Try as they do, tabloid typecasters can’t pin down Katie Holmes. Over the past decade, the gossipy characterizations have swung wildly—from Dawson’s tomboy-next-door, to Tom Cruise’s surprise robot bride, to badass hero-mom back in the spotlight. What keeps the rumour pundits guessing is the star’s undeniable mastery of the quiet reinvention.
Without ever dishing the dirt, she rebounded from the hyper-scrutiny of her divorce—and rewrote the media plot line—with impressive skill and speed: moving to Manhattan with daughter, Suri; debuting her casual-cool label, Holmes & Yang, at Spring 2013 New York Fashion Week (the line just arrived in Canada at The Room in Toronto); returning to the Broadway stage (Dead Accounts); and landing not one but two beauty deals. This spring, she’ll grace ads for Bobbi Brown as the brand’s first-ever celebrity spokesperson, while she promos Alterna Haircare as its new co-owner and face.
Loyal to a natural aesthetic—the 34-year-old rarely sports so much as a red lip—Holmes clicked with the like-minded Brown when they met through a mutual friend. Over tea, they bonded over their Midwestern roots, and the makeup master agreed to orchestrate the backstage beauty at Holmes & Yang. (Look for their first product collab, the Bobbi & Katie Palette, this fall.) “Her mission statement is something I believe in,” says Holmes about the artist’s ideology of bolstering self-esteem and celebrating realness instead of a cookie-cutter standard.
Though Holmes worked as a model in her teens, she says her own self-assuredness has waxed and waned. But as personal dramas recede in the rear-view mirror, she’s found a new toughness, be it about body image or life decisions. “You go through times where you feel really confident, and times where you feel like, When am I gonna get a real bra? You know, junior high—that was hard,” she recalls. “I have learned along the way, and I just try to be myself.”
After a Hollywood hiatus, she’s set to return to the big screen in an as-yet-untitled modern retelling of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, directed by Christian Camargo, and she’s signed on for a comedy, Responsible Adults, with Chace Crawford. She’s also planning to write—a script or even a book (memoir, please!). “I want to keep working with people who are way better than me,” she says, singing the words of a free bird who follows her own head and heart.