Jaclyn Smith

She’s strong, independent and beautiful,
a survivor who remains angelic and ageless.

By Allan Richter

July/August 2009

Until “Charlie’s Angels” was broadcast in 1976, television had relegated women to roles as housewives or, if they worked at all, low-wage earners. “We were three women in lead roles and we were financially and emotionally independent,” recounts actress Jaclyn Smith of the pop-culture phenomenon. “Even though at times the show was put down by critics who said we were Barbie dolls, we weren’t. We were very strongly independent.”

Smith, the only “Charlie’s Angels” actress to stay with the show for its entire five-year run, has built her career on independent moves that bucked trends or broke ground. After “Charlie’s Angel’s,” she went on to earn the title of Queen of the Mini Series for playing in widely watched dramas and biopics about historical figures like Jackie Kennedy and Florence Nightingale.

“We’ve watched each other grow and have children and divorce and marry again. We’re there for one another,” Smith says of the “Charlie’s Angels” cast.

While her “Angels” costar Kate Jackson portrayed the show’s “smart” sleuth, and Farrah Fawcett the stunning beauty, Smith’s Kelly Garrett was no slouch in either the brains or beauty department. That was apparently not a stretch for the productive actress. With a hint of a Texas twang, the Houston-bred Smith has parlayed her savvy entrepreneurial spirit, wholesome beauty and sense of style into a multifaceted career.

Continuing her acting and making a foray into competitive reality TV as hostess of the hair beauty show “Shear Genius,” Smith has also become one of the most recognizable celebrity pitchwomen of her own branded merchandise.

Long before it became routine for celebrities to parade their wares on cable shopping shows, Smith promoted her own branded merchandise and broke with a tradition of celebrities endorsing products not their own. Her marketing deal with Kmart, for her women’s apparel and home furnishings, dates back more than two decades. A dog lover who has had her pets treated with acupuncture, Smith says she is about to unleash a natural and organic pet care line.

Her demanding schedule alone does not drive her careful health regimen: She is a seven-year breast cancer survivor.

Smith donates some sales from her woman’s apparel line to breast cancer research. She has toured the country with the Strength in Knowing: The Facts and Fiction of Breast Cancer Risk program to help women understand breast cancer risk factors and learn to avoid potential missteps by not rushing into medical decisions and ensuring that women facing the disease have a support network.

Smith knows firsthand the strength of giving and receiving such support. Her mother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. And her “Charlie’s Angels” costars have faced cancer and illness. Jackson is a two-time breast cancer survivor who also had an atrial septal defect, a tiny hole in her heart, while Fawcett has been enduring anal cancer. “We all started together as young girls,” Smith says of her “Angels” costars. “Well maybe we weren’t that young but we felt young. We’ve watched each other grow and have children and divorce and marry again. We’re there for one another.”

At 62, Smith remains as beautiful and energetic as in her days as a fledgling dancer and actress. Smith spoke with Energy Times from her Los Angeles home.

Energy Times: You’ve bucked the trend or charted some new territory at least several times. What do you attribute your resolve and independence to?

Jaclyn Smith: I think I was fortunate to have great role models growing up. I had this incredibly wonderful ideal family. I was fortunate to have wonderful examples before me. That’s important, when your family is secure and your parents love one another. It’s a bonus.

ET: You started your career as a dancer, and there’s a wonderful insight on your website. You say it’s perhaps your dancer’s sense of balance that keeps the many facets of your life in harmony. Tell me about dance and the role it plays in your health regimen.

JS: I’m now incorporating into my exercise regimen a class with my daughter. I think it’s called “Ballet Yoga Booty” so you do a little bit of everything, but you’re moving for that solid hour. It’s really fun and something for me to do with her. I love it because it’s aerobic without making you wish that it was over already.

I also run my dogs in the park, which is better for me then being on a treadmill. A lot of people love treadmills; it’s good if you have to do your exercise late at night and you have one in your home and you get on. I don’t love a treadmill, but I try to do it.

Right now I do a lot of Pilates and I incorporate some yoga in that. When I do my Pilates, it’s just so much a part of me, the body awareness and dance. I truly love that and the inventiveness of the machine. You can’t get the stretches it gives you on your own so I’m a real believer in that. After a certain age you have to watch bone loss, so weight-resisting exercise really helps in that area. You should exercise all your life. If you don’t use it, you lose it. But after 40, there are some things happening. Mammo­grams begin after age 40, and maybe that’s a good time to pay closer
attention to bone density.

ET: What diet or vitamin regimen do you embrace to ensure healthy bones?

JS: I do calcium and vitamin D, which is very popular today. I just met with a doctor yesterday about bone density and he was telling me that taking vitamin D or having it in your calcium is really good.

I take…glucosamine and chondroitin, because dancers’ bodies take some abuse. As you get older your joints are affected by dance, and I have two torn meniscus, one in each knee. But also I’m on [medicine that] cuts down 70% of recurrence of breast cancer, and that can cause some bone loss and some stiffness so I take the glucosamine and chondroitin.

ET: What about diet? Walk me through a typical day’s meals.

JS: I’m very low fat in my diet; you know a high-fat diet can lead to all sorts of cancer. I’m also married to a pediatric heart surgeon who is very into a low-fat diet and has been an incredible influence on how I think about food choices.

On a normal day I’d eat oatmeal with blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and I have this whole-wheat toast with no sugar and no butter added. It has raisins and walnuts, which provide the sugar and the fat, but still it’s very healthy and I slice it thin. Then I have a fresh glass of orange juice. I do have coffee in the morning with non-fat milk. Then I have papaya or mango so I’m getting a lot of fruits and vegetables in my diet.

For lunch, sometimes I’ll just have an apple-carrot-celery juice and some almonds because I eat a very early dinner usually, unless I’m going out. If I’m going out I might have a piece of chicken or a chicken sandwich but I’m very aware. I don’t eat mayonnaise anymore. There’s a “lemonaise” that’s like a mayonnaise but you substitute and it’s very low in fat. So if I have a lunch meeting I could eat a salad. I love salads. I love fresh live food, but normally what would hold me is an apple-carrot-celery juice, some almonds, some dried apricots, and then I eat an early dinner.

The early dinner last night was salmon, asparagus, couscous and butter lettuce salad. Very healthy.

Tonight dinner could be roast pork with apples, or a roasted chicken, not a lot of red meat. I do eat red meat. I’m not going to give up my hamburger. I love them, being a Texas girl, but I just don’t overdo it. We might do a filet roast. It’s one of my favorites. Very tender, very lean. I don’t really go overboard with cream sauces. I would go with tomato sauces in my pasta rather then a cream sauce, which I do miss I must admit to you. I just don’t do a lot of foods high in fat.

ET: What specific changes did you make as a result of your husband’s influence?

JS: Say if there’s bread on a table when you’re going out to dinner, I used to put butter on it; it tastes just as good without butter. I used to put butter on my corn; the corn frankly is better without the butter.

So I just cut out a lot of the fats. I don’t order fettucini alfredo; I order angel hair pomodoro. I just have rethought a lot of it. It’s not like I’m starving myself by any means.

ET: Do you eat organic foods?

JS: Yes, all organic. My husband doesn’t believe in that as much as I do, but when I get the blueberries and the fruit and whole foods it’s just better. Any meat I eat has no antibiotics, no preservatives and no hormones.

ET: How did your health habits change after breast cancer?

JS: I became very aware, but I was always aware. I saw a study that said French fries cause cancer. I gave up French fries. That’s a little eccentric and crazy, and even my husband said a French fry won’t hurt you. So I baked French fries at home, and they’re just as good. You slice, bake and season them. I became very aware of exercising because there’s a study out that said if you exercise three to four times a week and get your heart rate up there’s a lower incidence of breast cancer.

ET: You weren’t living a particularly unhealthy lifestyle before breast cancer, so you didn’t have to make dramatic changes.

JS: No, no. I live very clean; never touched a drug, I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I’ve always been physically active. So, no, that wasn’t hard for me.

ET: What do you want women to know about breast cancer?

JS: Women don’t realize that as they get older the incidence of breast cancer goes up. Just being female and getting older puts you at greater risk. The majority of the cases, over 80%, are women without a family history. I think women get to a certain age and say “Oh, I’m out of the woods,” and they even stop doing their mammograms.

My mother just had a lumpectomy in each breast. They stopped giving her mammograms. I don’t know how that happened. She lives in Houston; I live here. I had assumed they were giving her the mammograms. She didn’t spend a day in the hospital but she’s in her 90s and she came out fine.

Women need to do self-examinations. They need to do their yearly mammograms. They need to be aware that just being female and getting older puts them at greater risk. Women have to be good to themselves. They keep the family together so they need to take care of themselves.

ET: Tell me about what happened on the day you were diagnosed with breast cancer, and how that experience led to two of the key lessons you learned—don’t rush into medical decisions and make sure you have a support system in place?

JS: That day I went and said, “I need to meet the surgeon; I want to have a mastectomy.” Well little did I know that a lumpectomy with radiation, especially in my situation, was more effective than doing a mastectomy. I just went a little coo-coo. I was supposed to go the next week to New York with my daughter, and I thought, “I’ve got to get this [mastectomy] done.” I just wanted to move on like nothing had happened. I was just like, “Okay, I’m going to take care of this and continue my life just the way it was.”

In fact, I needed to have the lumpectomy and do radiation. When you have a biopsy…you definitely need to go there with somebody to get your results because you don’t hear what they are saying. It’s very surreal. Your world is not spinning right. It’s frightening and you have to take in so much and educate yourself in a way that you didn’t want to educate yourself.

ET: At the start of this interview, you spoke about deriving self-esteem from your parents. What healthy family practice imparts that strength to your children?

JS: One of my favorite times of the day is right before the sun goes down and it’s been so lovely and warm, we’ve been eating outside and it’s just great. I’ve always been a believer with my family, since my children were very young, to eat, to really dine together, and not in front of a TV. We eat either at the kitchen table, the dining room table or outside, but it is our time to talk and communicate. Even when they were going to school we’d sit at the breakfast table in the morning. High school was a little more rushed and sometimes I’d have to fix them a little toast, sliced apple and then head out, but dinner was always together. Even in the summers we’d have our lovely time to sit down at the table and talk.

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