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How Actress Naomi Watts Put Family First in a Turbulent Year

Phebe Wahl | November 12, 2020 | People Lifestyle Feature

For acclaimed actress Naomi Watts, her photographer brother, Ben Watts, and their creative clans, it is clear that an impressive work ethic and a surplus of talent run in the family.

naomi-watts-cover-story.jpgNaomi Watts

"I always wanted more than one child—because no matter what happens, that person is someone you share so much with,” says actress and film producer Naomi Watts when asked about her close bond with her brother, photographer Ben Watts, who photographed her for this issue along with their respective broods. “You are the witness of each other’s lives,” she poetically reflects. “The experiences, even though we may have felt them differently, they were always shared.”

A mere 17 months apart (Ben is the elder sibling), the talented twosome today share neighboring homes in Montauk. “He and I fought a lot as children,” reveals Naomi when asked about their childhood. The British-born siblings lost their father, Peter Watts (an English road manager and sound engineer who worked with Pink Floyd), at a young age and later moved to Australia. “We moved around a lot as kids... so there wasn’t a consistency in our lives,” Naomi says. “Lots of different houses, different schools, and then even a different country—so it was a lot to navigate. This possibly caused friction between us at times,” she recalls. “But ever since—literally, to the day that we moved out—we’ve never fought since, really. Occasionally we might have a bickering match, but nothing serious. We’ve just done everything we can to support each other.”

Naomi Watts family photo

Naomi Watts relaxes on the beach with her children, Kai Schreiber and Sasha Schreiber. On Naomi: Mother Denim jumpsuit, motherdenim.‌‌com; Lack of Color hat, lackofcolor.‌com; Repossi Antifer one-row pink gold earrings with half-pavéd diamonds, repossi.‌com; Sorellina customizable signet ring in 18K yellow gold with 0.19 carats of diamonds, sorellinanyc.‌com. On Kai: Mother Denim sweater, motherdenim.‌com. On Sasha: Ralph Lauren shirt, ralphlauren.‌com.

The siblings have supported each other throughout their careers, including Naomi’s multiple Academy Award nominations. “We both have a strong work ethic. That was definitely instilled by my mom—and my dad, even though he wasn’t around. I think it’s just in our DNA,” Naomi explains. “We didn’t grow up dirt poor, but we were definitely not well off. Certain excursions would happen at our school, and we were not able to go—like a skiing trip or whatever. So, it did make us feel like we had to always put in that extra work and focus.”

Naomi Watts family photo

On Sasha: Ralph Lauren pants, ralphlauren.‌com. On Naomi: Brunello Cucinelli sweater, brunellocucinelli.com; Stella McCartney pants, stellamccartney.‌com. On Kai: Carhartt pants, carhartt.‌com.

That trademark Watts work ethic and intense focus have paid off with Ben considered among the top photographers in the world, and who is often behind the lens of our covers (not to mention the man behind our beloved Watts Up Rosé), and Naomi a leading actress and film producer, as well as a partner behind Tribeca’s and Sag Harbor’s booming beauty business ONDA. But despite all their success, both remain grounded and resonate a realness that certainly amplifies their charm. “Mommy does embarrassing dances with the children,” says the mother of two when asked how she shakes off the stresses of this challenging time. Like most parents, Naomi admits to riding the roller coaster of 2020. “Nothing feels completely consistent, and it is very hard to sustain certain things. I started off so well and on a good diet and a good exercise regimen, and then you get, like, a little bit bored and you want to get the potato chips and the wine out... Sometimes you feel like you’re a supermom—baking cake, playing board games and teaching them how to use the vacuum cleaner; you’re just fully on top of it. And other times you’re like, ‘Oh God, just let me hand them the devices and let me get done what I need to do,’ you know? That’s just the reality, and you have to forgive yourself on the days that you need to take that time for yourself and create that space,” she says.Naomi Watts with dogNaomi Watts

This year has encouraged the close clan to remain as tight as ever. “It’s definitely been a constant ride on one nervous system. Anxiety levels are through the roof,” Naomi says. “There’s been beautiful, simple moments with the family dotted in there. And then really hard times with the kids not quite understanding. You know, my kids are at the age where you don’t want them to be sitting in front of the news and absorbing all the dark, ugly facts of everything, but they’re too old to hide everything. But they get frustrated. So it’s a tough thing for everyone to navigate. But you just find your way along. And there are good days and bad days,” she says.

Having spent much of their life in Australia, the beach certainly feels like home. “It’s such a big part of who we are,” explains Naomi. “Even though I’m not ever, ironically, someone to just lie out on the sand and bake my body in the sun, I do love the water. I love the smell. I love the feel of the sand on my feet. I love the beach culture. And I actually love it even more during the fall and winter months,” she says. “The overpopulated kind of beach appeals far less to me than walking on a windy low-light kind of beach... taking the dogs and friends.” Naomi Watts with familyNaomi Watts with family

Naomi shares her Hamptons hit list includes cozying up to the fire at The Maidstone, Boxing Day brunch at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor, dinners at Harvest on Fort Pond, Bostwick’s Chowder House, heaps of Hamptons Chutney and facials at ONDA Beauty in Sag Harbor, of course. She describes the serendipitous story behind clean beauty mecca ONDA, which she co-founded with friends Larissa Thomson and Sarah Bryden-Brown.

“I started having skin issues and felt the need to change up my skincare routine because I was having reactions from certain makeups,” she reveals. “Particularly when I was shooting Gypsy, I was doing, like, sometimes up to a 16-hour day and you’d have to do several different makeup applications—taking it off, adding or changing, and under hot lights my skin was just not loving it at all.” Naomi switched her routine to a more clean beauty one and soon saw results. “I really haven’t ever gone back to any toxic or chemical-driven products. There’s plenty of active ingredients in natural products as well.” Naomi is an admirable advocate for not only a less toxic beauty routine but also a less toxic mindset toward beauty, embracing a more pro-aging position. “Of course I wish I looked 10 or 15 years younger, but I’ll do whatever I can to just maintain and sustain my sense of well-being, both mentally and physically. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to look like a 25-year-old. I’m a woman. Now I’m a mature woman. And I’m just going to do my best to feel on good terms as many days of the week as I can. I’m just going to feel the best I can and look as good as I can and know that I’m treating my body as healthfully and well as possible.

Naomi Watts with family

Naomi shares a special bond with her brother, Ben Watts, seen here with partner Gabriela Langone and their son, Wynston Watts. On Gabriela: Ralph Lauren sweater and pants, ralphlauren.‌com. On Ben: Woolrich shirt, woolrich.com; Carhartt pants, carhartt.‌com. On Wynston: Monbebe jumpsuit, andostores.‌com.

Now more than ever, Naomi hopes more and more people will decide to clean up their act. “It’s clear that everybody is craving it,” she says. “That industry is a multibillion-dollar industry now—that is just expanding, year after year. It is because we want to know more, and we want to take charge of ourselves and educate ourselves on what we’re putting into our bodies. We want to live healthily, physically and mentally.” She hopes this will include a more thoughtful approach to our planet as well. “I hope we honor our planet in a much more meaningful, powerful way. This is also part of this health and wellness movement.”Naomi Watts portrait

Hair by Pasquale Ferrante using Rahua Hair Care. Makeup by Quinn Murphy for ONDA Beauty at The Wall Group

In trademark Watts style, Naomi is already back at work fresh from completing filming a new project in Ontario—Lakewood, a Phillip Noyce film about a mother who races against time to save her child as authorities place her town on lockdown. “It was a very COVID-friendly story, because basically, it takes place in real time, and I’m on a phone call the entire time. So it was much easier because you’re not having to have great numbers of people on the set,” she says. “It was so great to be back in a creative space. That is what I love to do—storytelling and being part of that and connecting with other people’s visions. It’s going to be an interesting time... But God knows we need storytelling. We always have—and perhaps now more than ever.”



Photography by: Photographed by Ben Watts; styled by Gabriela Langone