Amber Heard Explains Her Tattoos
The Amber Wave
Amber Heard hears a deep, familiar growl and spins around: It's her teacup Yorkie, a pint-size pouf, terrorizing a child on a Manhattan sidewalk. "Aww, kiddo," Amber says to the girl. "Did she scare you?" Kiddo slinks away, trying to make sense of a world in which everything cute isn't also cuddly. Amber learned that lesson long ago. She named her dog Pistol. She loves when looks are deceiving.
Twenty-five-year-old Amber has been living that contradiction her whole life. Stunning and graceful, with an absurdly symmetrical face, she looks like a young Sharon Stone. While growing up in a conservative community in Austin, Texas, Amber saw other girls going out of their way to play dumb. And for a while, she played along.
But nobody can fake it forever. Soon, Amber was poking and prodding and tinting almost everything she said with a deep skepticism of the world. "There was so much to debate, but no one wanted to take up the other side," she recalls. She was in Catholic school and liked to sound off on every hot-button issue that typically riles the status quo. She wasn't just pushing against walls; she was swinging at them. She needed to see something fall.
Finding Her Voice
It felt good at first. Addictive. But it was also alienating. At 16, she got her GED and left high school, then spent her small savings--about , earned from babysitting—on head shots made at a copy center. "Everyone advised against it. But I had a dream and a passion, and I wanted more," she says. By 17, Amber had made the movieFriday Night Lights, and by 18 had moved to L.A., where she landed roles in a handful of throwaway thrillers. "If you want to do something," she reasons, "you find a way."
That she has. Not only is Amber the face of the new Guess ads, but she is starring opposite Johnny Depp in the movieThe Rum Diaryand was one of the leads on the short-lived TV dramaThe Playboy Club. The show may have been better suited to cable, where it could have embraced its sexy core, but Amber made the most of her role, turning her character into a convincing alter ego—equal parts beauty and conflict. It also gave her a national platform, in a bunny suit no less.
Squeezing into that scant uniform required a considerable amount of self-discipline. "I watch what I eat and drink," says Amber. She also works out regularly by running ("It's the most time-accommodating exercise you can do"), playing tennis, and taking Pilates classes. In a town where many women would like you to believe they're naturally a perfect size 2, Amber makes it damn clear her trim body is hard earned. "There's no 'I don't diet, I eat what I want, and this is how I look,' " she says.
Curious Minds Want to Know
Even with her recent success, Amber shows scars from her childhood. Words build up inside her like a boat taking on water, and she bails them out as a matter of survival. She reads voraciously (she just finished Salman Rushdie'sMidnight's Children), as if compensating for years of missed education.
BeforeThe Playboy Clubbegan filming, Amber and the show's creator, Chad Hodge, met for dinner. She brought him a 1963 copy ofPlayboy—a relic of the time they were about to re-create. It was a gift, but also a signal: Amber had studied up. Hell, she just about lapped him in knowledge of the club. He loved it.
"People don't behave that way anymore," says Hodge. "She has the class of a person who's lived nine lives."
During filming, Amber kept going. Sexual politics and feminism are topics that might have set hair on fire in Texas—especially with enough hair spray—and she wanted to talk about them. "I wouldn't describe her as someone on a mission to be argumentative," says Hodge. "She's interested in interesting things. And interesting things are often more controversial."
Despite her outspokenness—or perhaps because of it—she also won overRum Diarydirector Bruce Robinson and, it would seem, her costar Johnny Depp. When some of the cast went out to blow off steam after a day of shooting, she would disappear. And at the end of filming, says Robinson, "I remember Johnny and I saying, 'Jesus, where's Amber?' "
What young actress passes up drinks with a film god like Johnny Depp? One who prefers to make an impression on the job, not off it. But also, one who was in a serious relationship at the time. With a woman.
A Private Life Goes Public
Amber has said she doesn't have one sexual orientation—she falls in love with the person, not their gender. This isn't shocking news to anyone who knows her. "I never was in," she notes. "From the very beginning, even my conservative family knew."
Some might have thought the admission of ambiguity would overshadow her work. But, for Amber, staying silent wasn't an option. "You can't respect yourself if you're afraid to be who you are," she says. "It requires bravery to do something no one else around you is doing. But the risk was outweighed by the possibility of playing into this horribly detrimental lie that some in Hollywood perpetuate."
Maybe someone won't hire her because of her honesty. But if Amber had shrunk in fear of being ostracized, she wouldn't be who she is today: a confident, poised, purpose-driven woman—an actress who truly wants to be…heard.
Watch her exclusive behind-the-scenes video from her WH covershoot here:
Amber's Shape-Up Secrets
MAKE TIME TO COOK
Amber prefers to make her own food—even when she works a 90-hour week—so that she can control what ingredients go in (mostly vegetables and lean protein).
FORM THE FITNESS HABIT
If a routine is broken, it's easy to backslide into laziness. So keep telling yourself, I want this. Because after you get into a routine, your body will want it. "Once you start working out, you feel better and it becomes something you make time to do," says Amber.
FOCUS ON HEALTH, NOT VANITY
Many women hit the gym to look better, but that can't be your only motivation. Otherwise, you'll feel discouraged when you don't see results fast enough. "It's about feeling healthy," says Amber. And that's something that happens the minute you make a positive change.
BUY WHOLE INGREDIENTS
Amber reads food labels—and if she sees an ingredient she doesn't recognize, she often leaves the item on the shelf. That might limit you in the snack aisle, but it will lead you to eat fewer processed foods. "You feel better when you're eating food that retains nutritional value," she says.
Video: Cannes 2018: Amber Heard on using star power for social activism.
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