Andie MacDowell Says She 'Was Afraid' to Come to Cannes After Having a Baby: 'It's a Real Shame' (Exclusive)

"Now I embrace my womanly body. I think it's very sexy," the actress tells PEOPLE, reflecting on the evolution of beauty standards

<p>Arnold Jerocki/Getty </p> Andie MacDowell attends Lights on Women

Arnold Jerocki/Getty

Andie MacDowell attends Lights on Women's Worth at Plage des Palmes on May 24, 2024

Andie MacDowell is celebrating the way moms in Hollywood and beyond are owning their bodies in 2024.

The actress and L’Oréal Paris ambassador, 66 — who has a longstanding partnership with the brand and has attended the Cannes Film Festival for many years — made a surprising confession to PEOPLE during an interview at the festival on Saturday, May 25.

When considering the ways in which fashion and beauty at the event have evolved over the years, the mother of three reveals, "I didn't come [to Cannes] for [promotion of the 1989 film] Sex, Lies and Videotape. I just had a baby. I was afraid."

It's unclear which of her children she was referring to, but her son, Justin, was born in 1986 and her daughter Rainey was born in 1990. She is also mom to Margaret and shares all of her kids with ex-husband Paul Qualley.

The Way Home star — who attended Loréal's Lights on Women Award event on May 24 — is presumably implying that she didn't want to come to such a big event as the Cannes Film Festival and make herself vulnerable to criticism of her postpartum body.

<p>Dominique Charriau/WireImage</p> Andie MacDowell attends the "La Plus Precieuse des Marchandises" (The Most Precious Of Cargoes) Red Carpet

Dominique Charriau/WireImage

Andie MacDowell attends the "La Plus Precieuse des Marchandises" (The Most Precious Of Cargoes) Red Carpet

Related: Andie MacDowell Reveals Daughter Margaret Qualley Bought Her Old Magazine Covers: ‘I Was Very Touched‘ (Exclusive)

MacDowell says it was culturally acceptable to be "cruel to women" at that time in Hollywood and elsewhere, but notes that times have changed.

"Because of the shift in our expectations and because we brought it out, they can't be like that to us anymore," she tells PEOPLE, adding that if she'd recently had a baby and Cannes was coming up in her schedule "now I wouldn't have been afraid to come."

At the time when she skipped the event, she explains, "I was, nursing, was really big and just motherly and whatever, and I didn't come. And that's a shame. It's a real shame."

<p>Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty </p> Andie MacDowell, and her family

Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Andie MacDowell, and her family

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"Now I embrace my womanly body. I think it's very sexy. But I think we couldn't feel sexy about ourselves because they were telling us that we weren't," she continues.

But women are no longer accepting that behavior, according to MacDowell.

"We've claimed it, and we've taken it back and we've said, 'But this is what it is to be a woman. We're not girls, we're women,' " the Groundhog Day star adds.

One of the ways MacDowell is embracing her age as a veteran of Hollywood is by keeping her hair a shade of gray she called silver in a recent interview with NewBeauty.

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<p>Andie MacDowell Instagram</p> Andie MacDowell with her family

Andie MacDowell Instagram

Andie MacDowell with her family

MacDowell admitted that she was also "afraid" to commit to that change until 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I finally got the courage during COVID when I saw it with my eyes and my skin color. Once it was growing out, I could see what the color was going to be like, and I really loved it. I knew it was time," she said during a conversation in which she urged people to consider if they'd care about her choice of hair color if she were a man.

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