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The Girl Next Door
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Katie Holmes on Living a Normal Life, Taking Selfies & Why She Can't Wait for Art Basel in Miami Beach

A brand-new normal takes reign in the career and personal life of the actress, activist, and artist.

Ocean Drive
By Jared Shapiro
11/30/15


Last year, commuters boarding a New Jersey transit train in New York City’s crowded Penn Station were treated to a glamorous surprise—actress Katie Holmes was traipsing up and down the platform in a floor-length red ball gown. “Heels and a train…nothing better #newyork #pennstation,” she Instagrammed to her 220,000 followers.

The moment wouldn’t become relevant until recently when she posted the photo, almost a year after it was taken. Subsequently, ABC News wrote an online article titled “Stars Take the Train,” People magazine called her “The Queen of Throwbacks,” and Entertainment Tonight dissected the situation using unnamed sources to explain this was not a new photo, but rather an outtake from a fashion shoot. Such is the life of Holmes, who has spent the better part of the last 18 years in the international spotlight, first as Joey Potter on the small-screen cult classic Dawson’s Creek, before making headlines as the star of such films as Pieces of April, Go, Wonder Boys, The Ice Storm, Thank You for Smoking, and Batman Begins, as well as her much publicized marriage to Tom Cruise. “I have a very normal life, and I happen to work in an industry that is abnormal,” says Holmes. “Daily life, I take a train and cab; it’s just about getting from here to there, and I don’t care how I do it. I have to get there.”

On the day we meet for the Ocean Drive cover shoot—a cold, rainy day in Brooklyn—she’s fresh off a red-eye from Los Angeles, sans entourage, carrying just a handbag, a hanging bag with a Zac Posen dress for a Hillary Clinton rally later that night, and a severely cracked iPhone that she has neither fixed nor plans to. “I think most people have cracked iPhones. I’ve just been too busy.”

Busy is an understatement for Holmes, who prioritizes her to-do list as full-time mom first, then actress, activist, and face of Alterna Haircare, and aspiring artist. Days before the cover shoot, she was one of the hosts of the 2015 Global Citizen Festival, which aims to end extreme poverty by 2030, with her 9-year-old daughter, Suri, in tow. In between filming the Showtime series Ray Donovon and the upcoming film Touched With Fire, and making her directorial debut in All We Had, Holmes’s agenda has been filled with fashion galas, photo shoots, and an intense workout regimen that includes “a little bit of everything—running, yoga, dance class, spin class. I try to fit as much in as I can without really stressing about it, and I always try to have a good time.”

This month, she’ll jump down to Miami to escape the harsh New York winter, for her first Art Basel experience. “I love the weather, the restaurants,” says Holmes. “I’ve never been [to Miami] for Art Basel before; I picture this exciting city and great energy. And the beaches are incredible. I will take time to peruse [the art]; I’m really excited to have all of those galleries in one place, and I’m going to check everything out.”

On the Ocean Drive set, Holmes enjoys a slice of pizza (no plate, like New Yorkers do) and Diet Coke and a soy latte. Salads and veggies were on special order, but she didn’t go near them. “I try to be healthy and eat fruits and veggies, but I enjoy going out to dinner and having french fries like everyone else. And good guacamole,” says Holmes, who’s mouthing every word to the Beyoncé tracks playing on the stereo. “I think she’s not just incredibly talented, but she works so hard,” she says of the singer. “We have watched her from the beginning just continue to push herself. She reaches her potential and she pushes it more, so it’s very inspiring.”

Part dancer (Holmes does a full back bend on a production ladder) and adventure-seeker (she climbs up on a window sill clearly not safe to hold a human being), Holmes effortlessly switches between sexy, glamorous, serious, and comedic as she goes through eight wardrobe changes over a six-hour shoot. “What is wonderful about New York is there’s so many places that you can live here your whole life and never see, and there’s just so many hidden treasures,” the actress says. “If you’re having a bad day, you just take a walk, and it’s not only that you see people who are having a worse day than you, it’s just that you’re in life. You suddenly can’t be stuck in whatever problem you’re in because you have to hail a cab or you have to get a subway ticket. There’s more than just you. And I think the harsh winters give you a little bit of character.”

And Holmes’s New York experience has certainly given her more than just character. It started with an apartment above a Whole Foods Market on Manhattan’s Seventh Avenue and daily trips to drop off and pick up her daughter from school. She’s also developed a voice in the form of social media, specifically Instagram and Twitter. Akin to riding the train or dealing with cracked technology, she doesn’t think it’s a big deal. “Some people post, like, 25 pictures a day; I post one a week,” she says. “I had to get into the, you know, 2015.”

It’s that private side of Holmes the world is only starting to get a glimpse of. “I’m a normal person and I do walk around,” she says of her random social media posts—her lying on park benches, doing splits mid-air on Manhattan streets, selfies, and capturing mother-daughter moments in public. “Normal”—and occasional moments of privacy—is something Katie Holmes has been able to execute quite flawlessly, as she continues to raise her daughter. So how has motherhood changed her? “That’s a very long question that could probably inspire books for every parent. It changes you completely in such amazing ways, and I think that you become who you were meant to be. Being a parent also is a source of inspiration to just work really hard. You want to set an example—and, you know, [your kids] are what drives you.”

But to truly understand her perspective on the issue, you have to go back to her Toledo, Ohio, roots. “I’m fortunate because I’m the baby of five, and my brothers and sisters have all achieved a lot in their lives—and my parents as well,” says Holmes. “My father ran a marathon at age 45; I ran a marathon at age 28. And I think his time was better. My dad inspires me; he gave me a lot of confidence growing up. We were raised [with the attitude], Whatever you want to do, you can do it, no problem, just do it.”

That confidence is what has allowed her to branch out in her career, from taking risqué roles in The Gift, where she went topless, to playing surprising parts such as “The Slutty Pumpkin” on How I Met Your Mother, to directing in All We Had. “I don’t shy away from risks,” she says. “I’m just interested in a lot of different things. I don’t even think of it as a risk; I think of it as something exciting and new. As I’ve grown up, I think that the harder you work the more successful you are. From what I have seen, the people at the top, they’re just constantly working and constantly surrounding themselves with other successful, like-minded creative people.”

Creative is not a word she tosses around lightly. Although she dismisses it as anything serious, painting is huge passion in her life right now, and it can often be seen in her Instagram feed. She calls it “arts and crafts, a hobby,” but it’s clear there’s more to it than that. “It’s how I unwind,” she says. “There are so many people who are way more talented. I’m just a wannabe. I surround myself with friends who are very artistic, and I work a lot, so I’m constantly with really creative people. I get inspired by other people.”

What doesn’t inspire her is negativity and gossip, something that comes with the territory in Hollywood. While Holmes rarely comments on any specific falsehood, she’s quick to refute the subject of tabloids as a whole. “Since I started in the business, [tabloid journalism has] changed so much, and I feel that it’s very distracting from the work that people are putting in and are putting out,” says Holmes. “There is such talent out there, and sometimes it’s distracted by reports and tabloids and media and that’s unfortunate. I wish the spotlight could go back on celebrating the talent and leave it at that.”

Thankfully, 2016 will bring plenty of attention on Holmes’s talent, including her performance in the indie darling Touched With Fire, directed by Paul Dalio and executive produced by Spike Lee. Holmes plays a woman with bipolar disorder who is stuck in a mental institution who falls in love with another patient. “I decided to throw myself into this story, a role I hadn’t played before,” she says. “It was a really incredible acting experience and also a human experience because it taught me a lot about bipolar disorder and just how hard it is to live with and how it affects people’s families…. It was a really powerful and profound experience.”

Made for under $1 million, the payoff may be greater than the investment. With the movie fresh out of the SXSW film festival, the Huffington Post recently reviewed it as “Holmes’s best performance in years.” Which suits her just fine. “I really enjoy my life,” she says. Alas, what is not on the horizon is a reunion of the show that made Holmes a star. “[Dawson’s Creek] was such a special time in all of our lives [but] some things are better when it stays the way it was,” she says of any potential reunion. “I would love to get together with everybody, [but] I’m not sure a reunion would be as fulfilling as what we all want it to be. I’m game for anything.”

And of course, there’s not looking back, on that or anything else. Only forward. “I don’t really regret anything that I’ve done. I’ve learned from everything, and everything sort of leads you to the next place. I just keep going.”

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