Over the years, Denise Richards has weathered more storms than most, yet at 45 she still looks as incredible as she did back in 1998…
…When, along with Neve Campbell, she seduced both Matt Dillon and audiences worldwide playing the gorgeous young manipulator, Kelly Van Ryan, in erotic thriller Wild Things.
While her beauty secrets are not extraordinary, her devotion to health and fitness is, and it becomes clear that it is the small habits over a long period of time that get the biggest results and have maintained her toned physique and overall youthful glow. But while she does her best to find time for her family, work and self, she admits that it can be hard striking the balance.
“I am working on trying to find more time for myself because it can be very challenging… any parent can feel that way,” says Richards thoughtfully. “Usually kids are your first priority and you’re working and it’s challenging to find that ‘me time’, but I think it’s important to have that. I think it makes any parent a better parent, a better friend, a better co-worker.”
Unsurprisingly given her distinctively pretty features, the Illinois-born star began her career as a model, starring in pop duo Double’s Captain of Her Heart music video when she was just 15. She soon became a regular on TV and film as casting directors fell for her rare blend of beauty and spunky attitude which has, over time, become her calling card. From playing the first nuclear physicist Bond girl, Christmas Jones, in The World is Not Enough to her highly-praised performance as a spoilt and vicious beauty queen in Drop Dead Gorgeous, Richards has proved herself time and time again. However, her most notorious and arguably difficult role has been as real-life ex-wife to wild thing Charlie Sheen with whom she has two daughters – Sami, 12, and Lola, 11 (her third child, Eloise, five, is adopted).
The pair have long fascinated Hollywood for, besides both being attractive, talented and in demand, they appear to have very little else in common: he has a reputation for hard partying, hard booze and hard drugs whereas Richards prefers Pilates, raw juices and plenty of sleep; the yin and yang of Hollywood. But even after their separation in 2005, Richards has shown a great deal of compassion to her troubled ex-husband, supporting him through his many sex and drug scandals and providing stability for their family.
“I’m a strong woman and it empowers me to be secure with myself, to make decisions on my own and being a single mum on my own. And to see how well my daughters are growing up and how grounded they are, I’m very proud of that,” says Richards firmly. “So I think a lot of things empower me, but I think being a strong woman in general – I wouldn’t be able to get through any of it unless I was strong.”
Not only does Richards strive to be strong mentally, but she also believes that regular exercise is one of the keys to good mental health and maintains that incredible beach body with a mix of hiking and Pilates.
“I know it’s a workout but I really enjoy Pilates, it’s my time to be by myself,” she says. “I didn’t do it for a while and just came back to it and set up a Pilates reformer in my home.” She also works out with a trainer and loves taking long walks barefoot along the beach, describing them as ‘healing’.
Growing up in America’s Midwest, Richards’ childhood diet was rich in meat, potatoes, eggs and bacon, but these days she avoids the calorific fare, preferring a mostly vegan diet, though she does admit to enjoying ‘half and half’ with her morning coffee and the odd Haagen-Dazs binge. The reason for eschewing animal products is partially owed to her love of animals, but for the most part it is a deeply personal choice following her mother’s death from kidney cancer in 2007.
“After my mum passed away, I did so much reading on different things with health and things that are fed to animals that I don’t think are good for us,” she explains. “I’d be a hypocrite for saying it’s just for animals because I do wear leather shoes still, but it was more for health and I actually feel better.”
Another fantastic tip for maintaining a healthy weight is to eat throughout the day, with the Starship Troopers star listing her essential snack choices from cut-up vegetables to cranberry, sunflower and pumpkin seed trail mix; pretzel rods – “I will always have a bag of pretzels in my purse because the kids eat them too!” – and of course plenty of good old-fashioned water to flush out toxins. Her diet is one of abundance rather than starvation and she still succumbs to the occasional treat, confessing: “I love chips and guacamole, In N’Out French fries… they’re the best and they’re deep fried too!”
Her roles as super-mum and health guru aside, Richards will soon be back doing what she does best as she returns to the silver screen in a slew of Hollywood titles. Currently wrapping A Life Lived, which is the story of the life of a dollar bill, she also stars in action thriller Altitude, due out next year, and is currently filming American Satan.
One wonders how she manages to fit everything in and still find time for herself, but Richards isn’t worried, saying with a shrug: “I don’t think everything is perfectly balanced all the time; things change and I do my best to keep it all organised as much as possible, but I don’t think it’s ever perfectly balanced and that’s okay. I accept it.”