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"Life begins at 40, and I'm living proof," says Mariska, who married actor Peter Hermann the year she turned 40 and gave birth to her son, August, two years later. "I have a more developed sense of my priorities. Life has so much more meaning now. To me, the definition of sexy—at any age—is strength and confidence." Embrace your age: celebrity beauty secrets for your 20s, 30s & 40s
"I definitely have my days where I look like I got dressed in the dark," says Mariska, but the simplest change is often the most powerful. Rather than wearing the usual ponytail and jeans, she'll blow-dry her hair and put on a dress. "I get to work and people will say, ‘You look so pretty today.' Femininity found!" Find your femininity with these instant makeovers for your hair, face and body
Nine years ago, Mariska had her "aha moment." She was swimming with dolphins on vacation when, "I literally came out of the water and said out loud, ‘I'm going to start a foundation [learn more about The Joyful Heart Foundation here
]—and I'm going to get married!' I hadn't even met my future husband yet," says Mariska. "I'm a ready-shoot-aim kind of gal." She met Peter six months later.
"Exercise has always been a big part of my life," says Mariska. "In the summer I swim, the rest of the time I work with a trainer. But, it's the little things that add up," she says. "When I'm standing around on set, I try to hold in my belly and tuck in my hips, which strengthens my core. And I live in New York, so I'm always walking around the city."
"Comedy and humor have always been a part of who I am," she says. So is spending time with friends—like comedian Ali Wentworth—who make her smile. "Humor is about perspective, and hanging out with people who see life through a similar lens is so important."
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How did Mariska Hargitay get so comfortable in her own skin? She shares her secrets to healthy living and feeling sexy—inside and out.