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Saturday, Sep 25, 2021

Sharon Stone's Second Life

Sharon Stone's Second Life

The L’OFFICIEL March 2021 digital coverstar speaks about her new novel in which she details her life after a near-death experience and inspirations today.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the magic of technology has for better or worse allowed glimpses inside one another’s homes and lives. If one was intimate enough with Sharon Stone to peer into her Beverly Hills home, the scene may have, according to the actress, resembled a frat house. This is in part thanks to her strapping three boys, Roan, 20, Laird, 15, and Quinn, 14, who are all prone to picking up their mother and carrying her around. The trio reside with Stone and her own mother, 88-year-old Dorothy, or, as the actress affectionately calls her, Dot, while two French bulldogs add to the family’s raucous energy. In the midst of this bustle and the unknown of the world around her, the mother of the house found quiet and solitude in her room where she wrote a book.

She was penning The Beauty of Living Twice, her first book, which debuted earlier this month. But the release isn’t a typical Hollywood tell-all, nor does Stone dole out the usual autobiography with an obvious chronological sequence of her life. It's rich with details and at times infers more than divulges specifics. Moreso, the book describes an emotional journey of discovery, forgiveness, acceptance, and healing while avoiding the tropes of becoming a sappy self-help tome. "Writing is such a singular, solitary journey and that is hard for everyone else to grasp," Stone tells L’OFFICIEL. "When you reveal yourself to the rest of the world, you feel like a vampire that has been stuck in a box for 200 years, coming out saying ‘Sunlight!’”



As its name suggests, The Beauty of Living Twice begins with the severe 2001 accident that left Stone with a near-fatal brain hemorrhage. In her book’s personal pages, the author describes how she felt as if she was struck by lightning, causing her to go reeling over furniture and falling head-first onto the floor. She wouldn’t realize that she had suffered a stroke until days later; the cause of the impactful fall wasn’t detected until Stone felt numbness in her legs and her body temperature started precariously dropping. Stranger still was the exploratory brain surgery that almost happened without her consent and a press-patsy doctor who leaked details of her condition to People magazine. (Misdiagnosed too, as she reveals in the book.) Stone’s determination and what could only be called a touch of divine intervention prevented the procedure, which was ultimately replaced with a gentler method: a camera sent through the femoral artery to locate the source of the bleeding. More complicated was the discovery that blood had pooled on one side of her head, a result of Stone sleeping on her side while recovering from the removal of two benign breast tumors. For the iconic actress once known for making turtlenecks sexy and the ultimate seductive crotch shot, this ungraceful fall from glamour-laid up in a hospital bed while floating in and out of consciousness-was a far cry from this previous life. Fighting for your life has a way of shoving things like exterior qualities and personal style pretty far down the totem pole.

Glamour, in Stone’s eyes, was always something of a put-on; a job requirement both on and off the screen. She explains this by quoting Arthurian enchantress Morgan le Fay. “I always like those fantastic Knights of the Round Table tales,” recalls Stone. “What was it she said? ‘Glamour wasn’t something that you are. Glamour was part of a magic spell. It wasn’t a thing or object or a style per se but an air of magic.’ I think that is more true than anything, an attitude versus what you are wearing.”



For most actors, in fact, style lives in two camps: on-screen through a role or off-screen at a Hollywood function. But Stone doesn't take much personal ownership for the styles her characters have worn over the decades, whether it was the gorgeous villain Ginger McKenna, a con-artist who hustles her way into the heart of Robert De Niro’s character, Ace, in Casino, or Catherine Tramell, who was equal parts femme fatale and psycho killer in Basic Instinct. Instead, Stone lays the accolades for the flashy 1970s, and ‘80s wardrobe of the former and ‘90s minimalism of the latter, on the hard-working costume designers of those films, Rita Ryack and Ellen Mirojnick, respectively. "It isn't about me relating [to the wardrobe] ever. It's about me fulfilling the character that I agreed to play; Nothing to do with me personally." These days she yearns for topics a bit deeper than clothing and sex appeal.

Stone appreciates the finer things, but opts out of retail therapy at this time in her life in favor of writing, a process which proved therapeutic. While she wasn’t quite prepared for other peoples' reactions, she hopes the frankness with which she discusses the details about her life proves to be helpful to others. "That was a conscious decision,” says Stone. “Particularly with my mom because I read the first draft to her, voice-memo recorded her thoughts into the book, and dedicated it to her.” The two had long had a strained relationship, and the actress confesses healing that was an unexpected outcome. Writing The Beauty of Living Twice helped her better understand their relationship.

Discovering her mother's life in greater detail, in fact, was eye-opening. In the book, the actress explains that she didn't really know her mother in her childhood, and even hated her for her efficient yet aloof manner of parenting. Through the course of writing, Stone discovered that the reason her mother grew up with another family wasn’t due to financial circumstances, but rather because her mom had been beaten by her own father (Sharon’s maternal grandfather) since she was five. It was a secret Dot kept from Stone and perhaps even her late husband her entire life.

Stone recalls her family's struggle with poverty, too. Especially one tale involving her paternal grandmother, who was once well-to-do, but wasn't allowed to inherit her husband's company and adjacent wealth after his passing due to her sex. As a single mother, she sank into poverty. Stone also speaks of an aunt who got “lucky” as a child to go to work with her mother in an “insane asylum” instead of following her brothers to work on farms or join the navy. "I have grown to understand [more] about poverty in America and the way we don't address it,” she says. “We keep backing away; we aren't going to give a 15 dollar minimum wage. It really strikes a profound chord with me.” The Beauty of Living Twice reveals other dark experiences for Stone as well. Like when she and her younger sister, Kelly, experienced “glee and relief” at the passing of their maternal grandfather, Clarence. Stone was both a witness of and victim to his pedophillic acts. The two blamed their mother for leaving them alone with this man and his wife, who was beaten into complicity.



This childhood trauma likely informed Stone's path to becoming an advocate for those who can't do so for themselves or need more support. Her fundraising abilities for amfAR are legendary, and her AIDS advocacy is award-winning. In November 2020, Stone was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Treatment Action Group alongside Dr. Anthony Fauci. Her devotion to service has earned her several other awards in the past, including the 2013 Peace Summit Award. The COVID-19 pandemic sparked the same outrage in Stone that the AIDS crisis did. "It was like seeing the AIDS crisis in high-speed," she recalls. "It had the same disenfranchisement, denial, and lies." Stone says the ability to proceed with scientific fact or governmental care on top of lies the public was fed definitely rang a bell. "AIDS was not just a gay disease,” she says referring to an early description of the illness, “it went on to become the number one killer of women in their reproductive years.”



When pressed, Stone doesn't want to dawdle discussing feminism's storied history, but devotes a chapter of The Beauty of Living Twice to #MeToo, in which she discusses the dicey Hollywood encounters she managed to escape, like the director who expected her to sit in his lap to take direction. "Sex has long been expected in my business," she confirms in the book, adding, "I certainly didn't sleep my way into or around the business. But that didn't stop me from being sexually abused throughout my life by people I knew and did not know." Instead, she reveals going to programs for incest survivors and using tools like A Course in Miracles, the so-called New Age Bible that inspired spiritual thought leader, political activist, and most recent presidential candidate Marianne Williamson's teachings.

Still, Stone sees this moment as bigger than just allowing her to speak about her own experience, and has a clear picture of what it will take to stop the abuse. Beyond real legislation and the creation of safe spaces, Stone says it's going to take a global sisterhood of women to put an end to sexual harassment and abuse. She advocates for frank, open discussion to normalize conversations around taboo subjects. She speaks of this with a similar passion that she has for global warming. “If COVID wasn't a warning for people to get your mind straight, the planet itself will straighten you out,” she says. “Nature itself is a very big teacher.”



In fact, Stone speaks to nature, literally. The habit is likely tied to the experience she had filming King Solomon Mines with Richard Chamberlain during a drought in Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Six weeks after arriving, the rain came for months, and the locals bestowed the title Rain King and Queen on the two actors in a ceremony. "When real African countrymen believe you brought the rain and laud you for it, you feel a sense of real relationship with the rain, and if they believe I can talk to rain, then I will meditate and do my very best to talk to nature," notes Stone. It also inspired her other pandemic-induced pastime: painting. On display in her home office is an impressively large watercolor entitled “Mother Nature.” The actress picked up some adult paint-by-number kits to “push the paint” around, and pleasantly found herself painting more and more. She tends to admire other artists more than emulate them, naming her cats after Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Still, the actress is pleased with the result. “I’ve never painted like this in my life,” she says.



Her artistic nature was in full force in her 40s when she landed a Dior Beauty contract in 2005. Facing her own financial struggles post-accident, Stone describes the opportunity as a godsend. But as grateful as Stone was to work with the French fashion house, she couldn't help but feel the approach was old school. Much to the luxury company’s annoyance initially, she brought in a team to amend the aesthetic beyond just the “airbrushing into the blur” look, hiring Jean-Baptiste Mondino and even updating the copy to reflect a more modern vision. She takes credit for the company's overall sales increase of 28-32 percent during this period as well as claims to have helped steer Dior’s largest scandal to date—when former creative director John Galliano used racial slurs against diners at Café Flore in Paris. "John might do the drawings, but the seamstresses, the secretaries, even the janitors were all making the clothes,” she says. “Bring the seamstresses out on the runway! You have to look at what makes a company."



As the descriptives of Stone continue to expand-actress, activist, mother, daughter, model, artist, and now author-it begs the question: What is next? It’s clear Stone has shifted into a new phase of life, while continuing to practice her craft. She recently starred in Netflix’s Ratched and is still landing modeling gigs. Stone also hinted at an upcoming philanthropic project.

She doesn’t let on, saying “I’ll stay in my lane.” Though perhaps the real beauty of living twice, is graciously changing lanes as Sharon Stone does so masterfully.

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