Oprah Talks to Diane von Furstenberg
DVF: You never really feel the success; you always feel the things that are going wrong. So many mornings I wake up and I feel like a loser, and I ask other people who are successful, "Do you ever feel like a loser?" and they say yeah. What is different now is that I am in the autumn of my life—if I'm lucky. I'm in maybe the end of the September, the October of my life. I have children; I have grandchildren; I've had a full life, a full past.
OW: I was struck by the story you tell in the book, about your granddaughter and mother.
DVF: The energy.
OW: Tell me what was going on.
DVF: It was near the end of my mother's life, and she was very sick. She was sitting in a chair, and my son, Alexandre, brought his little girl for Mother's Day. He had three bouquets of flowers: one was for my mother, one was for me, and he was bringing one to his wife at home. We were sitting there, and my granddaughter got out of the stroller and was crawling, and she attached herself to a chair and she stood up. She took her first steps! And my mother was looking at her, and she was looking at my mother, and there was this moment when I saw something come out of my mother and go into her. It was my mother's energy—she gave it to her.
OW: Like a white light—a spark.
DVF: Yes. I saw it. I believe very much in energy. So much. I became more spiritual after having cancer.
OW: What did that experience teach you about yourself?
DVF: I learned both my fragility and my strength.
OW: What keeps you inspired?
DVF: Love. Life. Nature. I love the beauty of nature. I love to hike.
OW: You are a great hiker! You are always in the lead. The way to hike with you is to not try to keep up. Anyway—what helps to keep your point of view fresh?
DVF: I surround myself with young people. I don't feel my age. I mean, I know I am my age, and I don't try to hide it. But I have a lot of energy, and I'm curious about the world. And in any situation in life, I always say, "Well, how can I help?"
OW: You've been such an amazing example of aging gracefully.
DVF: I'd always wanted to be older than my age. I didn't like being a child because I couldn't decide things for myself. I couldn't wait to grow up. If somebody told me I looked fresh, I would take that as an offense, because I wanted to look like I had lived, with wrinkles. I thought that was glamorous. Then you stop being fresh, and realize you actually liked being fresh....
OW: Exactly. I look at pictures of myself years ago, and I think, Why didn't I appreciate that when I had it?
DVF: If you don't like how you look in a picture, wait ten years. You'll love it.
OW: In the book you say you never thought of yourself as beautiful, but you knew you were seductive.
DVF: I didn't, and thank God. I don't think it's nice to think you're beautiful. You end up counting too much on it. I had to count on my personality. And my legs.
OW: You know how to work those legs.
DVF: I have a funny story about my legs. Once, [fashion designer and film director] Tom Ford was having dinner with Colin Firth and his wife, and she had just met me and was telling Tom about our meeting. Then he said, "I met Diane many years ago when I sat next to her on a plane, and she was the only person I'd ever seen who could curl her legs around each other twice." And he tried to imitate me and threw his back out right there in the restaurant.
OW: I was going to say, did he twist himself and fall over?
DVF: He got stuck!
OW: You always knew that there was a woman you wanted to be. Who was she?
DVF: The woman I design for, who's independent, beautiful, in charge of her life.
OW: And are you still that woman?
DVF: Oh, I'm too old to be that woman—but she is still inside me. The great thing I've discovered about aging is that it means you have a past. If you've lived your past well and are happy with it, you have lived fully.
OW: Why did it take Barry [Diller, von Furstenberg's husband of 13 years] so long to convince you to marry him? You turned him down several times.
DVF: One day early on, we were driving in New York. He stopped the car because there was an old couple crossing the street—very old, like in their late 80s. The man was protecting his wife as they walked. And we both thought the same thing: that we wanted to be that couple someday. We said it to each other right then. The only thing we disagree on is that he thinks it happened on Madison Avenue and I know it was Lexington. But we've mentioned that moment many times. And over the years we were together and not together, but even when I was with other men, Barry was always there. And gradually, we spent more time together. One year I didn't know what to give him for his birthday, and I called him and said, "You know, if you want, for your birthday I'll marry you."
OW: And he said?
DVF: "Let me see if I can arrange it."
OW: My favorite words.
DVF: It's what he always says, and he always arranges it. A week later we married at city hall, and he gave me—this is so Barry—he gave me 26 wedding rings, for the 26 years we had not been married.
OW: He allows you to be you. All your DVF-ness—he welcomes it and embraces it.
DVF: He wants me to be happy.
OW: Well, you can't ask for more than that. What are you proudest of?
DVF: My children. And the great relationship I have with me. That is my biggest source of pleasure. I trust myself, I respect myself, I know I am a good girl, I know I can rely on myself. I like my own company. I'm funny. I talk to myself and have a good time.
OW: You know, I've asked that question of thousands of people, and no one has ever answered that way. I love that.