The Girl Next Door
Katie Holmes: The Ultimate Second Act
Stay creative. Challenge yourself. Eat cupcakes. Focus on the positive. Play with glitter. Feel the pain. Text your mother. Dance till you drop. How she survived global fame—and created her own joy.
by Johanna Schneller
Less than a minute after you meet Katie Holmes, at a photo shoot in New York City, she reaches into the plunging neckline of her burgundy leather dress and rearranges her cleavage, pushing her breasts to the sides of the V, to reveal less. She stands back and assesses her reflection. “I think that’s better, don’t you?” she asks. Her friends use the words delightfully open to describe Holmes, 37. You can see what they mean.
Barefoot, she zips over to a laptop and scrolls down a song menu. Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” pours from ceiling- mounted speakers, followed by Amy Winehouse and Jewel. Holmes steps onto a riser and begins posing for the photographer, angling a hip one way, a shoulder another. Her face is mesmerizing: She has the skin of a baby and cheekbones like wings on a French palace. But the look in her eyes—you can only describe it as ancient. Thousand-year-old eyes. The photographer asks her to lean forward and open her mouth slightly. Suddenly, everyone bursts out laughing. She forgot to spit out her gum.
Few things are as unexpected as Katie Holmes’s laugh. Her speaking voice is soft, sweet, measured. Her laugh, however, is downright raucous—deep, loud and infectious. She has two types. There’s the single burst—Ha!—which usually accompanies some self-deprecating remark or realization. Then there’s the blast, Hahahaha! It’s like the audio at a fireworks display.
Later that afternoon, you’ll hear a lot of both. From the moment she sits down for a long talk, it’s clear that she wants to be frank and unguarded. It’s also clear, however, that she can’t always allow herself to be. Time and fame have made her wary.
Holmes has been in the spotlight for 20 years, first as a star of the TV series Dawson’s Creek and then as the wife of Tom Cruise—arguably the world’s best-known actor, and one of the more controversial because of his involvement with the Church of Scientology. Every moment in their relationship made headlines, from their courtship (he jumped on Oprah’s couch!) and 2006 wedding (in an Italian castle!) through the birth of their daughter, Suri (now nine), and their divorce in July 2012. Holmes doesn’t discuss that part of her life. She’s made a new one, and it is humming along.
“You’ve got to keep going” is all she’ll say about starting over. “In every part of your life. Focus on the positive. Stay creative. Go to things that interest you. Do work that’s fulfilling. Challenge yourself. What’s amazing about the human spirit, there are so many people doing inspiring things. If you focus on that, it makes your life richer.”
The actress Judy Greer (The Descendants) met Holmes at a vulnerable moment, soon after she’d split from Cruise and relocated to New York. They were in rehearsals for the Broadway play Dead Accounts, which ran from November 2012 through January 2013. “She was a single mom, working crazy hours, six days a week,” Greer says. “I, by myself, in an apartment that was rented for me, felt overwhelmed. But she handled her life with grace and ease.” From the start, Greer never felt that she was talking to a famous star. “It was more like an old friend,” she says. “Katie listens. She’s open with her opinions. I’d tell her a story and say, ‘This person said such and such,’ and she’d be like, ‘That’s bullshit.’ She’s a girl’s girl. She’s always had my back.”
To read our full interview, pick up our February 2016 issue—on newsstands January 26!