Tina Turner Takes "All the Credit" For Her Signature Style
She also reflects on her career, love, and finding the joy in retirement.
As the song goes, Tina Turner is simply the best. From humble beginnings growing up in Tennessee to navigating the highs and lows of showbusiness — including escaping her abusive ex-husband, Ike Turner — the eight-time Grammy winner now quietly resides in Europe with her longtime love Erwin Bach. Here she grants a rare interview to reflect on her epic career and her most cherished moments culled from the recent reissue of her book, That’s My Life. “Reflecting on the photos of this book is like watching a movie of my life,” she says. “The photographs, and some of them make me very emotional, bring back all the memories and feelings of the moment, so the past and the present become one.”
On Her Famous Legs
I’m the last person to ask about my legs! When I was growing up, I always thought they were too long and skinny. I felt like an awkward pony, so I never wanted to show them off. When I wore short skirts onstage it was for a practical reason — they gave me the freedom to move, and I really like to move. What do I like best about my legs? They danced me across thousands of stages and walked me down the aisle when I married Erwin Bach [in 2013].
On Getting Ready for Her Shows
I had a ritual before every show. I applied my own makeup, finishing with bright red lipstick. Then I put on my wig (which I always styled myself), dressed in my beautiful costume, and became Tina. It was a total transformation.
The most gifted designers can see who you are inside and who you want to be onstage, and they express that vision in their creations. Bob Mackie did that so beautifully when he designed costumes for my solo show after I left Ike [Turner, her first husband, in 1976]. One of my dresses had wings, so I looked like I was about to take flight and soar — which was exactly how I felt about being on my own for the first time. I also loved [couturier Azzedine] Alaïa. He was a dear man and a dear friend. He didn’t have to say anything about style: He was style. The second I put on one of his dresses I felt very French, which is a good thing.
On Her Style
I take all the credit. When I was a young girl in Nutbush, Tenn., I read every fashion magazine I could get my hands on. Vogue and magazines like it were my education, my window into a bigger, brighter world. Then, when I traveled to New York, London, and other cities, I studied how people dressed and developed my own sense of style. I have favorite designers — like Giorgio Armani, who did my wedding dress [when she married Bach] — but I always knew what worked best for my body, with my short torso and long legs. I might have made a few mistakes in the ’80s, but everybody else did too!
When you love your work, and I always did, it fills you with energy and strength. Performing was like breathing to me — it was the oxygen that kept me going. When there was no love in my life, my audience was always there for me, and I still treasure our relationship.
Can I be honest? Really honest? I’m 80, and I started working when I was very young and rarely took a break. Retirement (if you can call writing three books, working on a musical, and releasing a new single “retirement”) is a precious gift. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, spending time with my husband, working in my garden, even doing nothing. And my fans are still with me, so I’m doubly blessed.
Ambition is having a dream and dedicating yourself to making that dream come true, no matter how many obstacles stand in your way. So, yes, I have always been ambitious because I believed I could accomplish my wildest dreams — and I did!
Tina Turner: That’s My Life (Rizzoli New York) is out now.
For more stories like this, pick up the November issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Oct. 23rd.