Admiring Christina Hendricks


Christina Hendricks in Harper’s Bazaar

Christina Hendricks is featured on the November cover of Harper’s Bazaar.

Here are the interview, some beautiful photos from the cover shoot and an exclusive video. Enjoy!

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For an actress frequently compared to Marilyn Monroe, Christina Hendricks looks rather gamine as she walks into Il Buco restaurant in New York’s SoHo. She is wearing a black blouse, a pencil skirt, and a beret tilted just so on her flame-red hair, still glamorous from her Bazaar shoot the previous day. We are on what she calls “a lady date” in the restaurant where, a year ago, she married her husband, actor Geoffrey Arend. We sit under a painting of a fellow who looks like Paul Giamatti in John Adams—except with grapes. “Half of my friends posed under that painting,” she says with a laugh, ordering off the menu by heart and asking for a “big, sparkly” glass of chilled red wine.

It’s been a heady couple of years for Christina. Since she was cast as the imperiously sexy office manager Joan on Mad Men, she has given bold new meaning to “sexy secretary.” Men love her—that’s a given—but women love her more. She’s a relief, because after years of endless bobbleheads on the red carpet, Christina’s voluptuous figure (not to mention her total ease with herself) seems entirely remarkable. “Women hit on me,” she chuckles. “My husband thinks it’s so odd that so many women hit on me.” Gay men too. “They say to me, ‘Well, I’m not straight, but if I was…’ I think it’s so flattering.”

When Christina, 35, originally auditioned for Mad Men, she was up for the part of Midge, Don Draper’s bohemian lover. She ended up being cast as the “bossy, know-it-all” Joan. The character has become something of a cult figure, due to Christina’s measured, artful performance and, in no small part, her now-famed Joan walk—an exaggerated, saucy sway that accelerates heartbeats as much as it stops traffic. “All the costumes were so tight,” Christina explains of the Walk. “I wasn’t used to the undergarments, so my natural swing became more of a swing. After I became conscious of it, my hands came up too.”

While Joan has a peanut-brittle exterior, inside she’s all caramel. “Joan would probably have rules like ‘To be a polite guest, eat all but the last two bites,'” Christina—whose voice in person is a fairylike tinkle and in a higher register than Joan’s—says, laughing, as she cleans up her gnocchi. “You’d want to make sure that your host knew you enjoyed the meal, but you want to be a lady.” Joan’s retro rules have spawned a satirical blog, What Would Joan Holloway Do?, and the ultimate validation, her own Barbie (with curves that are actually anatomically possible).

Christina never thought that she would become the poster girl for…curvy girls. “When the attention started to be about my figure, I was surprised, because it wasn’t something I was focused on. And then it became very positive, and people were saying very nice things.” During Mad Men’s first season, she and Arend were at dinner when a fan approached her and said, “‘Excuse me, I just want to tell you that I watch your show, and you make me feel better about myself. I am a curvy woman, and you’ve made me feel sexy and beautiful.’ I got teary eyed.” Christina tears up again at the memory. “I remember Geoffrey saying, ‘That’s what you’re doing for people. That’s amazing.’ And I said, ‘I’m just trying to be a good actress and trying to tell a story, but if this is the sidebar, all this positivity, then that is awesome.'” Of course, success and attention have a flip side, which Christina learned the hard way earlier this year after the Golden Globes, to which she wore a ruffled peach confection by Christian Siriano. The New York Times’s Cathy Horyn, who was blogging about the awards, was critical of “pretty Christina Hendricks in Christian Siriano’s exploding ruffle dress. (As one stylist said, ”You don’t put a big girl in a big dress. That’s rule number one.’)” The piece ran next to a distorted photograph that made Christina look wider than she was, which Horyn later noted.

“To say something like that and put it next to a distorted picture discredits you entirely,” Christina says. “And it hurt my feelings. I thought that dress was stunning. I stand by that dress to this day. I had just gotten back from my honeymoon, and I felt beautiful in those pictures. I was smiling and beaming, and I felt like a goddess. It’s a celebration, and I’m here because the show I work on is being recognized as excellent work. And you’re going to tell everyone in the world that I was wearing a shitty dress? Let me go to a party and wear my pretty dress!”

As Christina’s star has risen, her dresses have indeed gotten prettier. She notes the perverse pressure on actresses to turn up in designer gowns for one night only and the challenges when one can’t just slip into something off the sample rack. “You are expected to go to these things wearing fabulous dresses that are incredibly expensive, so it gets difficult,” she says. “I found myself at the beginning of Mad Men, because I wasn’t a sample size, spending an exorbitant amount of money on a nice dress that I would never wear again because someone would say”—she wrinkles her nose theatrically—”‘Christina Hendricks wore this dress twice.'”

Years ago in an interview, Christina said it was difficult to find a dress that wasn’t a sample size, and she recently saw that quote recycled in a British tabloid. “I was like, Whoa! First of all, I am so grateful any time I get to wear one of these great dresses, and since the show has gotten more popular, I’ve had the opportunity to wear the most amazing designers. I mean, L’Wren Scott? How did that happen?” She is also a huge admirer of John Galliano. “Oh, Galliano,” she faux swoons. “Forever and ever and ever. I don’t care what he does, whether it’s leather, delicate lace, or anything. I’ll carry a riding crop down the red carpet.”

Christina is a recent convert to after being introduced to the runway Web site by Mad Men costar January Jones. “She has been into fashion for years,” Christina says. “She is incredibly knowledgeable, and it’s a passion of hers. I’ve learned a lot from her.”

Christina got the fashion jump on Jones, though, starting to model when she was 17. At school in Virginia and a self-termed Goth, she was discovered by a local photographer who shot her for her first job, a feature in Elegant Bride. At 18, she moved to New York and a world of potentially sleazy adventure. “One day, my modeling agent handed me something and said, ‘This is an invitation to Johnny Depp’s birthday party.’ I thought it was a joke. I don’t know Johnny Depp. I was so confused. Then this flashbulb went off: ‘Oh…Johnny Depp has no idea this is going on. Someone is setting this up and is inviting models to his party.'” Ever enterprising, Christina decided to sell her ticket. “Fifty bucks!” she says proudly. “I bought groceries.”

At five foot eight and a size 4, Christina made a good living modeling. One day, however, her agent asked her to lose 10 pounds. “I remember thinking, You’re crazy! I said okay, but I didn’t do it. It seems that models have gotten smaller. I was a 4, but now they’re a 0 or 2.”

Christina always had a preternaturally healthy body image. “My mother never said to lose weight. Diets were never a big deal. My mom was always beautiful and voluptuous and curvy, and I always thought she was gorgeous.” But puberty had its inevitable challenges. “I did have doubts about my figure when I was 12, 14,” she admits. “I was a dancer, but my body was changing. Then all of a sudden I started getting boobs and my body wasn’t playing along with my game plan. It got depressing for a bit, because I desperately wanted to be a ballerina.”

In the mid-’90s, fortune took Christina to London, where she modeled for magazines like Dazed & Confused and in runway shows including Hussein Chalayan. “Oh, I have a story for you,” she says conspiratorially. “I was in Milan, and you would see the same girls at castings. There was one girl—she was like, ‘I can’t get any work. I’m so sick of this, I’m ready to quit. I love your hair color. What do you color your hair with?’ and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s red. Here’s my formula.’ It was Karen Elson. A couple of weeks later, she had bright-red hair.” Christina leans into the tape recorder and says, “Sorry, Karen, but you did ask about my hair color. Then I saw her on the cover of Italian Vogue, and the rest is history!” She laughs. “Karen is amazing. I’m such an admirer of hers.” But she’s right: It is a good story.

While Mad Men continues to tell good stories on television and wins awards by the bucketload, Christina’s dance card is filling up. The show is currently on break, so she’s off to shoot Drive, a noir thriller opposite Carey Mulligan and Ryan Gosling. (“Not losers,” she notes with a wink.) Until then, she has “a whole week and a half” to hang out with Arend, who has just arrived at the restaurant and is digging into a plate of pasta. He’s more than aware that people like his girl. “Sometimes at home, Christina will be walking from one room to another, and I’ll see the Joan walk come out,” he says. “And I remember when we first met, we went out to Korean barbecue. I was in a car, and you were walking across the street. There was this guy yelling, ‘How you doin’?’ And I was catcalling you, but you didn’t hear me because you were getting so much attention.”

“I remember what I was wearing,” Christina says, smiling. “A short white cotton shirtdress and knee-high suede motorcycle boots with braids in my hair.” “Oh, yes,” says Arend, looking like the cat that got the cream. “That’s why we kissed that night.”