Jane Fonda: ‘I assumed I would die lonely and an addict of some sort’

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We were just talking about Jane Fonda in my PiYo class the other day. (It’s like a combination of pilates and yoga and it’s a thing.) The instructor revealed that she’s 54, which amazed us, and she said when she was younger she considered Jane Fonda her aging inspiration. Then we talked about Frankie and Grace and how much everyone loves it. (I’ve only seen a few episodes!) Anyway Jane put out a whole exercise video series in 2010 for active older adults and she’s like the poster woman for looking amazing as you age. Plus she’ll tell you what she’s had done to look that way (which she was recently pestered about by a subpar journalist). So it’s surprising to hear that Jane, who just turned 80, never thought she’d make it to this age. She told People that she thought she’d die an addict and alone.

Jane Fonda, who rang in her 80th birthday on Dec. 21, says she’s simply thankful to be alive.

As a young woman, “I never pictured 30,” she tells PEOPLE in the magazine’s new issue. “I assumed I wouldn’t live very long and that I would die lonely and an addict of some sort. I didn’t think if I did live this long, that I would be vibrant and healthy and still working. I’m grateful.”

Fonda’s early years were shaped by family tragedy. Her socialite mother, Frances, suffered from mental illness and committed suicide when Jane was 12 and her brother, actor Peter Fonda, was 9. Jane, who idolized her father, movie legend Henry Fonda, despite his emotional coldness, says she led a “fraught adolescence” filled with insecurity and loneliness. She battled bulimia for decades, even as she rose to Hollywood stardom and won two Oscars.

Today, the actress, activist and author has overcome many of life’s challenges and is not only alive but thriving. (She earned Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations this year for Grace and Frankie, her Netflix comedy with friend Lily Tomlin.) In the new issue of PEOPLE, she looks back on what she has learned about life and love, including her three marriages (to director Roger Vadim, activist Tom Hayden and media mogul Ted Turner). “If you don’t feel seen, safe or celebrated, get out,” she says.

Fonda says it’s her inner self-improvement that she is most proud of. “I’m thankful that I’ve gotten better over the 80 years,” she says. “I’m less judgmental. I’m forgiving. It wasn’t always true. I’ve really worked hard to get better as a human being.”

[From People]

I don’t know all that about Jane’s history apart from her troubled Vietnam protests, for which she’s apologized so many times. Just reviewing our coverage, she’s discussed the fact that she had bulimia up until her 40s. She recently revealed that she’d been sexually assaulted as a child and raped and always thought it was her fault. I hate bringing all that up but I’m trying to understand what Fonda was going through when she thought she would die young. Losing her mother so young like that must have been so awful. I feel for her, but she seems to be in a good place now. She has a lot of wisdom and she’s outspoken.

I always tell people I’m going to live until I’m over 90 and am a pain in the ass. (I’m already a pain in the ass.) I really hope and plan for this, but of course you never know what life will bring. Also, I really like what she said about ditching a bad relationship. “If you don’t feel seen, safe or celebrated, get out.” I need to remember this.



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Photos credit: Getty and WENN

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29 Responses to “Jane Fonda: ‘I assumed I would die lonely and an addict of some sort’”

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  1. lightpurple says:

    Long may she reign.

  2. truth hurts says:

    I think Jane Fonda is a very good actress who has loved and been successful a lot of years. Kudos to her for being so healthy and active at the mere age of 80. However I don’t buy all the BS she is selling.

  3. Prim says:

    Sounds like she’s working a 12 Step program to me, and working it well. Good for her.

  4. Luca76 says:

    The You must remember This just did a podcast series on her and Jane Sebring which might give a deeper understanding of Jane (at least the first half of her life/career).

  5. Val says:

    She sends mixed signals to women…about aging and dieting. I loathe her L Oreal campaign..

    • denisemich says:


      But I think she is a mixed bag like all of us. I believe in her business you want to look good for your age. I also think she has done more for looks than health. She isn’t a genius. She is a celebrity.

      Doctors don’t tell you good health is at BMI 24. They look at your blood pressure, activeness and fat distribution. I am BMI overweight but I have Ideal blood pressure. I am basically a vegan. My doctor NEVER mentions losing weight to me and other Hollywood bs about health

    • PIa says:

      Actually I side eye all L’Oreal Umbrella company spokes-people. Lupita and Freida Pinto make great points about how colorism affected them, but represent and profit from companies that still actively sell whitening creams.

      • Natalia says:

        But if people want a lightening cream why shouldn’t they have it? By the same token, if I want a tanning cream why shouldn’t I have it? I don’t see a problem with a company selling whitening creams, and I don’t see a problem with Lupita or Freida representing such a company.

      • Domino says:

        lightening cream has health issues associated with it.

        Women who cannot afford the high end stuff resort to dangerous chemicals with even worse side effects. It is classism – if you are dark it is because you are poor and have to spend your time outside in the sun working, and it is colorism – i.e. Darker skin cannot possibly be as beautiful as lighter skin.

    • Carrie1 says:

      This may be surprising but every human being on the planet sends mixed messages and signals. It’s part of growing and being human too. Can’t be avoided, humans being individuals and all that.

  6. Nancy says:

    Congrats to anyone who reaches 80. If I reach that age, I hope I don’t seem as desperate as she does. She seems so fragile, like an 80 year old woman clinging to the 50 year old woman she once was. I think we all want to look our best at any age, but imo she gild the lily. She can glue herself together, wear youthful hairdos and wardrobe, but it kind of creeps me out. Joan Rivers, Inc. Bless her heart, she does seem at peace after a rather chaotic life. Starting your life with a mother who commit suicide has to have an impact on everything thereafter.

    • KLO says:

      She has always talked about being incredibly insecure all her life. I read her biography and her insight to her own life is astonishing.

      She has been through A LOT. I remember reading about her first husband (father of her first child ) Roger Vadim forcing her into threeways with random women in her own home and how it worsened her bulimia (which she had had since a teenager). Heartbreaking stuff. That alone could break a woman for life.

      But she still here looking like a gangsta. Most 50-year olds don’t look as good as her. She is the first to admit the plastic surgery but she’s been hella fit all her life. And a great fashion sense too. I love her.

      • minx says:

        Yes. And Henry Fonda was a piece of work, a cold father who criticized her looks. No wonder she was bulimic.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      Desperate and fragile?

      She’s working steadily (including Our Souls at Night with Robert Redford now on Netflix), and getting nominated. Being honest about your own truths is empowering, not weak.


  7. Sansa says:

    I saw JF in NY City walking all by herself in early 90s. She is very beautiful, but a little smaller then imagined. I guess she was still with Ted then as she was dressed ‘western’ boots torqgouise jeans’. She looks 25 years younger then her age.

  8. Indiana Joanna says:

    Yes, Jane is a mixed bag, but who isn’t. Hated her go-for-the-burn videos and that stage of her life. But usually liked her movies.

    Mostly, I like her grit.

  9. KLO says:

    Jane Fonda was born at the time when women over 30 were completely disposable when it came to being considered sexually desirable or beautiful. She was one of the trailblazers in that sense. So I get very well how she didn’t “see” her future like that because she had not seen other women do it like she has.

    Her mother killed herself and her father was incredibly cold towards her. She was sent to boarding school, became bulimic, all that horrible stuff.

    People would become suicidally depressed over way less. I think she is incredibly resilient and it is really good that she talks about her hardships and mistakes. She shows that those things can be overcome.

    • Natalia says:

      Incredibly hypocritical the way some people refuse to forgive Jane Fonda for the mistakes she’s made (esp. the Vietnam thing) FOR WHICH SHE’S APOLOGIZED a ZILLION times, yet they preach forgiveness at their hypocritical right-wing evangelical churches. (Of course, some don’t.)

      The people who criticize this woman aren’t nearly as growthful and insightful as Jane Fonda. And no, you don’t need a lot of money to be growthful and insightful. Just honest, motivated and diligent.

      Their loss. She’s an amazing woman.

    • Carrie1 says:

      Amen. Well said, thank you for sharing this wisdom.

  10. perplexed says:

    I didn’t know she went through all this stuff. Whoa.

  11. Meg says:

    She spoke previously about her gut instinct to being assaulted was ‘what did I do wrong?’ it gets me so mad that so many of us are sent hat message! For me it was when a boss treated me poorly or a roommate, everything was seen as my responsibility even others behavior. Maybe this is why so many women are controlling? We’re told to!

    • Carrie1 says:

      It’s long been a manipulation tactic, make the woman take on responsibilities so as to ensure they can be gaslit later. Eons of time this nightmare has been going on.

      Jane is a rock solid testament to surviving while thriving and refusing to stop trying to heal and and grow.

  12. liloo says:

    Had to google younger photos of her and she resembles Amber Heard

  13. KLO says:

    Wow Meg. Very interesting insight about the control thing. There is truth to it.

  14. KeepingItReal says:

    Well there’s still time Jane. Don’t give up on your dreams!