How Naomi Watts Balances Acting, Business, Parenting, Wellness, and Philanthropy
Even for a star of her magnitude, this fearless actor still relishes pushing the envelope on-screen and in real life and being an unstoppable force for good.
You've been seeing a lot of Naomi Watts lately. And from pretty much every angle: as a devious queen in the movie Ophelia, a female-centric retelling of Hamlet; as crusading Fox News co-host Gretchen Carlson in the glossy, ripped-from-the-headlines Showtime series The Loudest Voice; and as a mom in crisis mode over her adoptive African son in the big-screen drama Luce.
Welcome to Naomi's world, where her body of work reflects not only her impressive acting range but also her unbound curiosity. For example, Luce hits on so many incendiary topics—race, school violence, sexual assault, snowplow parenting—that Naomi couldn't resist taking the role. "The truth is, we're all flawed," she says. "I like exploring how a focus shifts. You start to question: Who are we rooting for?"
You could say Naomi, at 50, is more boss than ever. She's juggling full Hollywood dance card and raising two kids (she co-parents Sasha, 12, and Kai, 10, with actor Liev Schreiber, her former longtime partner) while becoming a clean-beauty mogul with boutique shop and spa Onda Beauty. "We're not just artists anymore. This is a business, and you have to think in that way," she says. "I've kind of always been a planner and a list maker, someone who knows how to read people and put people together." She launched Onda by connecting two friends—a beauty maven and an entrepreneur—and playing guinea pig. "They started sending me the products, and I was experimenting and continuing to immerse myself in the clean-beauty world," she says. Soon she was all in as a partner—with a high-beam complexion. (More on how she gets it later.)
On top of all that, for many years Naomi has been a globe-trotting ambassador for UNAIDS, the United Nations organization fighting the spread of HIV and AIDS. "Living in the '90s in the fashion world and losing friends was just incredibly upsetting," she says of what compelled her to throw her weight behind the cause of ending the AIDS epidemic as a health threat.
We caught up with her on the cusp of her rush of summer releases. For such a packed life, Naomi keeps it real with an approach that's relatably laid-back. Be ready to take notes.
Confidently Go Low-Fuss with Your Look
"I'm not very good at putting on makeup or doing my hair, to be honest. I'm a five-minute girl with getting dressed. So the least amount of makeup is the best for me—I use about four products. I'm big on eyebrows, so I pencil those in. I don't do mascara because my eyes are sensitive. I also love the Beautycounter blush stick and lipsticks. Its Dew Skin tinted moisturizer is a game-changing product for me—I like to be able to see the skin breathe. And I can do all that in the car." (Related: 3 Hair Pros Share Their Low-Maintenance Hair Routines)
Come Clean About Your Beauty Regimen
"I'm not a five-minute girl with my skin. My skin has become extra sensitive and reactive, so I realized that I needed to cut out the chemicals that were in the products I was using. Keeping it clean is really key. That means a double cleanse with the right cleanser: an oil cleanser for removing eye makeup, followed by a milk cleanser—I like one from Tammy Fender. Then I'll do a mist, followed by a face oil—Saint Jane has a lovely CBD [cannabidiol] one that's just great for reducing redness and inflammation. Sometimes I mix the oil with a moisturizer—I like the one from Dr. Barbara Sturm—or with the spray mist to sort of press it in. Then obviously I use sunscreen on top." (Related: What's the Difference Between Clean and Natural Beauty Products?)
Be Big-Picture About What You Eat
"The minute I put myself in any kind of constraint with eating, I'll end up rebelling and not doing the right thing. So I allow myself room for naughty and nice. I grew up in the '70s, and my mom was a hippie in the day who baked her own bread and made vegetarian dishes. So that's my comfort food. Superhealthy. It's what I crave.
When I was first trying to get pregnant, I cut out a lot of wheat, sugar, and dairy in my diet—and I remember drinking tons of wheatgrass juice. So I've tried to stay with that, but there's wiggle room. It doesn't mean I won't eat french fries. I'm done with wheatgrass juice, though. In fact, it may make me gag just thinking about it."
Put In Time Building Your Strength
"I love the feeling of exercising. But the days of getting up at 4 or 5 a.m. to work out are long gone for me. I'm not fanatical, so I change it up. I love yoga, and I have a Pilates Reformer in the house. Also, as you get older, you have to work harder to keep muscle tone, so that's why I do strength training with weights. Not the three-pound kind but with higher-level weights using barbells. I have a trainer, because I can't exercise very well if I'm not being instructed. It's as if I suddenly develop amnesia: I can't remember any moves. And nobody is watching, so I'm not going to care if I do three instead of 20." (Related: How Often Should You Do Heavy Weight Lifting Workouts?)
Give Your Energy to a Great Purpose
"When UNAIDS wrote to me with the invitation, it just made complete sense. They wanted me to address the issue here in the U.S. as well as worldwide. I felt privileged to be able to help in Zambia [on a 2006 UNAIDS fact-finding mission] and to see how hard people were working there to make it better. In the last 10 years that I've been working with UNAIDS, people have been getting hold of the antiretroviral drugs, so there's [significantly reduced] transference from mother to child. We still need to do more and remove the stigma, but it's great to have witnessed such a positive change."