Dame Helen Mirren has played everyone from DCI Jane Tennison to the Queen, and has won too many awards to list here. After more than 30 years in the spotlight, at 76 she shows no signs of slowing down. Most recently, she starred in L’Oreal Paris’s runway show in Paris (she’s an ambassador for the brand). She spoke to British Vogue’s acting beauty and wellness editor, Hannah Coates, ahead of the show about confidence, dancing with Vin Diesel and always laying out her clothes the night before.

On walking in the L’Oréal show

I’ve done a lot of theatre in my life so the whole idea of walking out to do a show is in my DNA. But what I love about fashion shows is that—unlike theatre where it’s all rehearsed and everyone knows what they’re doing (you hope!)—it’s absolute chaos! I love the technicality of how they put a fashion show together, it’s so fun to watch. And I have to say that all the real models are so sweet. They’re relaxed because they do it over and over again, so they’re used to the chaos. Meanwhile, I watch it all in awe and wonder. Somehow, miraculously, there is a moment where you all line up and go on one after another and it all comes together. It all looks perfect and everyone knows what they’re doing and I never quite get it! But it’s really fun.

Pascal Le Segretain

On how she approaches makeup

I always mix it up and do something different. I apply make-up according to how I feel. Usually I apply whatever is immediately to hand in my make-up drawer—I put my hand in and grab the first thing. If it’s a silver eyeliner or a black smudgey one, I use it and make it up as I go along. I love make-up and products in general—I love the feel and smell of them, as well as the bottles. I like to break my own rules as much as possible. If I’m working with a makeup artist, they will ask what I like and I always tell them that my face is their canvas and to do what they want. You always find new ideas and ways of looking at yourself that way. We all get stuck in our ruts in the way we make up our eyes, hair or lips—it’s good to shake it up.

On the secret to a life well-lived

As lovely as it was to dance with Vin Diesel in the rain in Piazza San Marco—was it a dream?—that’s not the secret to a life well-lived. Don’t feel paralyzed by your own insecurities and don’t be too polite or apologetic in life. I mean, I hope I am a very polite person, I hate rudeness, but I don’t mean that. More that you should be open to opportunity. Chat to people and be as open as possible. It’s a very good idea, occasionally, to look at the world as a child or foreigner and witness your own environment. Imagine you’re seeing it for the very first time and try and experience the magic in it—because there is magic in every environment. All it needs is to be seen with fresh eyes.

On how she gets ready for an event

Usually if I have some sort of function to go to, or if I’m traveling or have an interview to do, I sort my clothes out the night before. I’ll lay out my tights, shoes, sweater, underwear—whatever it is—all of it is ready to go. It means that if I am in a panic in the morning, which I often am because I’m late, I’m not worrying about what I’m going to wear because I know it’ll all work together. That’s the only little thing that I do.

On when she started to feel most confident and comfortable in her own skin

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