Cameron Diaz Talks Life, Longevity, and Black Beans

The actor and author explains the science of aging in her latest book, then fields listener questions about proving your Hispanic heritage and hosting a proper potluck.

(Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Rico Gagliano: Each week you send in your questions about how to behave, and here to answer them this time is Golden Globe nominated actor and author, Cameron Diaz. Among her many hit movies, “There’s Something About Mary,” “Being John Malkovich,” and the “Charlie’s Angels” franchise. She has just recently published her second book, called “The Longevity Book.” And Cameron, welcome.

Cameron Diaz: Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.

Brendan Francis Newnam: We are so happy to have you here. So, you describe your new book as a look at “how the female body ages, and what we can all do to age better.” And I think we all know exercise and eating right would help us, but you visited labs and universities studying aging. There is, like, way more cellular biology in this book than we expected. So…

Cameron Diaz: Well, that’s the cool thing about it, is that aging happens on a cellular level, and we don’t even think of it that way. We just kind of look at the exterior, the wrinkles and the sagging, and I did get to study it with and learn from great gerontologists and geroscientists that are studying it, you know, at the cellular level.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So, are you saying my cells have crow’s feet, too? Because that is really upsetting.

Cameron Diaz: They do! [Laughs.] Yes, exactly.

Brendan Francis Newnam: No!

Rico Gagliano: That’s horrifying.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Maybe they look ruggedly handsome.

Cameron Diaz: Well, men’s crow’s feet, of course, are celebrated. So it’s an awesome thing. Congratulations, your cell’s have crow’s feet!

Brendan Francis Newnam: Thank you.

Rico Gagliano: We’ll get into that in a bit. But what surprised you the most about researching all of this? Maybe something counterintuitive you learned or that…

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Cameron Diaz: Well, you know, it’s a funny thing because we were like OK — my writing partner, Sandra, and I — we thought, we’re going to discover some science to tell us how we’re going to be able to reverse aging. And, really, basically, what it came down to was all the things that everybody’s always told us, which was: eat well, move your body, good night’s sleep, stress relief, and loving, meaningful, connected relationships. And we were like, “Oh, really? That’s it? That’s all there is, really?!?”

Rico Gagliano: This book is actually a pamphlet.

Cameron Diaz: Exactly. You know? But what was really interesting is how all of those five pillars affect you on a cellular level, how it actually does change your cells. As well as finding out that male and female cells are different. We metabolize differently. Our cells take in and metabolize, very significantly, medicine, drugs differently than men’s. Our organs are different, our hearts are smaller, our arteries are a little bit finer and lacier, which makes it harder to detect heart disease in a woman.

Rico Gagliano: Oh.

Cameron Diaz: Yeah. So all of these differences in men and women actually really add up for the well-being of a woman, especially since science has historically studied anything medical-related on men. So, it’s just in the 1990s that we discovered that females were made up cellularly different than men.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And, unfortunately, I think those cells get paid less than the average male cell. So, that’s a bummer.

Cameron Diaz: Dang it!

Brendan Francis Newnam: You say specifically in the introduction that this is not an anti-aging book. You kind of encourage people to embrace their age.

Cameron Diaz: Absolutely.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But you work in an industry where reporters still ask female actors if they’re worried about getting older, where women over 40 get fewer roles–all things that discourage women from embracing their age. How do you reconcile these two things?

Cameron Diaz: Well, I write a book about aging [laughs].

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well done.

Cameron Diaz: I mean, it’s a little extreme. But my opinion, instead of saying, “That’s not fair!” I just went, “Hey, you know what? There’s over 30 million women between the ages of 35 and 50 in America.” Those are a lot of voices, and currently, we’re all speaking the language of society that we’ve been raised with, which is: aging is ugly. You know, we should be shamed for it or punished for it.

And what I’m asking women to do is to embrace it and say, “You know what? I’m OK with aging. I’m going to embrace it because, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to be older a lot longer than I was ever young, you know?” And one of the things that was very surprising was learning that 150 years ago, life expectancy was 40. So, I would’ve been kaput three years ago.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, no!

Cameron Diaz: I would’ve been… when those journalists asked me if I was afraid to turn 40, I would’ve been like, “Hell, yes, I am terrified of turning 40!”

Rico Gagliano: That’s a very existential question.

Cameron Diaz: You know? Yeah. So, I get another 40 years, hopefully — knock on wood — that I get to celebrate life instead of be terrified of it.

Rico Gagliano: But I think what we’re getting at is that it’s hard to tell people to embrace that when, for instance, in the case of an actress, it symbolizes the end of your career.

Cameron Diaz: Absolutely. Well, I mean, there’s a lot of actresses in Hollywood who do movies that are totally appropriate for their age, and they get nominated for Oscars every year [laughs].

So, they’re celebrating actresses that have been around in this business for 30 years who are continuing to do amazing work. But I think it’s that sweet spot in the middle where I’m at, where I’m not young anymore, but I’m not quite — you know, I’m not 20 years older, either. So, people are trying to figure out what to do with me.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah. You’re not a grande dame yet.

Cameron Diaz: Exactly. And I think that’s what’s hard for a lot of women my age. You know, you’re just sort of saying goodbye to what you understood you were for so long. You were young. It’s a hard thing to reconcile as you come up on it.

But that’s another thing that I ask for with the book is to know what is ahead of you. You know, when you’re a young girl, when you’re 12, 13 years old, people tell you you’re going to start menstruating, you know, and they talk you through it. Everybody around you says, “This is what’s going to happen,” so you don’t end up having, like, a “Carrie” moment in the shower at school, you know?

But we don’t have that conversation as we get older. Our mothers don’t sit us down and go, “By the way, honey, one day you’re going to stop menstruating, and this is what you have to look forward to.” So, it’s the mindset. How do we embrace this inevitable? And that helps carry us through to, you know, do it a little bit more gracefully.

Rico Gagliano: Right on. Well our listeners have written in for advice on the subject of aging and plenty of other topics. Are you ready for these?

Cameron Diaz: Fantastic! Sure.

Rico Gagliano: All right.

Candy Crush Concerns

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. Our first comes from Julia in South Pasadena, California: “My 60-something mom sometimes get absorbed in iPhone games for hours, which she thinks is good for her mental acuity, but I think is a huge distraction. How should I handle the next time she’s been Candy-Crush-ing for a while, or would you just let her have her fun?”

Rico Gagliano: Interesting.

Cameron Diaz: Interesante! Well, a couple of things — Candy Crush is great, fun. It is distraction.

Rico Gagliano: I am addicted!

Cameron Diaz: Mental acuity is another question because, like anything with the brain, you build a network from doing one thing over and over again, but if that’s all you’re doing, you’re not really… you’re not spreading it out.

She needs to engage in different… I would either offer her other kinds of games and maybe ones that are actually geared towards helping the brain, and/or I would just put her on a treadmill while she does Candy Crush.

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right.

Cameron Diaz: Crush them calories!

“You don’t look Mexican.”

Rico Gagliano: All right. Here’s something from Alvaro in the Bay Area: “I am Mexican American with fair hair and complexion and get told a lot that I ‘don’t look Mexican.’ I could expose their ignorance, but I need a polite way to respond. Please help.”

Cameron Diaz: I guess… you know, I know the feeling, being Hispanic myself and not looking Hispanic. And I wish that I was able to speak Spanish when I was a kid because I always thought that would just show people.

Rico Gagliano: That would prove it.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yes, exactly.

Cameron Diaz: That would prove it! So, I would just, if he speaks Spanish, I would just speak Spanish to that person and blow their minds, or he could do like me and just, you know, make a pot of black beans and bring it to people’s houses and say, “See?!? I’m Cuban!”

Rico Gagliano: Yeah. “There’s no way I can fake this.”

Cameron Diaz: Exactly.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But what should… if he can speak Spanish, what should he say in Spanish? That’s like, “How dare you!”

Cameron Diaz: Oh, interesting. I guess I would have to ask that person to prove to me that they were a human being.

Rico Gagliano: Ah, there you go. Yeah. Show me some blood.

Cameron Diaz: Exactly.

Is craft beer enough for a potluck?

Brendan Francis Newnam: There you are. This one comes from Anne via Facebook. Anne writes, “I have a group who meet frequently for potlucks, and everyone brings great food except for one dude. He brews beer to share. I guess he holds his beer in such high regard that he can’t bring himself to make some spinach dip. So, how do you ask someone to start pitching in or even maybe — gasp — uninvite them from the group?”

Rico Gagliano: Whoa.

Cameron Diaz: I’m guessing she doesn’t like beer.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah.

Cameron Diaz: I would take a poll to all the other people that come to the potluck and ask them if they enjoy his beer, and if everybody else is down for the beer, leave it alone. But if everybody was like, “That beer, you know, stinks,” then I would say to him, “Hey, you know what’s really great with beer? Wings!” Bring some hot wings, you know? [Laughs.]

Brendan Francis Newnam: What I don’t get…

Cameron Diaz: You know?

Brendan Francis Newnam: It seems like making beer is harder than making spinach dip, and more expensive.

Cameron Diaz: Absolutely.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I feel like Anne just doesn’t like this person.

Cameron Diaz: I agree. I’m not mad at anybody who brings home-brewed beer.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So, Anne, I think you need to drink a glass of this beer, look in the mirror, and ask yourself, “What is my real problem here?”

Rico Gagliano: “What’s really going on?”

Cameron Diaz: Or one more thing — she can just have him listen to this episode, and he’ll get the…

Rico Gagliano: He’ll get the idea.

Brendan Francis Newnam: We always encourage that. We consider this show our home-brewed beer of radio that we bring everywhere.

Rico Gagliano: That’s right. You don’t want to invite us to a dinner party. We just play our show.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So, Cameron Diaz, thank you so much for telling our audience how to behave.

Cameron Diaz: Oh, you know, I actually have the worst etiquette ever. So, that was my effort at being proper.



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