Long before Jennifer Beals was crowned the unofficial spokeswoman for same-sex partners by starring as Bette Porter on The L Word, a Showtime drama about lesbians and their relationship woes, before graduating from Yale with an honours graduate degree in American Literature and before becoming mom to her four-year old daughter, came a small 1983 movie about a small-town dancer you might have heard of – Flashdance.
At 46, Beals is definitely dancing to a new tune. Dressed in dark jeans paired with a black-and-white striped top, the actress sits in the makeup chair painting a picture of tranquility and contentment. “I love getting my eyelashes curled,” she shares softly. “It’s like giving them a massage and stretch.” These days, the Chicago native’s career is on an uphill trajectory. With her current role on the FOX series Lie To Me, a co-starring role alongside Denzel Washington in next year’s The Book of Eli, and a coffee table charity book chronicling her L Word years, Beals has got new acclaims coming her way – and that’s already on top of a career that includes diverse performances with Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Kelsey Grammer and many more.
Being mom to her daughter takes centre stage in her heart and home. “By nature, I am a hermit,” she admits. “Only by being a mother have I been forced out into the world that I was so able to shut myself off from before.” However, entering this elite club of motherhood has also forced Beals to take a look at her own longevity in a different light. “When I’m on a bike and going down the mountain, I don’t go as fast so I don’t quite push the limits as much as I did previously.” In some ways though Beals is still the accomplished actress who takes on challenges both on and off the screen. “I read a script recently and the woman [Penny Chenery] is a champion barrel racer, so I started
barrel racing, which is incredibly hard, but so much fun.” In fact, Beals has come a long way from her childhood dream after seeing the racing legend and her Secretariat’s Triple Crown win. “I wanted to be a jockey then, but I started to get too tall,” she remembers, “and in high school I exercised polo ponies.” These days, Beals keeps her fit 5’8″ body toned with regular running and bike riding. “I’ll run anywhere from five kilometres to 18 kilometres, depending on how much time I have. Sometimes I’ll just put on my running shoes and tell myself I’m going for a walk in the woods to just relax; before I know it, I’m running through the woods.”
Always enjoying some form of running, distance runs came to the actress rather late in life. It wasn’t until she had her daughter that Beals found the discipline to go the distance. “I think childbirth really puts a whole new spin on the idea of pain,” she laughs. “But I learned something a friend taught me before I gave birth where she said don’t try and take your mind away from the pain. Go right in the centre of the pain because when she did that, she found the pain dissipated. It’s true, for me anyway, but it’s not always possible, I admit. It has become a valuable exercise to apply to different things in life, of not avoiding or disregarding pain or bad feelings. I just have to remember that nothing in life is ever stagnant and that this grief or ache is going to change because everything in life changes.” Now Beals runs triathlons on occasion. “I found if I can give birth without any drugs, I could get through a triathlon.