'The thing is, you see, that no one is born glamorous, but anyone can acquire glamour.'
'I'd say from the Twenties to the Sixties, ordinary women would try the best they could to look like their favourite star. Then it all changed in the grungy Seventies, before glamour made a big comeback in the Eighties, helped in no small part by a certain television series called Dynasty.'
This article appeared here in June of 2009.
Joan Collins is 76 - but she will hate seeing that in black and white. "Whenever I see it printed," she explains from the terrace of her home overlooking the bay of St Tropez, "I think it just can't be true, it's not right, it isn't me. I don't look my age, I don't feel my age and I don't act my age. To me age is just a number."
It's an understandable reaction. For many people, growing older is something that happens to them on the outside, not the inside. But these days our bodies seem to be staying younger for longer. Collins, for example, says she is just as active now as she was in her 40s. She has a trainer once or twice a week when she is in LA or London.
"We do pilates or stretching, not very stringent exercise," she says, "because I think that wears out the bones and sinews and muscles. The body is like a car: the older you become the more care you have to take care of it - and you don't leave a Ferrari out in the sun."
It obviously works. Collins is still considered one of the world's most glamorous actors, but she's not so naive as to think that her attractiveness is measured in the same way as it once was. "From the age of 17," she remembers, "I was a pin-up girl. I did it for 30 years and, quite frankly, it gets a bit boring."
Collins, who first signed to Rank Pictures in 1950, has always made the most of her sex appeal. She describes how she mussed up her hair and stuck twigs into it when she was filming The Bravados with Gregory Peck in 1958. This distressed the on-set hairdresser who, like the rest of Hollywood, expected all good actresses to have neat, uptight Grace Kelly dos. In the 1970s Collins starred in the film versions of her sister Jackie's bonkbusters, The Bitch and The Stud, and was unafraid to appear nude.
There came a time, however, when she decided to cover up for good. "When I did Playboy I was 49," she says, her accent a mix of 1950s Pinewood Studios and LA power lunch. "And I said, 'This is the last time I'm going to be photographed in a revealing pose.' I think that you just decide not to compete with the 21-year-olds, or even the 31-year-olds. There was a time when I posed in bikinis, a time when I posed in exotic lingerie - and then the time passes. It doesn't mean that I still don't wear a bathing suit by the beach, but other things take its place. Dressing well, for example, which is more important to me now."
Collins is synonymous with the classic, if sparkly, side of British style and feels let down by designers today. "I was in a few shops yesterday in St Tropez and I found the clothes impossible to wear unless you are a teenager or in your early 20s. If you are an older woman - and by that I mean 40 plus - there is nothing to wear unless you want to look like a drab old granny and you go to the old fuddy-duddy shops where everything is ankle length and floral print."
She cites the 1980s - the decade of her defining role, bitchy Alexis Carrington in the American soap opera, Dynasty - as the period with the most exciting fashion.
She's not unhappy now though. She has just finished filming a one-hour special for ITV called Joan Does Glamour, in which she uses her "knowledge of beauty, grooming, glamour and style to help three women get ready for particular events".
She also has a grounded attitude to success. "I've spent years when I've not been in the limelight at all and I'm perfectly happy living my life without being swooped on by paparazzi." But, she says, she's also been much more content since meeting her current husband, theatre director Percy Gibson, who is 32 years her junior. "We met in San Francisco when I was doing Love Letters in 2000," she explains "and he was the company manager. First we were friends, and we got together after nine or 10 months, then we married a year later. He is totally admired by my whole family. He is wonderful, kind, funny. We've just renewed our vows. I never think about the age difference at all. Well, we did at first, but it doesn't matter to anybody ... For us it's just not an issue."
And with that, Percy - who's listening to the interview - taps his watch and signals it's time to say goodbye.