When Lynda Carter was a teenager in Phoenix, Arizona, she began taking singing lessons with a coach who lived on an Indian reservation and practiced homeopathic medicine. Seeing Carter singing onstage today is a testament to the impact of those lessons. At a recent gig at the New York cabaret Feinstein’s, Carter wore a black tuxedo-fashioned outfit with a vest ending at her beltline and showed off a belly as flat as the stage she stood on. She owes much of her slender appearance, and robust energy, to a health regimen that is decidedly integrative and rooted in self-responsibility.
Many people will forever link Carter, now 59, to Wonder Woman, the 1970s heroine she played on television. But she has been singing most of her life, working with the likes of Ray Charles, Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers, George Benson and Eddie Rabbit on five CBS television variety specials. Carter lives in Maryland with her husband and two children, and we caught up with her at the Feinstein’s show to ask her about her famous character, her singing and the source of the tremendous energy she displays onstage.
Energy Times: Wonder Woman first appeared as a character in the 1940s, and you played her in the 1970s. How would Wonder Woman resonate as a feminist icon today?
Lynda Carter: She is a feminist icon, an archetype. When you’re dealing with an archetype it extends over a long period of time. How would she resonate? Well, it’s not just whipping
bad guys. She would be about quality and community and trying to work together, and not hiding under a bush.
Many people forget Wonder Woman’s alter ego, Diana Prince, so I think the answer to your question can be defined very easily by what the alter ego does. Whether she’s a senator or whatever, she brings out the big guns when all else fails. She tries to work something out or help someone in trouble. It’s not so much that she is violent; it’s more a matter of her trying to be a force for stability and good.
When you watch Diana Prince, you know she’s Wonder Woman no matter what she does. She just is who she is. She’s not thinking much of it. She’s not all full of herself thinking, “Oh, I’m just so cool.” It was the way she was born, and she doesn’t know anything different in life.
We as women are many things, too. We are wives and mothers, executives, actresses, singers and writers and artists and lawyers, doctors and politicians. But we’re also women who love and who have full and complete lives. We’re not just a one-note samba, and neither is Wonder Woman.
I usually don’t get this deep into Wonder Woman. It’s usually, “What’s your favorite episode?”
ET: What natural approaches to health do you embrace?
LC: I have a whole big regimen. My doctor tests my blood and tries to figure out what to do for my particular system. I’ve been doing some things with him to boost my immune system naturally. I take everything from CoQ10 to resveratrol. I take a lot of fish oil. I take vitamin D3. I do bee pollen and I have the wheatgrass. I do herbal teas. I kind of go in cycles; for a while I was doing the kombucha tea and I stank up my house. I usually squeeze the juice of two dozen fresh limes and I put some stevia in it; I keep that as a syrup, put some sparkling water in it, and that’s my drink. I take a very natural approach.
ET: And your diet?
LC: My breakfast is the same every morning. I have whatever organic berries are in season, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries, and I put seven or eight almonds and the same amount of pecans and walnuts in with them. Then I put some tupelo honey and almond milk on it. And I have coffee.
As for snacks, I used to be a total chocoholic; it was almost a need so I’ve gotten off of that and don’t eat so much because it tends to give me a headache. If I’m hungry I keep some homemade soups in the refrigerator or I’ll cut up some cucumber and have that with hummus. If there’s leftover salmon I’ll have that on top of a salad. One of my all-time favorite things, and they’re organic, is Bubbe’s; if you like pickles, they are ridiculously good. For my main meals I try to do all organic and grass-fed meat and chicken.
ET: Do you tailor your diet to enhance your singing in any way?
LC: I’ve been singing all my life but I gave it up when I had my children. I went back to it in November 2005. Because I had taken quite a while off, in these concerts I was getting worn out and my voice wasn’t where I wanted it to be. So I gave up all gluten and mucus-making foods. I gave up milk and all dairy except for butter because the amount of butter you use isn’t significant. I really cut way down on bread and grains; I have a little bit. But it’s really the dairy that you worry about as a singer. Your vocal cords can get sticky. I don’t believe in skim milk; they take out everything that could possibly be good and leave all the steroids and hormones.
ET: Is your approach to health integrative?
LC: I just had a big five-year physical at Johns Hopkins [University Medical Center in Baltimore] where you go for one full day and you go to every specialist—colonoscopies and everything. My husband and I go, and this is our third or fourth one. It’s just checking in and making sure everything is alright. I had a little bit of bone loss, nothing that was part of a disease, but I’m going to pay attention to that.
Medicine plays an important role in helping us maintain a healthy body, so I include that in a holistic approach. But you also have to take responsibility. Keep a diary. Doctors take your history and keep it, but what’s really important is that you keep your own history: “This medicine was prescribed on this day.” The doctor is thinking about 150 patients.
I started doing this in 2006. I was having some side aches. So I was able to go back and figure out what was going on. I don’t want to bury my head in the sand. Get a copy of every medical exam. It’s important that we’re informed about our health and help our healthcare givers.
ET: What can you tell our readers about your battle with alcoholism?
LC: Neither my mother nor father were drinkers, but there were quite a few alcoholics in my mom’s family. I didn’t drink until I was in my 20s. I didn’t have any understanding of the disease. If you were having a drink now, you would feel more than I felt after the first drink; it would take me longer or more drinks, and by the time it starts to hit, the shutoff valve isn’t really there. But I didn’t know I was different. Nobody ever explained it to me and I had no idea. When it started to become a problem I would just quit it. I wouldn’t drink at all. Then for the same reasons as everybody else I would drink again, and those periods [without a drink] got shorter and shorter.
I went to a wonderful recovery center, Father Martin’s Ashley in Maryland, and I’m on the board now. It’s beautiful, on the Chesapeake Bay. Part of recovery is helping other suffering addicts and alcoholics.
ET: How does your fitness routine contribute to the great energy you exhibit on stage when you sing?
LC: There are things you can do to boost your energy through exercising. I’m like everybody else; I get busy. I have to at least try to do something every day, and it doesn’t have to be an hour or an hour and a half. As you get older you really have to pay attention to some weight-bearing exercises. You can do it with soup cans or you can do it with your own bodyweight by doing pushups or squats or lunges. Things that bear your own weight are the safest. Your bones need it.
I row on the Potomac as well, on a scull. They’re these long narrow boats. It’s a blast. You’re on a river, and it’s calm and peaceful and you focus on this repetition. It’s a very tippy boat, and there’s a way you have to do it or you go into the water.
I don’t do a whole yoga program every day, but I stretch or do some aspect of yoga every day. There are periods when I do a lot of yoga. If I’m skiing, I do more yoga because you stretch out. If you fall, your limbs don’t rip if they go in odd places. If you do a tumble and you’re really limber, your chances of injuring yourself are far less than if you’re really tight. I do the stretching piece of yoga before and after I work out. I don’t do as much of a full yoga workout as I used to because I’m doing other things like skiing and hiking and biking. I try to work out with a trainer three days a week.
Sometimes I go for a walk to get the blood moving, particularly if I’m traveling or in the city. I try to walk and wear my MBTs, which I love. They’re those ugly shoes. They’re curved on the bottom and keep your core working, so my stomach stays flat.
ET: You’re often cited for your beautiful hair and skin. Can you share some tips for our readers?
LC: Hair, as you get older, is a little difficult; it changes. My daughter has a spectacular head of hair. Mine is not nearly as good as hers. I try to use heat less and less, so I let it air dry and kind of pile it on my head.
As for skincare, I would say No. 1 should be to stay out of the sun. I try to load myself up [with sunscreen] and reapply it often. I grew up in Arizona, and I remember my mom telling me to be careful unless I wanted to look like a lizard bag some woman was carrying. My mom still has beautiful skin. When I’m sculling, I wear these UV-protective shirts. If I wear a regular shirt, I can see a tan line from a sports bra underneath it. I always put a cosmetic sunscreen underneath my makeup. They even have some bases that have sunscreen.
ET: You were involved early on in raising breast cancer awareness. You supported the Susan G. Komen Foundation and you testified before Congress. Now you are bringing attention to lung cancer. What’s behind your involvement?
LC: I grew up with a mother who had cystic breasts, and she was often in the hospital getting a cyst removed. I remember walking that tightrope at home: “Is it going to be cancer or not?”
I didn’t know anything about cancer. I didn’t know what they were talking about. I didn’t know if my mother was going to die. They didn’t know anything back then. So I was sensitized to it, and I knew people who died from it.
Back in the day, there was no research on breast cancer. People didn’t even want to say “breast.” You’d get the radio jocks laughing, “Oh yeah, Wonder Woman would know about that.” Stuff like that.
So it was a struggle. It was more about an underdog feeling. The cancer affected so many women and nobody was doing anything about it.
One of my best friends died of lung cancer. What’s interesting to me is that they say early diagnosis doesn’t do anything because we don’t have any treatments. The problem with that argument is most lung cancers are found at Stage 4, so the mortality rate is awful and everything they throw at it doesn’t work. But that’s not to say some of the same treatments [would not work] if it were caught earlier. So it’s another underserved thing.
ET: What do you want people to know about breast and lung cancer?
LC: We haven’t found a cure for breast cancer, so it’s still early detection. Women are less inclined to put their head in the sand because it’s not a death sentence. So teach your daughters self-breast examinations.
With lung cancer, you don’t have to be a smoker or ex-smoker to have it. Think about what you breathe. I avoid aerosols and try to avoid pesticides. I don’t have my lawn sprayed. There are so many carcinogens, you have to be practical and figure all that out. I’m hoping some awareness will get early diagnosis going.
ET: You are an actress and were a Maybelline cover girl and Miss World USA. These all define beauty by its outward appearance. Do you think the pressures on girls and young women to adopt a commercial standard of beauty have abated?
LC: I think there’s way too much pressure. When you open up a magazine you see one beautiful person after another. It’s the old dance, attracting the opposite sex, and it’s a business we buy into. I’m not saying it’s wrong; just be aware of it. Realize it’s fantasy.
I sent my daughter to a same-sex school, and these girls wore no makeup to class. Having some sense of self is the most important thing. When kids idolize people they should look at content and character.