"A lot of times, Mother Nature knows what she's doing," says country queen Emmylou Harris, 52. A decade ago, after a run-in with red henna, the eight-time Grammy winner "bit the bullet," as she puts it, and reverted to the prematurely gray hair that she had acquired in her early 20s. "It's the best thing I ever did."
Amen, says Willie Nelson, who calls her "a natural beauty who knows there is no need to cover up." Agrees singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell: "She's forever young."
The brown-eyed girl was "a cute kid," admits Harris, thanks to dad Walter, a career Marine who died in 1993, and homemaker mom Eugenia, who "is still beautiful at 77." Despite winning a local Woodbridge, Va., beauty contest at age 17, Harris says she "didn't start wearing makeup until I was in my 30s."
Today, the thrice-divorced mother of two daughters still sings the praises of "a good haircut" and meticulous skin care. "Linda Ronstadt [who joins Harris and Dolly Parton on the new album Trio II] turned me on to Erno Laszlo skin-care products years ago," the 5'7" Harris says. Though she says she'd "be happy to be a slug," she starts each day with free weights, sit-ups and 15 minutes of Appalachian buck dancing to Celtic or bluegrass music. "At a certain point," she figures, "you have to do some aerobic exercise."
Just not under Mother Nature's glaring eye. "I'll tan my body but not my face," Harris stresses, treating it instead to monthly facials and a daily dab of blusher. "As long as I have a little rose in the cheeks, I can face the world." What could be more natural than that?