Reese Witherspoon on Hollywood, heirlooms, and family traditions

With her Southern charms and irresistible smile, Reese Witherspoon is one of Hollywood’s original sweethearts. Raised by her mother and grandmother to appreciate crochet and vintage porcelain, Witherspoon started out as a child actress before waltzing her way into our hearts in her film debut, Man In The Moon.

More than just a pretty face, the Legally Blonde star was accepted in Stanford, but quit early to pursue an acting career. She got married at age 21 and had her first baby a year later. Now at 41, Witherspoon has an established career, a lovely family, an Oscar to her name, and a production company with more than 40 projects in the works. She also launched a successful clothing company, and is more bubbly and inspiring than ever.

When did you decide to be an actress?

When I was probably five years old, I wanted to be Dolly Parton. I was skipping around the blacktop at school by myself, and my PE teacher said, “Why aren’t you playing the game with the other kids?” I said, “Well, Ms Wright, I’m not going to play the game because I’m going to be Dolly Parton when I grow up”.

What was it like growing up in Hollywood for you?

In my 20s, I was scared of everything. I didn’t know what my career was. I didn’t know why people liked my movies. I was wary of interacting with people. I was 25 when Legally Blonde came out, 26 for Sweet Home Alabama, and 29 for Walk the Line. And I was scared, really scared.

Do you feel more comfortable now in your 40s?

I love being in my 40s. When I saw the first cut of the show, The Big Little Lies, I saw I have wrinkles. I was like, ‘I love that I have wrinkles and I love that I’ve earned these wrinkles’. I worked really hard for these wrinkles. I think it’s an incredible thing to be on film for 25 years of your life because people grow up with you, and they age with you. As you get older, you know what you like and what you don’t like, and you’re not apologetic about it. I used to judge myself so harshly — I think women in their 20s do. But you start to realise that none of it is really all that important. As long as you’re comfortable, the best parts of yourself come through no matter what.

You’re always so well dressed, with bags and shoes coordinated. How do you do it?

First of all, I have a rule that if my teenage daughter is wearing it, I’m not supposed to be wearing it. I think it’s really important to have one dress that you know you look good in. Make sure you ask your girlfriends. I usually ask my 17-year-old daughter, and she’ll be honest with me. It all depends on her brutal honesty.

Where do you get your design inspirations for your clothing line?

I think Southern people have an inherent style. Everybody loves to get dressed up for a dinner party. It’s fun to be able to help design these dresses that I think are great party looks. I also design jewellery that I think people will really love to pass on to their daughters. It’s a very emotional thing, relying on Southern traditions and trying to carry those traditions over through the line. My grandparents, Dorothea Draper and James Witherspoon, are the inspiration behind my clothing line, Draper James. They were just incredibly generous and gracious people, but quintessentially Southern. They were always very friendly, they had a very open house, and they loved to entertain. It’s a new chapter for me starting a business, going around passing the hat, and promoting it all over the place. It’s a different experience, but I’m enjoying learning something new. I’ve been acting for about 25 years, and I still love it. But I like the challenge of trying something else, too.

How important is jewellery to you?

It’s very important. The minute you put on the shoes, the dress, the jewellery, they can change the way you walk and the way you hold your body. My grandmother bought me a Tiffany lock necklace with my initials on it, so that’s always a special memory. I wore that in Legally Blonde. I started working with Tiffany because they hired their first female creative design director. Tiffany just knows what women love, which is gorgeous jewellery, statement jewellery, but also everyday jewellery.

Which is your favourite piece from Tiffany?

I love the necklace that I wore to the MET Gala. It was inspired by the 20s, but also had a contemporary sensibility. It was kind of sexy.

If we could peek into your jewellery box what would we find that you’re proud of?

I have a few pieces from my grandmother, a few bracelets and rings. There’s nothing more special than being able to pass on jewellery to your daughter. It’s a beautiful tradition. My mother gave me her jewellery, my grandmother gave me hers, and I’ll give my mine to my daughter.