Swiss Health Magazine

Laura Chaplin: The girl who laughs

She always seems about to smile… easy-going… full of creative energy and love… when you look at her, you realize that the family genes are still hard at work. Her grandfather Charlie spent many happy years in the French part of Switzerland with his wife Oona O’Neill, and this family knows the secret to being healthy and happy: just smile.

– Laura, you have a very famous surname. How do you feel about being part of the Chaplin family? What does it mean to you?

– It’s a privilege. I’m honored and it’s a chance… I mean, it’s not easy to make my own name for myself, I always kind of exist in reference to him, but for me it’s a privilege more than anything else.

– And do you feel that you have inherited the genes of your famous grandfather? How has it affected your life and creativity?

– Of course he influenced me. A grandfather with such artistic genes… I think it kind of rubbed off on me a little bit. I also grew up in Vevey, which is a place where artists came all the time and there was so much artistic input in this house. There was such a great influence. His idea of art having an important message is something I try to live up to. I like to try to do what I love and to be good at it, I guess.

– Is it difficult for people, doing what they love?

– It’s definitely not easy. There are challenges. There are moments when you will struggle, you will have to fight, and you just have to believe in yourself. Sometimes it takes time. For example, it took my grandfather a long time to get to where he ended up and I think you just have to believe in yourself, be passionate about what you do, and be patient about getting to the right place.

– What have you really inherited from your grandfather?

– I’m very fair in public, like him. I’m a humanist, like him. I believe in laughter, thanks to him. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and sometimes I can be strict on myself with what I do.

– And what do you get from your grandmother?

– I would say my soft side. I’m a very family-oriented person, I have a big family and place that importance and that value upon the family… It’s probably from her, her kind and gentle manner.

– How big is your family? How many grandchildren?

– There are a lot of us. My grandfather had 8 children with my grandmother, and they have at least 5 kids, so we’re almost 30, we grandchildren.

– Do you have contact with each other? Do you really feel a part of Chaplin’s family?

– Yeah, of course we have relationships. I know most of them, and it’s hard because we’re all over the world so it’s hard to see each other often but we definitely stay in touch.

– Your lifestyle comes from the family. Do you have some rules for a healthy life?

– Just to be happy, to love, to smile a lot, just to enjoy life. That is the way to be healthy. I mean, I had the most magical childhood. In our house, we laughed and there were many great, happy moments, some of the happiest moments in my life. Being happy is an important part of being in good health.

– But it’s not easy to be happy every moment of your life because very often something goes wrong…

– Of course we have up and downs; it’s normal, it’s life. We have emotions, but if you really want something, then you can achieve it. You just have to begin and maybe force yourself to smile a bit more, force yourself to laugh a bit more, and it will come more naturally. But there are also a lot of other ways – you can watch comedies or you can listen to music or you can surround yourself with friends and family. Even my animals can make me laugh sometimes or I can even laugh at myself sometimes because I do something clumsy or forget something. So it’s just a way of thinking, and sometimes you’re forcing it.

– By the time you were 18, you had already worked as a model for Tommy Hilfiger and others. Models have to be very slim, and a lot of girls want to be models, and they damage their health. What do you think about this problem?

– I think it’s tragic, because to be beautiful you have to be beautiful on the inside and you have to feel good on the inside to show it on the outside. To encourage people to risk their health for beauty is just completely absurd, because beauty for me comes from within.

– At the age of 19 you worked as a TV presenter. Working on TV is very stressful. How it was for you?

– When I think back, I say, «Oh my God, how did I do it?» Because of my age, I think about a lot more stuff now but back then I didn’t realize, I just went and I did it, and it was very stressful. There was a lot of pressure. But if you just believe in yourself and enjoy the moment then it makes things go much easier.

– What about your art? What is painting for you – a profession or a way to express your personality?

– I’ve been doing art since I was tiny so it’s a way to express myself. It’s kind of my way of getting to know my grandfather, to capture moments that make me feel good and make me happy and I do it because I love to do it.

– What do you think: is it possible to treat people with the help of the arts?

– Lots of things, the whole aspect of color therapy, can enhance moods, as I’ve said in my art. And I like to deliver an important message, a positive message, and if you have a piece of art that makes you feel good inside, then I’m a happy person and I know that what I’m doing has a purpose, and that is why I do it above anything else.

– We see that the main ideas in your art are women, horses and your grandfather. Why have you chosen these motifs for your work?

– These are the three things that I am passionate about, the three things that inspire me, that really represent who I am. I also get inspired a lot through the circus, having grown up with a dad who went on tour with a circus, we travelled a lot with them, and then we had performances in Montreux. So the contortionists inspired me a lot, and being in the fashion industry, having worked as a model, all those elements kind of inspired me in that regard. Then I have horses, I’m a horse rider, I ride daily, I compete in show jumping competitions for pleasure and I had three little ponies on the manor and in the garden that were my toys. I’ve been riding for as long as I can remember. It kind of brings me a lot of happiness and well-being. And then the third thing is, of course, my grandfather, and this is kind of my way to offer tribute to him, to give back something after everything that he gave to me, to continue his philosophy, to bring humor into the world, to enjoy happiness. And it’s kind of my purpose to get to discover him. A lot of people say to me, «Oh, your grandfather was like this, like that». It is kind of a relationship that I never had with him. And I enjoy doing it so much.

– In most of your paintings I see this heart…

– I have always loved to draw hearts since I was tiny. It just has a good feeling, a good shape. It’s also a logo. This is a drawing I did when I was 16. I had a tattoo when I was 18 because my mother didn’t let me do so before that, and today it’s my logo. I think it has a positive effect and I just like it to be discreet because I think that sincere love is discreet.

– Some of your paintings you make with your fingers. Why?

– I enjoy painting with my fingers because it allows me to be messy, to be more spontaneous, and to make something quite unique because I wouldn’t remember which finger I used, or where. It’s much more spontaneous because I use all my fingers, both hands, and it gives things a bit more texture. With my paintbrush I am more conventional and keep everything clean and perfect. With my fingers, I cut loose a bit more.

 – Was your grandfather such a positive, humorous person in life as he was in his films?

– In his daily life – yes. When he would play with kids, he was like a clown. He loved to make people laugh, he would always joke around and try to make people laugh. But when it came to work he was very strict, very much a perfectionist and very, very serious. He valued every little thing.

– Your book’s title is «Lachen ist der erste Schitz zum Gluck». And what about health? Do you think there is a connection between laughter and health?

– Definitely. Of course. I mean, I’ve seen it first-hand through my grandfather, who left me such a perfect example. I have people come up to me every day and say, «Oh, your grandfather… back in the day, we didn’t have this or that but we watched Chaplin films and those were our best moments», and all these little stories where my grandfather brought them so much happiness, so I see the effect he had on them. And I’ve seen it through my own experiences, my own work with a foundation and also with the ‘clinic clowns’. I’ve seen how children forget their pain and suffering through humor.

One of my favourite quotations from my grandfather is, «A day without laughter is a day wasted». And I think that life is short, there are so many things to smile about, you just have to try to find those things that are worth smiling about. I mean, there are so many beautiful things to smile about, you just have to look for them.

– But how it is possible if something goes wrong every day?

– I think that everybody is entitled to his own emotions and there’s time for everything. I can’t say I never cry – of course there are times when I’m sad, I mean, I need that time to be sad to then be happy again. It’s allowing your emotions, allowing you… to express yourself, just trying to make time for smiling, to vanquish those sad times. It’s the most important thing, because the sad times must be few and the happy times many.

It’s all in us, we have it in us. It’s something, as I said, that we just need to want to do, it’s something we have to encourage ourselves to do. As a child we laugh up to three hundred times a day and as a grownup we laugh maybe ten times a day. It seems that with age we forget because as we get older we get more responsible, and there’s more stress and more factors that come into life and I think that it’s important just to remind people that we have it in us and the proof is there, it’s good for you, so try to encourage yourself to do it. I am not saying it’s easy, but it’s better than going to see a doctor to get medication. It’s the first step to reaching happiness. You have to feel it inside. And we all have it inside. It’s free. In my book there are so many studies that I’ve written about, there are so many different aspects to it. There’s also nutrition. There are so many different things that we can eat and that can make us feel better: bananas, cashew nuts, red berries, vanilla, chocolate, all of which I love. Also, different spices – vanilla, chili, cinnamon, etc. We can try to eat food which will help stimulate the serotonin in our bodies to induce a better mood and feel better and be more positive.

It’s funny because I didn’t realize: I love all these happy foods, they are my favorite things.

– Could you tell us some secrets for our readers about face and body care? What do you use?

– I love coconut oil. It is my favorite. And you can use it for your face, hair, and body.

– You are living in the French part of Switzerland, but what is your favorite place?

– My favorite place in the world is my childhood home, but after that… There are so many places that I love. I love the mountains. I love the sea for a short break. But I’m more a mountain girl, I like the fresh air and nature, the green trees and fields, so, I mean, in Switzerland there are thousands of places that I could list.

I love Africa. We’re going at the end of this year for another foundation which I’m very excited about.

– A healthy life requires strong discipline but actresses and artists don’t usually like rules. It’s possible to combine creativity and discipline, yes?

– You have to. Although my creativity is probably much more important than my discipline, I think you have to have some discipline because if you don’t have discipline you don’t have goals, you don’t have structure and you don’t have aims or ambitions, so you need to have both.

– Do you think your mission is to make people smile like your grandfather did?

– Yes, definitely. I love realizing my mission. I want to remind people to laugh more, to smile at each other more, to enjoy the moment, to share a smile, to share a laugh.

– Why did you chose to be an ambassador for «Moi Pour Toi», an organization which supports the street children of Bogota?

– I was approached at my first exhibition by someone, and he asked me if I would like to become the ambassador and godmother of that foundation, and I said that I can’t tell you unless I just see with it my own eyes. So a month later he took me out there and I painted with the kids and I was actually in the middle of construction work here in the valley and there were a lot of details on my house that were not finished and I was very stressed about it. And when I went out there to Colombia, all these kids were wearing nothing but had the happiest faces, they were smiling and just enjoying life, and as soon as I got there… how could I complain about my silly problems? The kids just filled my heart with joy. From that moment I couldn’t say no. And that was also the idea for my book.

– Could you tell us about your dreams?

– My biggest dreams are to spread happiness, to spread joy and to find myself on a farm surrounded by nature and by my horses and by people that I love. It’s not that extravagant but rather quite simple, but I think all simple things are precious.

– Do you have any hobbies?

– Yes. I have a wine collection of two reds, two whites and a champagne in which I collaborated with a vineyard, Alexis Jaquerioz in the Martigny in Valais. It is a winery that supported me at my very first exhibition and then asked me if I would do a collection with them. We had a lot of exchanges on my taste and the content of the bottle and what would suit the label, so I’m very happy with that. I also have some watches – Gagnebin, Swiss made. Automatic watches, two designs for men, two designs for women, each limited to twenty per piece with my artwork and, of course, perfectly made, Swiss, very well made, and you can see all the movement in the back. I’m very proud of these watches. And then I also have the jewellery, smile jewellery, which is just a small thing to remind you to smile, and at the same time it also supports two foundations, one which encourages laughter and the other which supports the environment.

– Thank you very much.