Before the holidays, we caught up with Mad Men‘s leading lady Christina Hendricks (a two-time FLARE cover star!), at the annual P&G Beauty and Grooming Awards—of which she was the emcee. Her first time hosting the Awards was a success, but it was our chat with the actress before the ceremony that has kept her in our minds ever since. We uncovered Hendricks’ early roots as a model from small-town Tennessee (recognize this Clean & Clear commercial?) and learned how she became the worldwide starlet we love to see on-screen today. Take a minute and get to know the woman behind Joan Harris; trust us, you’ll love her too!
It’s a shame your Toronto visit is during winter, do you mind the cold?
I like my L.A. weather but when I get to come to Canada and enjoy a little holiday chill, it’s really nice. When else do I get a chance to wear my winter gear?
The early days of your career were spent modelling—we just watched your Clean & Clear ad from back in the day—do you ever miss it? That spot put food on the table for months. Besides, someone’s got to do it [acne commercials]! Occasionally I do miss modelling, but I wouldn’t trade acting for anything—it’s such a delight working in a field you genuinely enjoy.
How did you decide to transition from modeling to acting?
I started acting as a kid, mainly community theatre, I was about eight- or nine-years-old. I used to dance everyday and was involved in musicals and variety shows in my small town. I always wanted to perform, and then modelling offered the opportunity for me to uproot to New York, which I felt was getting me closer to where I wanted to be. I didn’t know where acting was going to take me and I certainly didn’t know that it was something I could make into a career. To be honest, I thought community theatre or working at a hair salon would be where I ended up. So, modelling really was my escape route. It was a way for me to get out of where I was, and it ended up taking me on a great adventure. Finally, I landed in L.A., and it felt like home.
You’re from small town Tennessee, was it tough adjusting to L.A.?
Yes, I grew up in small towns in Tennessee and Idaho, prior to living in NY and London as a model, so [when I got to L.A.] it was unlike anything I had ever seen. Upon arriving, the first thing I did was get a modeling agent [ahem, had to pay the rent]; and that’s when I started booking a lot of national commercials. It was a little bit like acting school because I learned how to hit marks and about camera angles—things I previously knew nothing about. It was a wonderfully smooth transition. Then I met a manager who wanted to represent me as an actress, and from there I started to study with some acting coaches. Shortly after that I landed my first television show (Undressed). There was a cross-over time when I was doing both modeling and acting, so it truly was a smooth transition.
Do you ever miss any of the cities you travelled to as a model?
The first time I ever left the country was for Tokyo. It was by far the most exciting, so completely different than I what I expected. I remember thinking to myself, This is what it’s all about. I enjoyed the travelling attached to being a model. I went back to Tokyo three different times, and to Osaka. I haven’t been back in years, but would absolutely love to go back there. Second would be Milan. I haven’t been back in ages and really enjoyed working there. I always had a good time.
Did you stay the traditional three-month period or…
I’d go for one month at a time. Some of the girls would stay longer but I couldn’t do it. The work ethic is really extreme. You typically work three different jobs in one day and it can be really exhausting, so I used to take it in smaller bits.
If you could offer women advice on how to feel comfortable in their own skin, what would it be?
Listen to yourself. Choose to present yourself in a way that you feel represents you and don’t listen to how someone else wants you to look, and you’ll usually feel pretty great. That’s how I choose dresses, that’s how I choose everything. I have to fall in love with it. And if it doesn’t feel like me, I can’t be in it for very long. [Laughs]
You love fashion. Which designer really resonates with you?
I’m wearing L’Wren Scott tonight. She’s one of my absolute favourites.