it,” she describes excitedly of a Valentino look during her Vogue Arabia shoot for this month’s issue. Photographed by Nima Benati, the shoot took place in the legendary Dawnridge estate, the California home of late set designer Tony Duquette. Stone lives just next door to the abode once belonging to the behind-the-scenes icon of Hollywood’s golden age. Perhaps that’s why for so many women, especially those who’ve reached middle age, the Oscar-nominated actress is such an inspiration: her staying power and glamor still give the rest of us hope that we can be striking at any age.
Coat, Ashi Studio. Photo: Nima Benati. Vogue Arabia, September 2022
No one lasts four decades in cut-throat Hollywood on looks alone, and Stone has always been about much more than her beauty. She regularly makes waves by speaking her mind in the kind of unvarnished way that might make her publicists a bit nervous. When I reached out to designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who used the star as the face of their Devotion handbag collection, shot in Venice and with Stone flanked by hunky male models, they told me she is a “timeless beauty, embodying a daring, authentic femininity.”
Why, I ask her, is she considered brave? She mulls her answer so long I worry our Zoom call dropped. “Because I’m comfortable with myself,” she answers deliberately, “and I don’t feel personally oppressed. I think I can probably speak for you and the rest of the female planet when I say that there’s a giant effort to make us not feel free and to feel oppressed. And I don’t go for it.”
This is the Sharon Stone of today. The woman who’s been in the entertainment industry for over 40 years, but who’s not always had the status – and hindsight – she enjoys now. In her 2021 memoir The Beauty of Living Twice, I found myself getting progressively angrier as Stone, even at the height of her fame, describes shocking behavior from male industry bosses, including one director who refused to shoot her scenes if she didn’t sit on his lap. Or that the actor approval clauses in her contracts were routinely ignored. She also writes of being advised to sleep with one of her male co-stars to establish on-screen chemistry. The power she describes men had in the industry in the pre-#MeToo era struck me as being about more than creative control – it was also used to demean and infantilize women.
Coat, tights, Schiaparelli Haute Couture. Photo: Nima Benati. Vogue Arabia, September 2022
Stone’s upbringing probably helped the star push back against some of the most egregious behavior she faced on the road to becoming the established Hollywood veteran she is today. In her memoir, she describes growing up in Meadville, Pennsylvania, a tough American town “where hookers and heroin and everything bad got dropped off and no one looked back.” There, Stone learned not just to fight back, but to fight on. After a first small role in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories in 1980, Stone appeared in dozens of films – some better than others and some worse than – before starring in Basic Instinct at the age of 34.
When I mention in passing that I am taking a break from my job as a CNN TV anchor and correspondent to write a book, the conversation turns to being a woman in the news industry. I tell her I’ve never worked at a network led by a female boss. “Insane,” she remarks, “and I’m sorry. I was married into the news business and I know exactly how masculine and oppressive it is.” [Stone was married for six years to former San Francisco Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein, with whom she adopted her eldest son Roan shortly before she suffered a stroke in 2001.]
Surely, I tell Stone, we’ve made progress in the post-#MeToo era? “When they’re saying that rape victims have to have their baby, I think you have to be very clear that women’s rights are on pretty thin ice,” she says, referring to the Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade in the United States and efforts at the state level to pass laws restricting a woman’s right to have an abortion. “What’s happening now is the absolute, dramatic backlash to #MeToo.”
Cape, Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda. Photo: Nima Benati. Vogue Arabia, September 2022
“So, what needs to happen now?” I ask her. “I really grew up in the country and if you get kidnapped and put in a hole in a barn by a hillbilly, that’s when you’re in real trouble. That’s kind of what’s happening now. We’re like in a hole in a barn with a bunch of hillbillies,” Stone says. The backlash to #MeToo is like a “rabid animal: you step back from it and, you know, wait until someone puts it down.”
Despite the setbacks and what Stone calls “a very weird time in the world,” she says women can be more empowered now more than they have ever been. She and some of her female friends, she tells me, decided that now was the time to take creative risks. Stone is currently writing her second book, a thriller. “I’m, like, at 190 pages so I’ve just hired an editor to put some meat on the bone and finish it.”
She’s also taken up painting again after giving herself the “gift” of a studio during the Covid lockdown. She tells me that she worked until 6.30am on her art the night before our interview. An exhibit of her abstract expressionism watercolors is in the works this fall, possibly in Switzerland, with up to 50 of her pieces. She is also writing a country music album for Quincy Jones Productions.
Dress, Elie Saab Haute Couture. Photo: Nima Benati. Vogue Arabia, September 2022
As for acting, Stone has appeared in successful television series with guest roles that have not gone unnoticed. Ryan Murphy cast her as the eccentric heiress Lenore Osgood in the dark and moody Ratched, and she played Kaley Cuoco’s mother in the second season of The Flight Attendant. During a particularly emotional scene, Stone’s character strikes her on-screen daughter in what Cuoco publicly called an “unscripted” slap. “Kaley turned it into a very big deal,” Stone tells me, adding that she warned her co-star she might hit her before the scene. “I actually wrote to her and said I felt like if she was going to discuss the process in public, she could have discussed it with me first, particularly in a cancel culture period.” Through her agent, Cuoco emailed me that Stone “didn’t miss a beat” and that playing opposite her made her “raise her game.”
I ask Stone about life in LA with her three sons, Roan, Laird, and Quinn, whom she adopted after being unable to conceive. (Twenty-two-year-old Roan trained as a chef at the Institute of Culinary Education.) “I have four,” she offers bluntly. “I took in another kid during Covid whose parent died. It’s my son’s friend, and he came to live with us when his father died.” Her path to motherhood was arduous and painful. In an Instagram comment she posted in June, the Basic Instinct star said she’d suffered nine miscarriages, traumatic experiences that women sometimes “bear alone and secretly with some kind of sense of failure.” A British miscarriage association campaigner described Stone’s revelation as a “gift” that could help support women as they grieve the loss of an unborn child.
“I think I would have had more kids if I had a partner,” she muses, unprompted. So how does one of the most desirable women in the world date? Two years ago, she made headlines when the dating app Bumble deactivated her account because they thought someone had opened a catfish profile with stolen Sharon Stone photos. She eventually closed her account anyway because she’s not what she calls an “algorithm dater.” Dating must come naturally, she tells me, “when you meet someone, and you have things in common and you have chemistry.”
Cape, body, headpiece, shoes, gloves, Valentino Haute Couture. Photo: Nima Benati. Vogue Arabia, September 2022
The subject of Stone’s romantic life came up again when I asked her how someone so at her peak deals with the inevitability of aging and of her looks fading. It’s painful enough for us mere mortals, I say, but is it more difficult for stunners like her? “There were periods in the super fame when I got Botox and filler and stuff and then I had this massive stroke and a nine-day brain hemorrhage and then I had to have over 300 shots of Botox and filler to make the one side of my face come up again,” she says. The near-fatal experience in 2001, an event she wrote about in the powerful first chapter of The Beauty of Living Twice, gave her a new outlook on anti-aging procedures that went from being a “cute luxury to some kind of massive, painful neurological need.”
Incidentally, it was the subject of injectables that contributed to ending what she describes as a casual romantic relationship the Oscar nominee had with a younger man over the last couple of years. “‘You don’t use Botox or anything, do you?’ he asked. And I said, ‘It would probably be really good for your ego and mine if I did,’” she tells me. “I saw him one more time after that and then he wasn’t interested in seeing me anymore.” There is a quiet duality at play here when Stone, outwardly confident and in control, tells a story highlighting the agist undercurrent that underpins so much of a woman’s life beyond middle age. “If you don’t see me for more than that, you’ll please find your way to the exit,” she adds.
My husband, who’d helped me set up the Zoom call, was listening intently. I’d heard him chuckle a few times at some of the things Stone said. Her turn of phrase, her candor, her sometimes filterless observations slightly altered a picture I had in my mind of the glamorous actress. Beyond the movie star and the glitz, she is just a fun gal to chat with for a while. As we approach the end of the interview, I ask her if there is anything she wants to leave in the past or is tired of talking about. I put the question to Stone, almost certain I know the answer. I don’t wait for her to say it: “Basic Instinct?” I offer tentatively. “Well, I don’t know the point. It was 30 years ago. I don’t have anything left to say. There are many more things to talk about from, you know, this century,” she chuckles. Now, Stone says, is the time to embrace the next chapter. “I feel like this is the most exciting and creative period of my life. I feel really, really happy. I’ve never been this joyful.”
Originally published in the September 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia
Style: Paris LibbyFashion director: Amine JreissatiHair: Sebastian ScolariciMakeup artist: Amy OresmanPhotography assistant: Luca Trelancia and Juliet LamberOn-ground production: AGPNYCCreative producer: Sam AllisonLocation: Tony Duquette’s Dawnridge
Read Next: Editor’s Letter: Why Our September 2022 Issue Celebrates Post-Pandemic and Circular Fashion