Celebrities Bring Menopause Discussions Out Into the Open

Last updated 02.19.2024 | by Sabrina Johnson | 11 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


Every woman goes through menopause at a certain age. Yet despite it being a natural part of life for half of the world’s population, the topic is still often seen as taboo.

I’ve known countless women who are afraid to broach the subject of menopause amongst their peers. And in some cases, they don’t feel comfortable discussing the topic with their own family members.

I’ll admit that even I – someone whose job it is to empower women during menopause- have felt reluctant to share my symptoms and experiences in certain circles for fear of judgment or discomfort.

But societal conditioning has silenced far too many of us for far too long. And now, the tides are slowly beginning to change. More women are opening up about their own experiences, and some of those women happen to be well-known celebrities in the public eye.

These famous faces are speaking out to end the stigma around menopause. And in doing so, they’re encouraging the rest of us to start talking about it more, too.

Oprah Winfrey

When the celebrated talk show host Oprah Winfrey began approaching her menopausal transition, she chose to embrace this stage of life with open arms. “So many women I’ve talked to see menopause as a blessing,” she wrote in her long-running magazine, O.

But it hasn’t always been plain sailing for Oprah. Like many of us, she struggled to get to grips with the physical symptoms. “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.”

However, the lack of openness surrounding menopause in society meant that even one of the richest and most successful women on the planet was unable to spot the link between her symptoms.

“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. Until that point in my adult life, I don’t recall one serious conversation with another woman about what to expect. “Ever since then, Oprah has been on a mission to break the taboo surrounding menopause. She encourages women to see menopause as a “moment to reinvent yourself after years of focusing on the needs of everyone else.” And now, with the release of her popular Menopause Curriculum, she aims to help women feel empowered as they enter this phase of life.

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama may have been the ultra-elegant First Lady of the United States, but behind the scenes, she was experiencing her own menopausal journey, and it wasn’t always easy.

Hot flashes didn’t wait for the cameras and crowds to leave. And sometimes, they were almost too much to bear. “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 recalled on her top-ranking podcast, The Light.

Thankfully, her doctor prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and once she found the right dosage, her symptoms and quality of life significantly improved.

Gwyneth Paltrow

Academy Award-winning actress and lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow is the Hollywood queen of health and wellness, but even she hasn’t managed to navigate menopause completely unscathed.

Recently, on an Instagram Q&A with her fans, she was asked about her own experiences going through this phase of life. Her response was simple: “I can’t deal; someone helps me and all us ladies, good lord.”

Yet it seems that Paltrow may have been having an off day, as her attitude to menopause isn’t always so bleak. In an interview with TODAY.com, she referred to this biological milestone as an ” absolutely beautiful rite of passage.”

But sadly, society still has a lot of catching up to do. “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.”

And so, Paltrow is choosing to be one of those aspirational women herself by shining a light on menopause and reminding women that life doesn’t have to stop just because your periods do.

Gillian Anderson

The X-Files star Gillian Anderson had an unusual introduction to menopause. Her journey began much earlier than most, and in her late 20s and early 30s, she was already experiencing the signs of perimenopause. Being so young, at first, she didn’t realize what was causing her symptoms.

In an interview with the feminist newspaper Lenny Letter, she recalls how “I was used to being able to balance a lot of things, and all of a sudden I felt like I could handle nothing. I felt completely overwhelmed.”

“It was at the point that I felt like my life was falling apart around me that I started to ask what could be going on internally, and friends suggested it might be hormonal,”

And so, after numerous visits to specialist doctors around the country, Anderson received an accurate diagnosis: early perimenopause. Finally, her symptoms, such as mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, depression, and fatigue, began to make sense. But that didn’t make them any easier to deal with, and going through this transition alone led her to feelings of shame and sadness.

But now, with the hard part behind her, she’s determined to open up a dialogue about menopause and remove the stigma surrounding this perfectly natural part of a woman’s life.

“Perimenopause and menopause should be treated as the rites of passage that they are.”

“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 said in an interview with People magazine. “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.”

Kim Cattrall

Kim Cattrall spent almost a decade playing the ultra-empowered Samantha Jones in the HBO smash hit series Sex and the City. But it’s not just her famous character who feels empowered to break down taboos and live as their authentic selves. The actress has long been open about the realities of her own menopausal journey, and she encourages other women to do the same.

Back in 2014, in an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine, Cattrall described menopause as “as natural as having a child—it really is; it’s part of life. Physically, it’s part of how we’re made; hormonally, it’s how we’re constructed; chemically, it’s how we work.”

But she goes on to explain how this natural transition isn’t always easy. “Like anything in nature: The seed is planted, it grows, it comes to fruition, and 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 [the] next chapter of life?’ I think 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.”And so, Catrell now strives to break the stigma surrounding menopause so women can feel comfortable and confident in sharing their experiences. She’s even joined forces with Pfizer to launch their wide-reaching Tune In To Menopause campaign, which aims to educate women about what to expect.

Salma Hayek

When Salma Hayek began experiencing a lesser-known side effect of menopause, some fans accused her of going under the knife. Although it’s not often talked about, breast size can significantly increase during perimenopause and menopause. And that’s exactly what happened to Hayek.

During a 2001 interview on the TV show Red Table Talk, Hayek recalled how “The boobs grow a lot. For some women, they get smaller. But there are some women that when you gain weight, your boobs grow, and other women that when you have children and you breastfeed, your boobs grow and they don’t go back down. And then in some of the cases, when you are in menopause they grow again. And I just happen to be one of those women where it happened in every single step!”

“They have just kept growing. Many, many sizes. And my back has been really suffering from it. And not a lot of people talk about this.”

But this isn’t the only symptom, the actress experienced during this phase of life. Like many women, she also had to navigate hot flashes and mood swings.

“I have gone through those periods, I still kind of am, but you got to notice those moments and take a deep breath and kind of say, ‘Okay, it’ll pass. You got to hold it together.”

Naomi Watts

Naomi Watts

Naomi Watts has been open and honest about her own struggles through menopause. And for this actress, her symptoms began relatively early on. In a recent interview with Hello magazine, she shared how, at just 36 years old, she was experiencing “mood swings, night sweats, and migraines…I was feeling like I was spiraling out of control.”

But up until that point, Watts had never even heard of the term “perimenopause.” And this, she says, is a big part of the problem.

“I truly believe that if menopause hadn’t been such an off-limits topic when I first started experiencing symptoms, I would’ve had an easier transition. I was part of a cycle that desperately needed to be broken. There was a lack of open conversation and resources to help women navigate the changes we go through.”

Naomi went on to share how she experienced intense feelings of shame, anxiety, and panic at the thought of losing her fertility. Thankfully, she and her partner were still able to conceive naturally, and now, she’s the proud mother of two children, Sasha and Kai. But she wants to make sure that other women don’t have to face the same isolating feelings that she did.

“I just knew that this is a road that no one else should have to walk through alone again without a community because, without proper care taken, you are going to turn in on yourself.” “That’s why I’m now so passionate about raising awareness and encouraging more honest conversations.”

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie

At the age of 39, Angelina Jolie made the brave decision to have her breasts, ovaries, and fallopian tubes removed. As the carrier of the BRCA1 genetic mutation, she had a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. The actress lost her mother to ovarian cancer at a devastatingly young age, and Jolie was determined not to meet the same fate.

So, she went under the knife, but removing a fertile woman’s ovaries comes with an unavoidable side effect: surgical menopause. Since the body has no time to adjust to such a sudden change, surgical menopause can present more challenging symptoms than naturally occurring menopause.

Yet the actress took it all in her stride. “I am now in menopause. I will not be able to have any more children, and I expect some physical changes. But I feel at ease with whatever will come, not because I am strong but because this is a part of life. It is nothing to be feared.”

“I actually love being in menopause. I haven’t had a terrible reaction to it, so I’m very fortunate. I feel older, and I feel settled being older. I feel happy that I’ve grown up. I don’t want to be young again.”

Conclusion

Any woman fortunate enough to reach a certain age will experience menopause. And for far too long, society has prevented us from opening up about this perfectly natural but often challenging phase of life.

Yet, thanks to celebrities like the ones in this post, those old taboos are finally being broken. Women are beginning to feel free to share their experiences openly, and I encourage you, the reader, to do the same.

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.