World's Most Beautiful

Forever Young Julia

Life, love—and those incredible looks—just get better every year for Julia Roberts, the World's Most Beautiful Woman (for a record fifth time!)

By Jess Cagle
5 min

Above Image | Alexi Lubomirski for Lancôme Who, Me?: “Like, it’s not just of this borough—it is of the world!” Roberts jokes of being World’s Most Beautiful Woman.

Just look at her and the answer may be obvious—but it's still a good question: Why is Julia Roberts the World's Most Beautiful Woman? At 49, the Lancôme ambassador is a testament to the power of good genes, healthy living and restraint from cosmetic enhancement. But our attraction to Roberts goes well beyond the physical. For nearly three decades we have watched her grow, learn, stumble and sprint, and we've discovered that the irresistibly vulnerable, determined, smart, fun-loving, girl-next-door persona that made her a star is also pretty much who she really is.

People has named Roberts the World's Most Beautiful a record-shattering five times—first in 1991. Then she was a skittish 23-year-old adjusting to fame and adulthood. Her looks haven't changed a lot since, but everything else has. She and cinematographer Danny Moder, 48, have been married for 14 years. Their twins, Hazel and Phinnaeus ("Finn"), will become teenagers this fall. Their youngest, Henry, is 9. She works steadily but chooses projects carefully (she recently gave voice to a Smurf and in November she will star in Wonder, based on the moving R.J. Palacio novel) and spends a good deal of her time on charitable endeavors—a constructive use of the fame she's always had a love-hate relationship with.

Roberts recently sat down in Manhattan's Gramercy Park Hotel to discuss her remarkable evolution, her plans for the next 26 years and her secrets to looking and feeling young.

PeopleYou're the World's Most Beautiful Woman. Congratulations! Are you excited?

Julia RobertsI am! I am very flattered.

So you still get excited when people call you beautiful. It has happened for a long time. This is your fifth time on the cover of the World's Most Beautiful issue.

Really? Wow!

George Clooney has been Sexiest Man Alive two times. Julia Roberts, World's Most Beautiful five times.

I'm going to mention that in my Christmas card to the Clooneys this year.

The first time you were on the World's Most Beautiful cover was 1991....When you look back at yourself at 23, what would you say you were like?

Adorable and naive and so happy to be invited to the party, you know? People say, "Oh, when Pretty Woman came out it must have really changed your life," and it's kind of become this joke, but the truth is I was out of town when Pretty Woman came out. I was in another movie in this tiny little town that was showing Star Wars in its first run. I remember reading USA Today: "Pretty Woman came out this weekend and made this much money," and I thought, "Is that a lot of money? Is that good? Is that great?" I didn't really know.

Was it difficult when you got out of that bubble and realized that the entire world knew who you were and cared about every single thing about you?

There was a moment in time when that was a bigger challenge to me, but it was also the time when paparazzi were hiding in bushes and would sort of jump out. I didn't like that—call me crazy. So I did get a little thrown off balance for a period of time from all of that.

You and I met in 2001, 16 years ago. The following year you would marry Danny and then eventually start a family. You were starting to figure to have a private life.

Well, how to be in absolute control of certain aspects of life...because there are some things that just aren't going to be in my control. To just become far less concerned with outside influences.

Does it take a lot of work to keep [away from] the outside influences? You can't go to the grocery store or on the Internet without reading about yourself.

I don't need to know every weird, mean, untrue, odd [tabloid claim]—I only eat popcorn, or my husband doesn't love me unless I wear blue. I go to the grocery store...and there is the odd occasion where I'm waiting and I'm looking around and I'm like "What?!" and turn to the man behind me and go, "Not true, sir!"

What do you do in your life to de-stress?

Play mah-jongg. [Then I'm] centered, good to go for the rest of the day—like filling up your car with gas.

What's a perfect day for you?

I can't tell you on-camera, Jess. You're making my cheeks turn pink.

Is it even legal?

It is. Well, maybe not in the southern states. No, it's just to be with my family [with] everybody feeling happy and running around and playing. Just sharing time together.

Is there a place where you're happiest?

At home or in New Mexico, our house there. The kids are really happy there. Danny and I love it there. Just wide-open space.

Your twins are going to be teenagers this year.

[Feigns surprise] Yes, that is true!

Did you not know that?

[Laughs] You say it like I feel like I should be doing something about that.

I'm sorry to spring that on you. How are your kids different from you and how are they like you?

They all have a very keen sense of humor. They all have a sort of different style of humor, but I do think they are all pretty funny, and I really hope they get that from me because that's what I tell everybody. Last night we were playing [the card game Anomia], all of us—my whole family, my sister and my brother-in-law—in stitches, just tears streaming down our faces, having the best time.

What do you tell your daughter and your sons about beauty, appearance, pressure to dress a certain way?

It's an interesting navigation because you don't want to mess them up, you don't want to make them aware of something that was better that they weren't aware of....I think as long as everybody smells good and has a smile on their face, that's a beauty regime!

Were you a happy kid?

How old as a kid?


Not happy.


Keep going. 24, better! I was awkward. You know there are really only four people who were fabulous, and unfortunately I went to high school with all four of them.

Where are they now?

Do you want to know something? Yesterday we had a Skype call to a boy I went to school with who was smart and a football player and was handsome and dated the prettiest girl—not as pretty as his wife, but back then the prettiest girl—and he went on to become an astronaut. He is in space, and we Skyped with him yesterday. He, like, floated and told us all about this space mission that he is on, and I told him, "You are officially the coolest guy I went to high school with." [Shane Kimbrough, 49, just returned from almost six months aboard the International Space Station.]

People who had their glory days in high school are not allowed to become astronauts!

He goes against all the rules....You peak too early, it's all downhill.

Do you look back and think, "I peaked at 'x'? "

I think I'm currently peaking. I'm a slow rise. I'm like a slow Thanksgiving dinner roll.

What were you confident about when you were young, and what were you insecure about?

I think I was confident that it all would be okay, always. I think I always knew that there was something optimistic in me.

And insecurities?

Everything else.

Where did the confidence that everything was going to be okay come from?

Just bulls----ing my way through, and then just one day it stuck. [My mother] absolutely led by example.

You lost your mother a couple of years ago. Did the things that she taught you crystallize for you when she was gone?

I think it's in a state of flow when things come to me or just my gratitude [for] something is sharper....My mom worked a full-time job and raised three girls pretty much on her own. My brother's older, so he was gone and out of the house. [When I] had three children under 3 years old, I was like, "Mom, how did you do this?" And instead of saying, "Well, you just have to apply yourself and it takes effort," she goes, "It's called daycare, honey." And I was so appreciative and so grateful she didn't tell me some sage, bulls--- story about what it's like to be a great mother.

It's been 26 years since you first appeared on the World's Most Beautiful cover. Where do you see yourself 26 years from now?

75 years old? I think if I can just grow gracefully-ish old and watch my kids grow up and realize their dreams and find their person in life and hopefully have a family—little creatures for Danny and me to spoil. That's what the winter of life is supposed to be about.

You look forward to being a grandmother?

I guess. I mean, God, that sounds really premature right now. You had me all scared about teenagers, and now, like, I'm a grandmother. I'm still in my 40s!

Her Beauty Confessions

People's style and beauty director Andrea Lavinthal asked the now-and-forever pretty woman what she's learned about looking great

Andrea LavinthalWhom do you find beautiful?

Julia RobertsI believe all the corny answers are true....People who seem truly happy, [such as] my neighbor, Mrs. Schreiber, who just turned 92 a couple of weeks ago. She's stunning. Swimming in the ocean and driving her car and taking her walks—she just radiates, and I think it's because she's happy in her life. That's what makes everybody the most gorgeous.

If you could give any style or beauty advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?

Oh my God, stay home. That might be it. [My] critical teenage years were the '80s, when it was all about Calvin Klein, Gloria Vanderbilt, all these really expensive brands, and I was so desperate. I just thought that was going to be the answer to all of my problems, if I just got a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, which was out of my reach. So I think [I'd] say, "You don't need Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. That swan stitched on the back pocket isn't going to make your life any better."

What's your favorite red carpet look you've ever worn?

Oh my goodness. I guess the one that gets the most commentary is probably my look for the Oscars for Erin Brockovich [pictured].

Where is that dress?

It's under my bed, in a box.

What's one thing you would never wear?

A thong bathing suit.

What clothes do you like to shop for most?

Pants that make your butt look small.

What's the oldest thing in your closet?

I actually have a jean jacket from a major [1988] motion picture called Satisfaction, which starred Justine Bateman. I've long let go of how silly I am in that movie.

What clothes or accessories are you saving for your daughter or your sons?

I have this little space in my house that my husband refers to as the heritage collection. Things I go, "I can't get rid of [this], what about Hazel!"

Of all the amazing red carpet gowns that you've worn, is there one you want her to wear to the prom?

I would say, "Don't be so dressy at the prom. You'd look cooler."

Does Hazel experiment with her personal style, or do your sons?

Probably Finn is the most fashion-oriented. Hazel has just a natural style, and Henry has a real, kind of athletic style.

If your hairstylist Serge Normant came to you and said, "I'm thinking of a bob—I just want to cut it all off," would you let him?

I have no idea how many times I've said that to Serge, and he says this to me: "No, baby."

You would make a huge change like that?

Mm-hmm. I may have to go to Supercuts.

What's your take on stuff like Botox, fillers and plastic surgery?

Do it if you need it....I think that we should all do what we want.

Have you embraced aging? Are you fighting it?

We have to put up a little bit of a fight. But then too much of a fight causes a wrinkle.