Pam Grier defies expectations.
She always did. The actress was Foxy Brown, Jackie Brown and Coffy. The tough, no nonsense Grier was the queen of '70s blaxploitation movies.
She is also a survivor. Grier not only beat cancer, but also flourished in an industry that spits women out.
You might think that Grier would be tough during an interview, but the opposite is true. She's sweet, classy and has a grace that's undeniable.
She's also a woman of amazing style – and inspiration.
I ask her about aging and the 62-year-old tosses out, "If you talk a lot about aging then you have an issue with it. You should think about living."
I find her living or at least making a pitstop in New Orleans where the temps are soaring. "It's a bandana, hat, and ponytail look today, " she says with a laugh.
It's been a busy time for Pam with the recent paperback release of her book, "Foxy: My Life in Three Acts" — and several movies in the works.
She says writing her life story was tough.
"I know that my life is a journey and a struggle. I've struggled through racism and sexism, but my mentors helped keep me strong. I think it's good to put your life down on paper and reflect on how you lived.
"I marvel that I had the mental strength to comfort and protect myself. I wanted to share that journey with readers – especially women."
As for her mentors, she mentions her beloved grandfather.
""My grandfather was the first feminist," she says with a laugh. "He told me, 'I want you to be self-sufficient.' He made me strong and wise."
PAM GRIER ON STYLE
Ask Pam about style and she laughs. She defined that cool '70s look in her films including big hair and those bell-bottom pants. She was also known for a low cut top or two.
"Now, women dress scantily, but it's because of expressing their own femininity and not for men," she says.
"I think women should dress any which way they want now," she says. "Some people will like it and some won't. It's about expressing what's unique about you."
PAM ON PLASTIC SURGERY: "NO ONE IS FLAWLESS."
Pam says she doesn't really think about nips or tucks. "I don't get wrinkles or lines," she says with a laugh. "It's our genetics.
"But if you want my opinion, I think when you have lines and wrinkles, it shows that you're alive.
"We deal with a public perception of flawlessness," she says. "No one is flawless.
"Before you go under the knife, ask yourself, ''Am I doing this for myself or others?
"It's such a personal issue."
Pam was worried that she wouldn't have time to age gracefully. In 1988, she was diagnosed with stage four cancer and was told she had months to live.
"I was someone who never was sick. Never even had the flu," she says. "When I found out I had cancer, I was surprised." She turned towards Chinese herbs for help – and swears by their powers.
"I did Western medicine balanced with Chinese. It was my doctor who sent me right to Chinatown to balance my system. I had to build my immune system," she says.
What she did worked.
"I've been in remission for years," she says, mentioning that keeping active is also part of her plan these days.
"I run and also ride horses in the snow," says the Colorado native. "When you are active in the cold, it keeps your immune system strong."
She advises midlifers who want to look and feel good, "You do need to sleep for your health and you must keep moving. But you also have to find what balances you. I found that balance by taking yoga."
"I've done yoga with Chinese herbs to balance and support my organs."
She adds, "I also don't eat foods that cause inflammation and effect your pancreas. I avoid white sugar and white flour and pasta. Everything I eat is whole grain and natural."
TAKING TIME FOR PAM
With the release of her book, Pam says that she traveled over 150,000 miles last year on a tour. "I did the book tour and three movies. It took its toll," she says.
"I think the key is you don't accept every invite."
She found out the hard way that you need to slow down. "I had pneumonia and went to the hospital for three days. Honestly, I don't know how I did it. I was so tired."
"I don't know where I found the stamina."
Sit still? Forget it. Pam is deeply involved in charity work including a community program in Texas that teaches people to cook and grow organic veggies. She also helps churches open their doors for kids facing chaos.
"You start at the grass roots level," she says of helping the nation change. If you don't use your knowledge to inform then you're the victim."
She recently did a fan convention in Chicago. "There were fans who told me, 'Pam, I've loved you for over 40 years.' One woman asked me to sign 60 posters and flew in from another state."
"I have a great life," she says with a laugh.
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