Jane Fonda never aspired to be an actress when she was younger. “Young me did not want to be an actor. I didn’t think I had talent; I didn’t think I was pretty enough. I had a lot of body dysmorphia,” she tells People in a new feature this week (May 4). She adds, “I was pretty lost as a young person.”
The actress and activist overcame a turbulent childhood with her father, the late actor Henry Fonda. Her socialite mother, Frances, died by suicide when Fonda was 12. “Being young is really hard. Don’t let anyone kid you,” Fonda, 85, said. “I wish when I was younger, someone had said to me, ‘Don’t give up. Keep going. It’ll get better.'”
Fast forward to 1982, when Fonda started a fitness revolution via Jane Fonda’s Workout. It was based on a class she took from exercise instructor Leni Cazden, which made her feel in more control over her health after struggling with bulimia. The video sold more than 17 million copies.
“So many women said to me, ‘My whole attitude about myself changed,'” Fonda said of her workout program. “That meant the world to me.” Even well into her 80s, Fonda exercises three to four times a week with a trainer, goes on hikes, and sticks to a healthy diet. She says one of the main reasons she’s happier today is that a lot of the existential questions she had when she was younger have now been answered. She added, “I don’t take anything for granted, and I’m just amazed that at my age I’m still working and have a lot of energy. It’s all a surprise to me.”
Fonda will next be seen in the comedy Book Club: The Next Chapter, in theaters May 12. She stars alongside Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen for the sequel to their 2018 comedy. The movie follows best friends Diane (Keaton), Vivian (Fonda), Sharon (Bergen), and Carol (Steenburgen), who “take their book club to Italy for the fun girls’ trip they never had.” But “when things go off the rails and secrets are revealed, their relaxing vacation turns into a once-in-a-lifetime cross-country adventure.”