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Garcelle Beauvais might welcome drama in her professional life — she’s an actress, after all, and a cast member on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills — but when it comes to her health, she’d prefer to let her passion present itself in other ways, like prevention, preparedness, and advocacy.
It wasn’t always that way. At 56, the Love Me As I Am author admits that caring about her health was a later-in-life epiphany for her. “Growing up in my household, we didn’t talk about medical conditions or things like that, we were trying to survive,” she admits. “We weren’t really having those conversations at the dinner table. And when you’re young, you think you’re invincible. But around my 40s, I started realizing that I need to take better care of myself [because] I want to be around for a long time and enjoy my family.”
More recently, the pandemic heightened her sense (as it did for so many of us) that good health is something well all need to be proactive about. So when the opportunity arose to partner with GSK on its THRIVE@50+ campaign, designed to encourage and empower that demographic to take a proactive step for their health and learn about the shingles vaccine, it made sense to her.
Shingles, or herpes zoster, is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, so if you’ve had that once-common childhood virus, you could develop shingles at some point in your life. The risk of developing the excruciatingly painful condition increases with age — most people who develop shingles are 50 or older — but a weakened immune system and stress can also play roles.
Beauvais was aware of the condition — her older sister had shingles “and it was really rough for her,” she says — but admits that didn’t really know what she needed to know about her own risk. “I was aware of the virus, [and] the fact that if you had chickenpox, the virus is already living in your body and can reactivate anytime,” she says. “But it was more of you know, ‘maybe that’s an older person thing.’ Feeling young, feeling healthy, feeling vibrant, you think, ‘Oh, that can’t happen to me.’ And then the more I learned about it, I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, it can happen to me.’
When her pharmacist told her it was one of the most important vaccinations she could get, “that really resonated with me,” she adds. “I’m passionate about awareness, and it was just something that made sense to me. If you can prevent something from happening that could stop you in your tracks, why wouldn’t you do that?”
For Beauvais, it’s all part of a growing awareness that self-care starts on the inside and means prioritizing herself — as counterintuitive as that can seem for someone who’s a busy mom of three boys. (Beauvais’s son Oliver is 32; twins Jax and Jaid are 15.)
“I think the change for me is really prioritizing me,” she says. “Women, we are so busy, we take care of everybody else. So for me, it’s not just worrying about the pretty outside, but the pretty inside, which I think sometimes gets lost, especially in our society.”
In her day-to-day life, that looks like making time for movement — whether it’s a walk or a full workout, trying to decrease stress (not an easy task with twin teenage boys, but “I pick my battles,” she says with a laugh), and getting better about setting boundaries.
“It’s so crazy that I’m 56 years old and I’m still working on boundaries,” she says. “I’m a people pleaser. And also, I feel like I wasn’t taught that. So it’s learning how to say, ‘No, I can’t do that’ or ‘I don’t want to do that’ and not feeling the pressure to be everything to everyone.”
She shares a recent small win in that department, where she saw a call coming in from a friend one evening. “I knew whatever she was going to tell me was either going to hurt my feelings or it wasn’t going to sit well with me,” she explains, “and I remember saying, ‘You know what? I can talk to her in the morning. I want to be able to have a peaceful sleep and not worry about it tonight.’ And I did that and I woke up the next morning and I was like a little kid, I was so proud of myself. It was something so simple, but I was proud that I could do that and put me first and not just take the phone call.”
Celebrating the small wins is just one way Beauvais is thriving and finding her flow these days.
“I find flow in my life when I’m feeling good, when I’m feeling healthy, when I feel like I’m giving back, which is what I’m doing now with Thrive@50+,” she says. “We’re all aging. I think it’s important to be able to talk about things and not make them so taboo or shameful.
“I think any day that you’re above ground, you’re thriving, but you can thrive in other places [too],” she adds. “It’s all about feeling good, taking care of yourself, loving your family, being with your friends… I really think thriving is being the best you can be. It’s not perfect. It’s not having it all figured out. But just enjoying your life. It’s so fleeting. And we live in a world now that’s forever changing. So if you can enjoy today and thrive and see what tomorrow brings, I’m all about that.”