Reese Witherspoon Covers Vogue, Talks Elephants and Leotards

Reese Witherspoon Vogue May 2011 cover
Photo courtesy of Vogue
Reese Witherspoon isn't clowning around on the May cover of Vogue.

Flaunting Old Hollywood finger waves and a chic black and white Roland Mouret camisole on the May cover of Vogue, it’s clear Reese Witherspoon has become the ringmaster. And the 35-year-old Oscar winner admits it feels good to be all grown up.

“I think 35 for a woman is a big thing,” says Witherspoon, who was photographed for the fashion tome by Peter Lindbergh. “I remember when I was a little girl looking up at my mother at 35 doing her hair in the mirror, and I thought, My mother has never been more beautiful. She had years of wisdom you can’t erase. And now I feel the same way when I look in the mirror. You can’t pretend you are an ingénue. You can’t pretend you are wide-eyed and innocent. It’s on your face! It’s in your body.”

And Witherspoon’s body has never looked better.

In the new, 1930s-set drama Water for Elephants, the star lights up the screen with platinum blonde hair and gorgeous, body-hugging bias-cut gowns. The Avon Global Ambassador channels her circus-performer character for her Vogue photo shoot, posing alongside a pachyderm in a series of retro looks.

Reese Witherspoon Vogue May 2011

Photo courtesy of Vogue

Trunk show: Witherspoon accessorizes her Narciso Rodriguez gown with an elephant.

In one shot, she dons a Dior sequined, embroidered black tulle dress and accessorizes her tousled ’do with Lorraine Schwartz pavé-diamond earrings. In another, she bares her back in a crimson Sophie Theallet silk gown with grosgrain ties. Witherspoon also does her best Jean Harlow impression in a white Narciso Rodriguez silk charmeuse dress with Fred Leighton bracelets and Valentino jeweled heels.

Despite getting to wear such glamorous getups in Water for Elephants, the newlywed tells Vogue her favorite part of the experience was working with her hefty co-star—we don’t mean Robert Pattinson—and slipping into her circus costumes.

“I spent six months last year with an elephant. Every day! Are you kidding me?” she says. “And in leotards with sparkles all over them. I mean, come on! That’s like a little girl’s fantasy.”

Speaking of little girls, the mom of Deacon, 7, and Ava, 11, says that having a pre-teen daughter has changed the way she views herself. “There’s a shift in your womanhood,” she explains. “That’s the little girl, and I am the woman. There’s a big difference.”

But the biggest lesson Witherspoon has learned with age?

“I definitely know now that I know nothing,” she says. “When I was 26 I would have told you a lot of things that I thought I knew really, really well. I was a little more shut down in my 20s. I was really scared of a lot of things and a lot of people. I have gone through so many changes since then. Obviously, being divorced and having a couple of relationships, I’m much more open than I was. I think with life experience you go: I have no idea what’s next. The unexpected doesn’t surprise me anymore.”

For more of Witherspoon, visit Vogue online or pick up the May issue on newsstands April 19.