At age 58, Cheryl Tiegs still likes to wear short skirts. "Putting on a bathing suit doesn't scare me," she says. "I've done it all my life." At 19 she was on the cover of Glamour and went on to make the cover of Sports Illustrated three times. Posing in 2004 for Sports Illustrated's swimsuit anniversary issue was "totally easy," she says.
Most things seem easy for Cheryl. "Like anyone else, there are days I feel beautiful and days I don't, and when I don't, I do something about it." Like what? "Go out and exercise. It gets the endorphins going and brings a glow to the skin."
In her 20s, Cheryl gained 35 pounds and was once sent home from a photo shoot. She tried many diets, which failed, until she learned about nutrition and devised a regimen that she's refined to a science. It includes three sessions of yoga, two of weight training and some cardio exercise every week, and she avoids eating pasta, bread, dairy or sweets. Is it onerous having to live like that to stay in shape? "It's a pleasure," she says. "It's the easiest thing."
Raquel's breakthrough role in One Million Years B.C. in 1966, in which she wore a "little tiny doeskin bikini thing," made her an international sex symbol—but she says she never went to a gym or thought about diet until she was in her late 30s. "I hear Cameron Diaz say she never has to watch what she eats," Raquel says. "I think, 'Just you wait, Cameron!' I used to say that, too. I ate jelly doughnuts on the set every morning." Now for breakfast Raquel eats a health food concoction of boiled string beans, celery, parsley and zucchini.
At age 65, Raquel says, "it's a losing battle" trying to keep the shape you had in your 20s. In 2003 she embarked on a program of yoga, aerobics and weight lifting. "I can look pretty damn good for my age," she says. "But my God, that's not the whole story. I'm a much better actress, I'm a mature woman and I have so much more to offer."
Iman retired from modeling after 14 years, at the height of her success. She knew the industry loves what's new, and "I wasn't new anymore. I was maturing, and the business was not enough for me." She married rock star David Bowie, had a daughter and founded IMAN Cosmetics for skin of color.
At age 48, Iman has learned to quiet the critical voice inside. "I don't know how many women stand in front of the mirror and say, 'You look good, girl.' We only see faults. We pick, pick, pick. But now I don't pay attention to that voice. I say, 'Aii,' and move on."
She knows that a time will come when people's eyes will go not to her but to the "next 22-year-old blonde. I'm still famous, so of course people turn and stare, but eventually it will be less and less." She hopes to make the transition "with dignity and grace." Even now she's not overly troubled about being 59, because in addition to acting, she paints, sculpts and enjoys her teenage son and extended family. Farrah says she still gets scrutinized by her mother, who used to ask, "Have you seen your hair from the back?" The last time her mother said this, Farrah told her, "Yo, Mom! I'm famous for it, okay? Hair—that's what I'm famous for. So you can't do that anymore."
At age 54, Jayne says she's not happy with her body. She developed endometriosis in her 30s, which made it painful to exercise. She decided to become a full-time mother, taking care of her three daughters and a stepdaughter. During this time she gained a significant amount of weight, which she hasn't been able to lose.
In the early eighties, Jayne made a popular exercise video, Love Your Body, and her philosophy was "You should love your body and accept yourself for who you are." At present, she says, "I don't like the way I look." She believes that if you're not in shape and want to lose weight, "you shouldn't be complacent and think, 'This is just the way I am.' You should set a goal and go after it."
She says she can't work in the entertainment business now. "Success is based 90 percent on how you look," Jayne says. "That hurts me. Why can't I be a 54-year-old woman with gray hair who's overweight? Why do I have to compete with Halle Berry?" Her agenda, she says, is not to recapture the body she once had but "to get to where I'm happy with myself." She laughs. "I'm determined, and I will get there."
She has always had the knack for moving two steps farther than most people's comfort zone. "I don't mean to say this is an easy process," she concedes. "I may be wealthy, white, and famous, but I know how my life has been hurt because of my inability to like myself and cherish my body. I don't want it to take 60 years for other girls."
What can we learn from women whose bodies have helped make them icons? Their genetic gifts opened doors that led to glamorous careers, celebrity, money, admiration and relationships with famous men. But they didn't arrive where they are by genetics alone. They worked hard, they learned tough lessons and they can remind us now of what we know but need to hear again: that perfection is a fool's goal; that health, friends, creative work, service and nourishing relationships are what make us feel good; that looks change and life changes. The best we can do is focus on what we have the power to improve in ourselves, and when it comes to the body—love the one you're with.