10 Celebrities Who Have Spoken Out About Menopause
October 5, 2020
Menopause. Honestly, the way we talk about it (or rather, don’t talk about it) in our society would make you think it’s a dirty word or something to be ashamed of—rather than a natural part of the aging process for women.
But that’s exactly what it is. Menopause doesn’t look the same for every woman, nor does it occur at the same point in each woman’s life (though the average age of onset is 51 in the U.S.), but it is something that every woman will go through. Enough with the stigma around aging; enough with the taboo around menopause—it’s time to start talking about it.
Lots of powerful women in the public eye already are: Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Oprah Winfrey, and Michelle Obama are all opening up about their experiences with menopause and encouraging the rest of us to do the same.
In August 2020, Michelle Obama opened up about menopause on her new Spotify podcast with gynecologist Sharon Malone.
“I have a very healthy baseline, and also, well, I was experiencing hormone shifts because of infertility, having to take shots and all that,” Obama explained. “I experienced the night sweats, even in my 30s, and when you think of the other symptoms that come along, just hot flashes, I mean, I had a few before I started taking hormones.”
She even discussed an experience having hot flashes on Marine One during her husband’s presidency. “I remember having one on Marine One. I’m dressed, I need to get out, walk into an event, and literally, it was like somebody put a furnace in my core and turned it on high, and then everything started melting. And I thought, Well, this is crazy—I can’t, I can’t, I can’t do this,” she said.
Apparently Barack Obama was unfazed, his wife reported: “He didn’t fall apart because he found out there were several women in his staff that were going through menopause. It was just sort of like, ‘Oh, well, turn the air conditioner on.’”
The 61-year-old Late Night actor joked about using her hot flashes to her advantage at the National Board of Review in 2014 while accepting the best actress award for Saving Mr. Banks. “It’s such a cold night. You know, it’s the first time I’ve been actively grateful for the menopause,” she said in her speech.
The Sex and the City actor took a more serious approach to the topic in an interview with Cosmopolitan that same year. “I feel empowered talking about menopause because I’m going through it and have been going through it for six years,” she said. “I’m very fortunate to have a platform to speak to women about it because of SATC—it was such a dream job. And [Samantha was] also a dream character to play who went through all kinds of changes and challenges related to getting older and being single and being upfront and honest about it. Playing that character really inspired me to be very open in accessing my feelings about what’s going on…. Millions of women are going through it; it’s part of nature. But it can be very confusing and isolating.”
Cattrall added that menopause is not “shameful” but a completely natural part of life. “It’s as natural as having a child—it really is; it’s part of life,” she continued. “Physically, it’s part of how we’re made; hormonally, it’s how we’re constructed; chemically, it’s how we work. Like anything in nature: The seed is planted, it grows, it comes to fruition, after a period of time it starts to change and age, and it’s scary. You wonder, Will I be attractive, desirable, feminine? What is next chapter of life? I think it’s one of the reasons why it’s so taboo is because we don’t talk about it—it’s too frightening even to talk to a doctor about it. I want to reach out to women to encourage them to educate themselves about this time in their lives.”Oprah Winfrey attends the Premiere of OWN’s David Makes Man
The legendary Oprah Winfrey saw menopause as an opportunity to focus on herself. “So many women I’ve talked to see menopause as a blessing,” she said in her own magazine in 2019. “I’ve discovered that this is your moment to reinvent yourself after years of focusing on the needs of everyone else.”
Winfrey hopes to shed light on the mysteries of approaching menopause after realizing she was never prepared for its symptoms or physical repercussions. “For two years I didn’t sleep well. Never a full night. No peace. Restlessness and heart palpitations were my steady companions at nightfall. This was back when I was 48 to 50,” she said. “I went to see a cardiologist. Took medication. Wore a heart monitor for weeks. And then one day, walking through the offices of The Oprah Winfrey Show, I picked up a copy of The Wisdom of Menopause, Dr. Christiane Northrup’s book, and the pages fell open to the heading ‘Palpitations: Your Heart’s Wake-Up Call.’ I took it as a sign.
“Contained in that book was the answer I’d been going doctor to doctor trying to figure out,” she continued. “Until that point in my adult life, I don’t recall one serious conversation with another woman about what to expect.”
The queen of Goop wants to rebrand menopause. “I think when you get into perimenopause, you notice a lot of changes. I can feel the hormonal shifts happening, the sweating, the moods—you’re all of a sudden furious for no reason,” she shared with Goop in 2018. “Menopause gets a really bad rap and needs a bit of rebranding. I remember when my mother went through menopause and it was such a big deal, and I think there was grief around it for her and all these emotions. I don’t think we have in our society a great example of an aspirational menopausal woman.”
In 2017, the Sex and the City star shared that she’s going through menopause at the same time as her wife, Christine. “There has been no sadness for me because once you hit 50, you’re done,” she told Stella Magazine, adding that “the freedom that comes from no longer being fertile is huge.”
Bette Midler has been telling women not to stress about menopause since 2001. “I don’t suggest that anyone obsess over menopause or aging. Still, it is true that in this culture, they throw you out when you get older,” she told Oprah in an interview. “I see it all the time, especially in my business. At my age, you’re playing somebody’s mother—and there aren’t even a lot of those roles!”
Gillian Anderson, soon to be seen playing Margaret Thatcher on The Crown, has been open about going through early menopause for years. “How wonderful would it be if we could get to a place where we are able to have these conversations openly and without shame,” she told People in 2017. “Admit, freely, that this is what’s going on. So we don’t feel like we’re going mad or insane or alone in any of the symptoms we are having.
“Perimenopause and menopause should be treated as the rites of passage that they are,” she continued. “If not celebrated, then at least accepted and acknowledged and honored.”
Unsurprisingly Whoopi Goldberg has used humor to address the symptoms of menopause—like those extreme temperature changes. “How can you keep a man [erect] for 19 hours and not be able to cool down a hot flash? How is that possible?” she said in a standup routine.
Famed British actor Julie Walters spoke to SAGA about what it was like going through menopause in 2015. “Oh, God! It was like a chimney and came from the base of my spine. I was doing this TV show called Murder, and every take there’d be, ‘Stop! She’s having a flush!’” she said. “At the National, I’d come offstage for a quick change and have to shout, ‘Garth, the tray!’ And this guy would come with this big tin tray and fan me. Harry Potter, I was in a wig and padding, and they had to put this big tube of air conditioning in my face!”