Actress, dancer and singer Ann-Margret has been a star for over 60 years, and at 82-years-young, she’s as vivacious as ever. Born Ann-Margret Olsson in a small town in Sweden, she emigrated to the US as a child and began dancing professionally as a teenager. She was discovered by famed comedian George Burns during a performance in Las Vegas at age 19, and soon enough she was recording albums and starring in iconic movies like Bye Bye Birdie, Viva Las Vegas, The Cincinnati Kid, Carnal Knowledge and Tommy. Her impressive filmography includes roles alongside legends like Bette Davis, Steve McQueen, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, Jack Lemmon and, most famously, Elvis Presley.
With her bright red hair, sultry voice and irresistible dance moves, Ann-Margret became a generation-defining icon. And she’s still keeping busy today. The fiery redhead recently released her first album in over a decade, Ann-Margret: Born to Be Wild with all new recordings of her singing pop and rock standards — like “Son of a Preacher Man”, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”, and “Born to Be Wild” — in her own ineffable, entrancing voice. This project pairs her with several stellar guests including The Who’s Pete Townshend, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, The Oak Ridge Boys, Pat Boone and more.
In addition to the new album, Ann-Margret has also just come out with a limited-edition perfume (buy it at AnnMargretPerfume.com) with notes of jasmine and gardenias. All proceeds from the fragrance go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, a cause that’s near and dear to her heart, given her time spent performing for troops in the ’60s.
Ann-Margret’s zest for life would be inspiring at any age, and even though she’s endured her share of hardships in recent years, her positivity remains intact. So how does she manage to stay so bright and charming after all these years? Ann-Margret recently sat down with Woman’s World for our latest cover feature (available in grocery stores and to buy online here) to share her secrets for staying lively.
Here, in a Q & A as vibrant and saucy as she is, Ann-Margret shares her insights on faith, her love of motorcycles (and speed!) and the souvenir she still has from Viva Las Vegas.
Woman’s World: You’ve had musical hits since 1961 and over the years have ventured out into disco, gospel, Christmas songs and more. How would you classify your new album?
Ann-Margret: It’s a bunch of songs I really like. They make me happy. When I sing I feel the way I felt when I was 10 years old or whenever music plays.
WW: Which song on the album makes you the happiest and why?
Ann-Margret: I think it would be “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” A couple of the songs on the album are for Bobby Darin — for Bobby it’s “Splish Splash” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” He was a dear friend of mine.
WW: Your album cover shows a throwback photo of you posing atop a motorcycle. Have you always been a motorcycle fan?
Ann-Margret: Yes! My father had two motorcycles, and my uncle had a big motorcycle in Sweden so I was surrounded by them. I always jumped on the back with him. And I love speed! When I’m on a motorcycle I feel all good and happy things.
WW: What kind of motorcycle do you have now?
Ann-Margret: I have this incredible Harley that was given to me years ago. It’s lavender and has Harley-Davidson in white script with flowers going through it. I didn’t know many women who rode bikes back when I first got one. Even though I’ve had many broken bones, I still love speed. I certainly feel those bones, especially when it’s overcast, but I still get out and walk and I feel better.
WW: After the loss of your husband, Roger Smith, in 2017, you still appear to be a very positive person. Where do you think your inner strength comes from?
Ann-Margret: I believe in the Lord and always have, always will. My faith has kept me going through hard times. It’s hard for me to believe everything that has happened to me. I’m just so blessed. I thank the good Lord, and I know that one day I’m going to see my husband and my parents again.
I had an incredible marriage. Roger and I were together for 50 great years — and we always laughed. We laughed at ourselves, and were usually doing something silly. It was fun. I always tried to listen and to be the best partner I could be. And being with someone 50 years, you tend to know what makes someone happy… or what might make them angry. He was very funny and being able to laugh together is one of the secrets of a good marriage.
WW: How do you ease stress?
Ann-Margret: Exercise is my number one form of stress relief. I exercise Tuesdays and Thursdays. A gentleman comes over and I’ve been working out with him for 20 years. He was Mr. America at one point. I go on long Saturday morning walks with friends. It starts off the day perfectly. It’s a fun thing — kind of like a support group. We find out every week what everyone has been up to. It’s wonderful. I also love having friends over for a barbecue and telling them to bring their bathing suits. I have the pool a little heated so that everyone will be comfortable, and we just laugh and find out how everyone is doing.
WW: Who or what brings you the most joy in life now?
Ann-Margret: My friends. I have friends I’ve had for 50 to 60 years. I feel the way I felt when I first met them. My stepchildren. My pets. I have a white fluffy dog, Miss Mona, taken from the show I did, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. She’s with me all the time. I also have a wonderful kitty and he just turned 20 — Harley. I’ve had him since he was 3 months old. He always tells me what he wants. My pets are like my children. I just feel I have this joy in my heart.
WW: You’ve worked with so many iconic actors over the decades. Do you have favorite memories of spending time with them?
Ann-Margret: There are so many. I remember picking up Dean Martin at his house one time when we were going to do a film shoot. He was just so funny, and such a wonderful actor — he was always right there. You’d look into his eyes and he was present.
He had this tiny light blue Jaguar sports car, and it was wonderful yet difficult to get in and out of. I remember I was going to a luncheon and I had on all pink — a pink pencil skirt, blouse and jacket — and I was lucky to get there!
I remember once with Dean, we were being filmed running towards each other in slow motion. It was fun except that I tripped and fell. We were laughing all the way.
WW: Do you have any special keepsakes from your career?
Ann-Margret: Yes, I still have a shirt I wore in Viva Las Vegas with Elvis Presley. It’s like a turtleneck with three black buttons and a bow. I loved doing that movie. It was one of the happiest times in my life working with him. So I wanted a keepsake from that. And of course, on a movie set you always have to have two or three of an item in case one gets ruined. I felt it was okay to take the shirt and of course, I told the studio I was taking it. It’s in my closet, sitting there very happily.
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