Kate Hudson on Posing Nearly Nude for a Magazine Cover at 22
“You don’t join the circus to live a really straight and narrow life.”
When I was 16 years old, I came home from school one day, and my mom [Goldie Hawn] was doing a photo shoot. I didn’t even realize that it was for InStyle. They asked me to join for a few of the pictures, and it was all very relaxed. I found out later that one of those photos was going to be on the cover. That’s when I was like, “Oh, wow.” It was the first cover of a magazine I was ever on . That was pretty cool.
Since then InStyle has been a huge part of my professional life. I wanted to work the second I left high school and begged my parents to give me a year off before college. They were like, “Great, but we’re not going to support you.” I was very incentivized to work and ended up living out of a suitcase for about three years, always on a different job. Finally, I got two movies. That’s when InStyle called and asked to take me to Bali for a shoot.
VIDEO: Kate Hudson Looks Back at Her InStyle Covers
I couldn’t believe it — it wasn’t a cover, but it was my first real fashion shoot. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity, and when they said I could bring somebody, I decided to bring my mom. She had never been to Bali, so it was the first time I was ever able to take her anywhere. Even though I was an adult, she was my chaperone, and it was the best trip. I wore scarf tops and bikinis. I was actually just cleaning out my closet and couldn’t believe I still had scarf tops. That’s how badly I needed a closet clean-out. [laughs] I still do love any excuse to wear a bikini, though.
To be honest, it doesn’t take a lot for me to take my clothes off. People can say whatever they want, but I like being naked. Always have! In 2001, when I was 22, I was on the cover of InStyle for the second time. I was newly married [to musician Chris Robinson], and my whole career had just shot up after Almost Famous came out. I posed naked for the cover, and I was strategically draped with what was basically chain mail. The stylist had a very hard job. [laughs]
That time in my life was so much fun. There were no cell phones or social media or “content.” It was way more intimate and special. I miss the connectivity — it was one of the reasons I wanted to be a performer. I always used to say I joined the circus for a reason. You don’t join the circus to live a really straight and narrow life; you join the circus because you think outside of the box and don’t fit into someone else’s idea of how you’re supposed to live. The romance of that just doesn’t exist anymore.
Today a movie star is no longer a movie star; they’re a celebrity. Years ago, if an actor did any kind of commercial other than for a beauty product, that meant their career was over. They were considered, like, done. But that’s no longer the case. Now we control our own narratives, and it’s a very entrepreneurial time. Business-wise, women can do everything. We don’t have to just be in front of the camera. Those are the positives. The negative side is that it’s not as much fun. And it’s way more work.
I’ve always put my heart into everything I’ve done in my career, but I believe that there have to be other things that fulfill you in life besides your job. My agent once said to me, “I think I care more about you not getting a part than you do.” I said, “You do, which is why you’re my agent.” The idea that I won’t be happy unless I achieve absolute success doesn’t exist for me; I put that energy into my family and relationships. Because when you get rid of all the bells and whistles, they’re all that matters.
Now, three kids and eight InStyle covers later, things are really good. My life is a bit of a juggling act with kids in completely different stages of their lives — at 15, 8, and 7 months. Plus, it’s challenging once you’re outnumbered. For some reason, when you have a third baby, people go, “Oh, be careful!” Of course, as usual, I didn’t heed the warning. I was like, “Yeah, whatever! I’m going in!” It’s funny because at the time of my first pregnancy, in my  cover story, I said, “I hope to be fashionably pregnant. I’m telling you right now, I’m absolutely not giving up my high heels.” I was 24, and back then I really didn’t give up my high heels. But 15 years later, during this last pregnancy, I sure did.
I turned 40 earlier this year, and people kept asking how I felt. But I really wasn’t thinking about it at all. It’s just an age, and I think it’s a great age. You’re at a phase in your life where you’ve actually earned some wisdom. It’s kind of nice to have some years under your belt. And you know what? I’m even more fun now than I was back then, damn it.
How I’d describe myself in three words:
In 1996 — Adventurous, Fiery, Ambitious
Today — Thoughtful, Studious, Generous
Photographed by Paul McLean on May 15 in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Styling: Sophie Lopez for The Wall Group. Hair: Nikki Lee for 901 Salon. Makeup: Debra Ferullo for Tracey Mattingly. Manicure: Hang Nguyen for Nailing Hollywood.