The Unstoppables: Creatives Talk About Aging, Lifelong Career and Ambition

Joan Collins rests her chin on her fists as she smiles. Her dark hair flows out of her cream-colored beret. She wears a matching sweater and pink lipstick.
Joan Collins in February.Credit…Amy Harrity for The New York Times

I love writing, I love acting, going onstage and doing my little one-woman show, and I refuse to be defined by a number, by an age. I think that’s terribly old-fashioned and not relevant in today’s world.

But you have to be resilient in this business. Rejection is a part of it. I look with dismay at so many of my fellow actors, fallen by the way because of drink and drugs. My father — he was a theatrical agent — instilled in me that I should develop skin like a rhinoceros, and be like a marshmallow on the inside.

  1. 1952

    Ms. Collins in “I Believe in You.”

    Hulton Archive, via Getty Images

  2. 1955

    “Land of the Pharaohs,” directed by Howard Hawks.

    Film Publicity Archive/United Archives, via Getty Images

  3. 1977

    Starring in the science fiction film “Empire of the Ants, based on a short story by H.G. Wells.

    Eddie Sanderson/Getty Images

  4. 1981 The TV series “Dynasty” made Ms. Collins a household name.

    ABC Photo Archives, via Getty Images

  5. 1983 Ms. Collins won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama Series for her role in “Dynasty.”

    Ron Galella Collection, via Getty Images

  6. 1992

    On Broadway in “Private Lives.”

    Maria R. Bastone/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

  7. 2010

    In her one woman show, “One Night With Joan, where she shared stories from her life and career.

    Walter McBride/Corbis, via Getty Images

  8. 2017

    At the premiere for the film “The Time of Their Lives.”

    David M. Benett/WireImage, via Getty Images

  9. 2024

    Ms. Collins was a presenter at the Emmy Awards.

    Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

You also need patience. This business is a waiting game. For example, a script was written for me about the Duchess of Windsor [Wallis Simpson]. I’ve been wanting to do it since the 1980s. We got a green light only a month ago. Years ago I thought it would be wonderful to do a picture about growing up with my sister, Jackie. It just hasn’t come off.

It would be set when we were children, during the Blitz. At the time I didn’t feel fear. I didn’t know about the bombings. We would pick up shrapnel in the streets, and in the evening I would put it in my cigar box. We would draw silly pictures of Hitler. We were evacuated 10 or 12 times. We would be in the tube stations, and people would be playing their harmonicas and singing.

A question I’m often asked is, “Why are you still working?” It’s such a fatuous thing to say. I keep on working because I love being busy. It’s tiring when I do my one-woman show, going to a new hotel every night. But it’s rewarding. The audience is so responsive. That buoys me.

Current and upcoming projects: “Behind the Shoulder Pads, Tales I Tell My Friends,” a memoir; “Joan Collins Unscripted,” a British theatrical tour.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Giorgio Armani stares into the camera with his right hand resting on his forehead. he wears a black sweater and his white hair is combed back.
Giorgio Armani in 2015.Credit…Paul Stuart/Camera Press, via Redux

For those of us who grew up in the shadow of war, ambition was something natural, a vital drive. It was not so much a desire for fame and notoriety but rather an urge for personal fulfillment, a way to assert oneself outside the hardship and to overcome it. My mother and father taught me the value of commitment and hard work to get things done. It is a lesson that has never left me.

It took me some time to find my way. First, I studied medicine, then came La Rinascente [an Italian department store, where Armani worked in display] and Cerruti — fashion, in other words. That was the moment when I found my ambition, when I discovered the power of clothes not only to change the way you look but, more profoundly, to influence the way you are and behave.

  1. Looks from Giorgio Armani Privè’s couture spring 2024 collection, shown in Paris in January. →

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I think the challenges — or problems — and the rewards of staying in the game go hand in hand if you do this work for as long as I have and if you remain present. The main pressure is staying relevant without giving in to the pressures of the moment, which often feel very urgent but are forgettable in the long run.

In truth, I don’t think about age much. In my head, I am the same age I was when I started Giorgio Armani. Situations and people change, but the challenges and problems are all the same in the end. My way of tackling them hasn’t changed — with great determination. Audiences evolve, however, and this cannot be underestimated. Stylistic coherence, therefore, must be elastic. Otherwise one becomes rigid. The ultimate gratification is to become a classic — outside of and above fashion — and to be identified with a style.

Current and upcoming projects: Designed 14 men’s, women’s and haute couture collections in 2023.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Betye Saar, wearing a denim jacket, looks over her shoulder and smiles. She wears a light red lipstick and her gray hair is tied up on top of her head.
Betye Saar in February.Credit…Kayla James for The New York Times

Being raised during the Depression, we all learned to be creative with what we had on hand. At Christmas or on my birthday, I always got art supplies, and I was jealous that my siblings got bikes and stuff. I realize now that my parents were fostering my creativity.

An early influence on my becoming an artist was Simon Rodia. My grandmother lived in Watts, and we would walk by the Watts Towers when they were being built. I was fascinated by how he used bottle caps and corn cobs and broken plates — trash, essentially — to make art, to make something beautiful. Then, much later, in the 1960s, I saw the work of Joseph Cornell. He refined the use of found objects and materials and boxes, and I thought, “Wow, I’ve kind of been doing that, too.” I didn’t know it was called assemblage, but it made sense to me and set me in that direction as an artist.

A young Betye Saar in 1965 at the entrance to Simon Rodia’s monumental towers in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles.Credit…via Betye Saar and Roberts Projects

The main challenge, I guess, to being an artist is how to make a living. But being a creative person means you have to find ways to do this. I studied design at U.C.L.A., and after I graduated, I made greeting cards, I made jewelry, I got into printmaking and then sold my prints. I taught art classes in colleges all over the states. My creativity kept evolving with my needs as I got married and bought a house, had my daughters and put them through college. Through it all, I loved making art. It kept me going.

I still want to make art. Sometimes in the morning when I wake up, it’s hard to get out of bed, hard to get back into my body and get it to move. But I do it. Not everyone has a reason to get out of bed, something they love to do and that gives their life meaning. I am so lucky that I have that as part of my life. I don’t really think about my age, unless someone mentions it, though I guess I feel middle-aged — which for me is, like, 50 to 70. It would be kind of neat to live to 100, to have 100 revolutions around the sun. I’m pretty close.

  1. Greeting Card #8

    Betye Saar, via Roberts Projects; Photo by Paul Salveson

  2. The inside of Greeting Card #8

    Betye Saar, via Roberts Projects; Photo by Paul Salveson

  3. Greeting Card #1

    Betye Saar, via Roberts Projects; Photo by Paul Salveson

  4. The inside of Greeting Card #1

    Betye Saar, via Roberts Projects; Photo by Paul Salveson

  5. Memories Lost at Sea, 2024

    Betye Saar, via Roberts Projects; Photo by Paul Salveson

  6. The exterior of Memories Lost at Sea, 2024.

    Betye Saar, via Roberts Projects; Photo by Paul Salveson

  7. A Different Destiny, 2024

    Betye Saar, via Roberts Projects; Photo by Paul Salveson

  8. The exterior A Different Destiny, 2024.

    Betye Saar, via Roberts Projects; Photo by Paul Salveson

  9. Dark Passage 2024

    Betye Saar, via Roberts Projects; Photo by Paul Salveson

  10. The exterior of Dark Passage 2024.

  11. Drifting Toward Twilight, 2023 (installation view)

    Betye Saar, via The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens; Photo by Joshua White

Current and upcoming projects: Completed “Drifting Toward Twilight,” an installation at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA; “Betye Saar: Heart of a Wanderer” exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston; “Betye Saar: Serious Moonlight” at the Kunstmuseum in Lucerne, Switzerland; and completed a newly commissioned artwork for “Paraventi; Folding Screens from the 17th to the 21st Century” at the Fondazione Prada in Milan.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Martha Stewart wears a shirt made of white lace with flower designs and large gold earrings. She looks to the left and her blonde hair swoops just above her eye.
Martha Stewart in 2022.Credit…Ysa Pérez for The New York Times

This year I made time to grow the best vegetables, monster vegetables, that I’ve ever grown in my life. My houses are never done. And I’m writing my autobiography. That’s the scariest project for me because I don’t really like everything about myself — where I’ve been, what I’ve done.

I get up at 6:30 every morning. My housekeeper comes at 7, and I can’t be in bed when she arrives. That would be very embarrassing. I’m a bad sleeper, in any case. At times I’d rather watch a documentary. Other times, I might be anxious, not for me but for my grandchildren. If I wake in the night, I read the headlines to make sure we’re not being bombed.

  1. 1976Ms. Stewart chopping vegetables in her kitchen.

    Susan Wood/Getty Images

  2. 1980At their Connecticut home, with her then-husband, Andy Stewart.

    Arthur Schatz/Getty Images

  3. 1982Her first book, “Entertaining,” is published.

  4. 1997On “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

    Margaret Norton/NBCU Photo Bank, via Getty Images

  5. 2002Ms. Stewart’s merchandise on display at K-Mart.

    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

  6. 2004After being sentenced to federal prison for insider trading.

    Mario Tama/Getty Images

  7. 2005

    Ms. Stewart appealed her conviction and was released.

    Mario Tama/Getty Images

  8. 2005

    Speaking to the staff of her magazine Martha Stewart Living.

    Timothy A. Clary/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

  9. 2015

    Ms. Stewart’s friendship with Snoop Dogg has endured for over a decade, leading to several jobs together, including co-hosting a cooking show.

    Christopher Polk/Getty Images

  10. 2020Ms. Stewart founded a new line of CBD products.

    Celeste Sloman for The New York Times

  11. 2023Showing off her cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition.

    Noam Galai/Getty Images

Maybe a little uncertainty can help fuel ambition. When I left my job on Wall Street, I knew I had to create a career for myself. I became a caterer, catering parties every night. Still I thought, “Will there come a time when my granddaughter — she’s 12 — is asked, “What did grandma do?” And all she can say is “Oh, she made parties for people.” I thought, “I have to do something more than this.” That was in the 1980s, when I wrote my first book, the one on entertaining.

At that time I wasn’t keeping my eye on the home, even though I was known as a homemaker. It wasn’t enough for a marriage. Maybe I regret not having had more children. Maybe I regret that my marriage ended abruptly. We’d been together 27 years. That used to be considered a long time, so when a long marriage ended, it was like somebody died. Maybe I would have liked getting married again. I didn’t, but I don’t mind. Still, I’m curious about what could have been.

My never-ending curiosity drives me. Will it stop? That’s never even occurred to me.

Current and upcoming projects: Autobiography in progress; an untitled Martha Stewart documentary from R.J. Cutler, who directed “The September Issue,” to stream on Netflix in 2024; a PBS documentary series, “Hope In the Water,” set for broadcast in 2024; a partnership with Samsung for a 2023-2024 advertising campaign; a line of gardening clothes and accessories in collaboration with French Dressing Jeans and Marquee Brands.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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