Joan Collins played “Alexis Carrington,” the woman all America loved to hate on the smash hit series Dynasty. But for Joan, the most important recognition she’s ever received is the love of her grandchildren.Now in her fifth decade of a career that began when she played the part of a runner-up in a film about a Lady Godiva contest, Joan manages to juggle fame, fortune and family with a simple un-Alexis-like philosophy: “Be content with what you have-try to find happiness in your life, whether it’s looking after chickens or your husband, or your children or grandchildren.”
The world at large may call her Diva, but to grandkids Miel and Weston (by daughter Tara) and Ava Grace Newley (by son Sacha and daughter-in-law Angela), she’s “DoDo.”
In an exclusive interview with GRAND Magazine, Joan said, “I’m a very family-oriented person. My three children mean everything to me. Tara, my eldest daughter, and my only son, Sacha, are very close to me, and I have a great relationship with my youngest daughter, Katy (who, of course, is ‘my baby’). Tara has two children-Miel and Weston-who are adorable, but it’s difficult to see them, as they live far from London. Fortunately, I am able to spend lots of time with Sacha and Angela’s daughter, Ava Grace, who is pushing 2, since we have a home in New York and spend a lot of time there-which is wonderful.”
Joan’s grandmother is largely responsible for her achieving worldwide recognition as an actress. “My grandmother Hettie taught me to sing, dance and do the splits and encouraged me to be an actress. She was a vibrant, lively and feisty woman who had an extremely positive attitude towards life.”
America has known and admired Joan Collins ever since she began making movies in the 1950s, but the love affair began in earnest in the mid-1960s when she appeared in dozens of hit TV shows, including Batman, Mission: Impossible and even an episode of Star Trek that has become a classic.
In 1981, producer Aaron Spelling chose Joan as his star to jump-start the struggling primetime soap Dynasty.
When Joan’s first episode aired and she made a grand entrance in a knockout Nolan Miller suit, the collective TV audience took notice in a big way. Joan was arguably singly responsible for Dynasty’s resurrection. To this day, she’s grateful for the opportunity Spelling gave her and is proud of her work on the show.”
Not only was it a fabulous role, but it gave me worldwide recognition and it was great fun to play. I also loved producing Sins-a six-hour miniseries for CBS during sweeps. I was instrumental in the casting and was able to persuade great stars like Gene Kelly, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Giancarlo Giannini, Marisa Berenson and Lauren Hutton to feature in it. I was proud that it received tremendous ratings and won the night for CBS against the stiff competition of the Super Bowl.”
Creating a TV show is a major production, but so is parenting and becoming a grandparent for the first time. “Miel was born in 1998, while I was shooting a movie in Gloucestershire,” Joan told GRAND. “I was extremely concerned about Tara and wanted to be there at the birth, so I kept on driving back between Gloucestershire and London (about three hours). Fortunately, I was lucky enough to be there in time for this exciting event.”
Joan takes her family responsibilities very seriously, and she learned many valuable lessons from her family, particularly from her grandparents. “Respect is the most important thing I learned. They also taught me many things that I hold in high regard: manners, consideration for other people, discipline and hard work. My father told me: you make your own breaks in life. Very few people, other than your parents, are going to do anything for you. If you want something done, do it yourself. Don’t expect a handout.”
Yet, Joan Collins has extended her hands to help the world’s children. All children have a special place in Joan Collins’ heart, not just her own. She was once asked what she would want if she were granted just one wish. Without any hesitation she answered, “To stop all the suffering of children.”
For more than 25 years, she has supported several foster children in India, and since 1983 she has contributed generously to the International Foundation for Children with Learning Disabilities. In 1988, the foundation presented Joan their highest honor for her continuing support and special interest. In 1988, the Joan Collins Wing of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan opened; and she has led fundraising efforts and is a patron of the Shooting Star Hospice, which opened its doors to terminally ill children and their families in 2005.
Joan Collins is very much a modern-day Renaissance woman. She’s a noted author with 11 books to her credit, an accomplished producer, a passionate advocate for children, a witty columnist, a beauty expert, a recipient of the O.B.E. (Officer of the Order of the British Empire), and a devoted wife, mother and grandmother.
Joan maintains a hectic schedule. “We almost live on planes,” Joan told GRAND. “In the past six months we have been in London, Edinburgh, Wales, L.A., Acapulco, Palm Beach, Toronto, Las Vegas and San Francisco; we travel for both work and pleasure. We divide our time mostly between New York and London and spend our summers in the south of France.” Even though life is hectic, DoDo and husband Percy put everything else aside and took 5-year-old grandson Miel to Disney World as a birthday present!
Spending time with Ava Grace has become even easier, since Joan and her husband of four years, theatrical producer Percy Gibson, have begun nesting in New York while Joan tours the country in her latest project, Legends. The James Kirkwood comedy about two feuding actresses stars Joan and her former Dynasty adversary Linda Evans in the title roles. “I am very excited about the show. Linda and I are going to some of the most exciting cities in America.”
Except for Miel, the grandchildren haven’t seen DoDo as a working actress. “Not yet,” says Joan. “But someday they will.” And when they do, another generation will become fans of one of the best-known actresses in the world.
Originally Published on GRAND Magazine in January-February 2007