Two-time Academy Award-winning actress, author, activist, feminist, former fashion model, and fitness expert, Jane Fonda is a frequent speaker on a wide variety of topics, including motivation, health and wellness, spirituality, politics, business, women’s issues, achievement and perseverance. Last night, Fonda kicked off the third season of the Frederick Speaker Series at the Weinberg Center for the Arts, which aims to bring intellectually-stimulating speakers and inspiring leaders to the local community.
Starring in more than 40 films, including Cat Ballou, Nine to Five, Julia, The Morning After and On Golden Pond, winning Oscars for 1978’s Coming Home and 1971’s Klute, Fonda is, no doubt, an accomplished actress. However, behind the scenes, Fonda struggled with many personal hardships and setbacks, including the loss of her mother to suicide when she was 12, an emotionally-complicated relationship with her father, and three failed marriages.
Poised and polished, Fonda immediately wowed the audience as she entered the stage, elegantly donning a business casual chic ensemble comprised of slim-fitting grey pants topped with a simple shell shirt and a tailored sweater blazer. It is hard to believe that she just celebrated her 77tthbirthday last month, but then, again she is same the mover and shaker who revolutionized the fitness industry with the release of Jane Fonda’s Workout in 1982, which became the highest-selling video of the time, and followed with the production of 23 home exercise videos – selling over 17 million copies all together, more than any other workout series. A self-described “lightening rod,” Fonda says keeps moving, physically and mentally, by walking religiously and meditating on a daily basis.
“I’ve had a hip replacement and a knee replacement, lower back surgery, and I have osteoarthritis. So, I move slowly and very deliberately. I’m still moving! That is the key. And, I knew that empirically, but when I was writing my book about aging called Prime Time, the research I did totally confirmed it. It’s way more important as you get older to keep moving. You don’t have to move as fast, you don’t have to move as far or in the same way—I don’t ski anymore, I don’t run—but keep moving. It makes all the difference in the world.”
Refreshingly self-deprecating and seemingly self-aware, Fonda spoke openly and honestly about the many transformations she has undergone in her multi-faceted life while on her continued journey to live without regrets and inspire others to act for the greater good. She revealed her personal struggles with insecurity, depression, and eating disorders for most of her adult life. Surprisingly, Fonda said it was not until she was 59 (almost 60), while she was married to Ted Turner, that she entered her “third act”, after taking a year to research her parents and her grandparents that she began to rediscover herself, culminating in her realization that she could stand on her own feet and not rely on anyone’s opinions of her to validate her self-worth – she was “reborn,” regained her courage and become whole. It was then that Fonda decided things needed to change, and she needed to be completely on her own, leading to her third divorce in 2001.
“My voice went underground, and it took me a long, long time to get it back,” Fonda said.
After the spending the next several years in therapy, taking time to heal and memorializing her “life review,” in May 2005, Random House published Fonda’s memoir, My Life So Far, which immediately went to #1 on The New York Times bestseller list. That same spring, Monster-in-Law, her first film in 15 years, also hit #1 at the box office. Among her many accolades, Fonda is also the first person to simultaneously have a #1 bestselling book and #1 movie at the box office.
In addition to her extensive film work and eminent entertainment career, Fonda is the founder of the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential and the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health at the Emory University School of Medicine. She also sits on the boards of Women and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Women’s Media Center (which she co-founded in 2004), and V-Day. Fonda’s own painful adolescence led her to take a strong interest in the problems of the young.
“When I was married to Tom Hayden, we started a performing arts children’s camp which we ran for 15 years. I learned a great deal. When I married Ted Turner, Georgia had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation and that’s where I lived. I started the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health at Emory University in Atlanta to help prevent teen pregnancy through training and programs, the Grady Teen Clinic at Grady Hospital and the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential. That’s attacking it from an educational, medical and grassroots approach. Georgia’s teen pregnancy rates have dropped 50 percent.”
In describing her own personal struggles with family, age, marriage, and self-growth, Fonda encouraged audience members to seek forgiveness and happiness through small, gradual changes like daily meditation or walks outside for a healthy and more fulfilled life.
“If we can manage to think positively, we can actually alter the neuro pathways in our brains,” Fonda explained. “I’ve experienced it, so I know it’s true. It takes work, it takes intention. But man, is it worth it.”
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, with no intermission.
Jane Fonda’s website.