The real Natalie

In the October issue of Her World, this A-list actress talks about doing charity work and what effect motherhood has had on her. Here is an excerpt from the piece by Genevieve Jiang. 

Natalie Portman may be one of the most sought-after actresses on the planet currently, but there is a side of the Hollywood superstar that is unexpectedly... real.

Confession No. 1: She goes out and is caught on camera without make-up - almost all the time. "Yes, it's a habit that makes some people scream," she says with a laugh.

Confession No. 2: She picks at her skin - almost constantly. "My mum is like: 'Stop touching your face!' Yup, that's pretty bad."

Confession No. 3: No eight-step beauty routine for this A-lister. Hers is surprisingly pared down and simple. "I cleanse and moisturise, drink water and try to get enough sleep. That's it."

I meet the Oscar-winning star in Tokyo to celebrate the 60th birthday of one of the world's most iconic lipsticks, Rouge Dior, for which Portman is the latest face.

Clad in a bright red Dior dress with her hair tucked neatly behind her ears, the 32-year-old is a picture of elegance and glamour. Her choice of lip colour - a hot red Rouge Dior - and a shade she associates with "passion, confidence, seduction and strength".

"I love wearing red lipstick especially when I'm in Paris, or when I'm on a dinner date or out dancing with my hubby. It makes me feel very womanly," Portman says. And that is as far as smooth PR-speak goes.

Throughout our 20-minute interview, I am pleasantly surprised by how likeably down-to-earth, and practically normal, the actress comes across.

Ask her to describe herself in five words, and Portman draws a blank. "Erm... worried, happy, tired," she says, then pauses and laughs awkwardly. "I don't know why this is so hard for me (another pause). Curious, and possibly, smiley?"

What about the things she cannot leave home without? Like you and me, these are her handphone and wallet, of course.

Her beauty must-have? Nothing fancy.

Just pawpaw ointment, a humble, affordable multipurpose cream-gel - it can be used as a lip balm or a moisturiser, or to soothe irritated skin - that can be found in pharmacies.

"It's great for mums. Sometimes, I use it on my son too."

HELPING UNDERPRIVILEGED KIDS

On filming the ad campaign for Rouge Dior, she says that looking glamorous is hard work. "I had to swing the bag to and fro so many times while walking, and I looked quite silly at times. Modelling is totally different from acting. As a model, you have to see yourself from the outside and make sure you look good, whereas when you're acting, you have to be in character and unaware of anything else."

Portman has been working with Dior to raise funds for Free The Children, a charity that helps underprivileged kids around the world. Last year, proceeds from the sale of Rouge Dior in #169 Nude Grege, a shade Portman describes as her "everyday nude", went to a scholarship fund for secondary school girls in Kenya.

This year, the brand will sponsor five children from Fukushima, Japan, who will get to attend a leadership camp in Canada. These children are survivors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster following a major earthquake in 2011.

"I realise how lucky I am and I want to share that luck with other people to make a difference. We are the 1 per cent of the population that has the opportunity and privilege to not worry about our next meal, have proper health care and a roof over our heads. We take these for granted, not realising that there are millions out there who don't have these basic needs."

She admits that motherhood has fuelled her passion to help kids. Portman is married to dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, whom she met on the set of Black Swan in 2009. The couple have a two-year-old boy, Aleph.

These days, spending time with her husband and son is what makes her truly happy. But the protective mum is fiercely private about her family life, declining to share details.

As to whether there are plans for a second child, she says: "It's private, but I'll let you know when it happens, if it happens!"

The October issue of Her World, published by SPH Magazines, is available on newsstands now.

This excerpt was published on The Straits Times Urban on Oct 11, 2013.


Get a copy of Urban, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.