"I think it’s a hoot that, at my age, people are calling me a fashion icon," says Jane Fonda, who, at 77 years old, is the oldest woman to cover W for the magazine’s summer issue.
She may be reluctant to call herself an icon, but when Rihanna says she wants to be you when she grows up, you’re certainly doing something right. That’s exactly what happened when Fonda encountered the singer and fashionista backstage at this year’s GRAMMY Awards. The actress was wearing a fresh-off-the-runway Balmain jumpsuit that landed her on best-dressed lists next to RiRi, Beyonce, and other queens of fashion more than forty years her junior.
"I suppose I’ve always known what I like on my body," Fonda told W’s Lynn Hirschberg. "I’m best when I’m wearing something structured, with no frills or bows. Something that will show my waist and bum, because I’ve always had a good bum."
The actress' decades of red carpet experience has also helped her strategize around her least favorite features.
"Now these only come out during candlelight on a very dark evening," Fonda says of her arms. "I’m older now, and I have to be more self-conscious. When you’re young, you can get away with more. I always thought that being self-conscious was a negative. But now I feel differently."
Fonda, who is currently starring opposite Lily Tomlin in the Netflix series Grace and Frankie, learned to be humble and self-aware from Hollywood royalty. She told W a meaningful anecdote from the set of On Golden Pond, in which she starred with her father Henry Fonda and another legendary actress, Katharine Hepburn.
"What do you want this to mean?" Hepburn asked, pinching Fonda’s cheek one morning at the makeup mirror. "Back then, I didn’t give my looks a fare-thee-well, and that bothered Katharine. She said to me, 'This is what you present to the world. What do you want it to say about you?' Her question has been lodged in my psyche ever since. I now think what Katharine meant was awareness of a persona. She wanted me to consider how I wanted to be seen. Now I pay attention to how I present myself to the world. I realize that it matters."
W's June/July issue hits newsstands June 2.