How do I look?: Sydney Poitier

Actress, age 34

Interview,Rebecca Armstrong
Saturday 12 January 2008 01:00
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I'm pretty tall – five foot ten. Most of my younger life I felt very uncomfortable with my height but as I've grown up, I've grown into it. I even wear high heels now when I go out – I think they give me a more confident stature. I have dark curly hair which is very long; it goes down to my lower back, like Rapunzel. I've had really long hair for most of my life although I cut it short when I was about 15 – for the first and only time. Now I just let it do what it wants to. As a little girl I was very into clothes and fashion. I was more of a girly girl – not a tomboy – and I definitely would get excited when my mom would take me out shopping. When I was a teenager, it was a case of the funkier the outfit the better.

My older sister Anika and I were always reinventing our clothes by cutting them up and then trying to put them back together in a different way. It was the Eighties and I was really influenced by the punk-rock look and never went anywhere without my ripped jeans. I used to wear big shoulder pads and be dripping in lamé and generally go around looking grotesquely overdone. I had a make-up palette called "Art Eyes" which consisted of geometric transfers that I put all over my face.

My mother was really good about letting me wear what I wanted as a teenager – she let me go all out and be as creative as I wanted to be but there were times when my dad [the actor Sidney Poitier] would say to me and my sister, "You girls really have to reel it in." There were certain places where we'd go and our shredded-up jeans were a no-no. When I'm out with my sister now we sometimes get asked if we're twins, which is ironic because I look exactly like my dad and she looks exactly like my mom, Joanna. Up until maybe six or seven years ago, people would come up to me all the time and ask if I was related to Sidney Poitier, just based on the fact that they thought I looked like him.

The problem with being an actress is that it makes you focus too much on how you look. That mentality is everywhere in Los Angeles and I have to remind myself that that's not what life is about. If you get too wrapped up in your appearance then you're focusing on something insignificant – what's important to me is the character that I'm playing. Vanity gets in the way of that and it makes your performance suffer. Ten years ago, very few actresses had stylists – people would dress themselves when they had a premiere to go to. But nowadays image has become so important to everyone. It's taken the individual out of the picture – I used to love to watch award shows because people would come dressed how they liked. I have to tip my hat to Cher who would wear outrageous outfits. Now, you only see beautiful gowns on beautiful people and I wish they would shake it up a little bit. Everybody strives to look beautiful, elegant and styled – with help from their stylists and hair and make-up artists – but I really admire the people who do their own thing.

I try to accept the body I've been given and appreciate the fact that I'm healthy rather than thinking about aspects of my appearance that I'd like to change. Plastic surgery isn't my style at all – all that nipping and tucking has gone way out of hand in the States. Everyone here is taking on a very similar look and I find it really disturbing.

A life in brief

Sydney Poitier was born on 15 November 1973 in Los Angeles, California. An actress and the daughter of the eminent actor Sidney Poitier, she has been working in the industry for 10 years, and in 2004 produced Devil Cats, a film written and directed by her older sister, Anika. She lives in Los Angeles and features in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, which is released on DVD on Monday. She will appear in the forthcoming movie version of Knight Rider.

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