Catching Up with ... Victoria Principal

updated 06/18/2007 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/18/2007 AT 01:00 AM EDT

I ordered my space suit the day before yesterday," Victoria Principal says between sips of tea in her sand-colored Malibu living room. She says it the way the average woman would relate ordering a swimsuit from J. Crew—and with the same concern. Recalling her conversation with Virgin Group CEO Sir Richard Branson, on whose Virgin Galactic spaceline she will be traveling in 2009, Principal notes that she made sure the suit wouldn't be "puffy," explaining with a laugh, "I told Richard, 'It's not going to be good for you if everyone who comes off this spaceship looks fat!'"

Go ahead, joke. It's hard not to, a little, when you think of Dallas's Pam Ewing, now 57, talking astrophysics. (Don't get her started on the difference between orbital and suborbital flights.) But Principal, an amateur Formula Ford car racer and sometime paraglider, is serious about this space thing. In 2004, after Branson announced plans for commercial space tourism, "I got the number and said, 'Hi, it's Victoria Principal. Sign me up!'" Branson—who says, "I remembered her from Dallas"—was happy to. "She was the first woman to get in touch, and She explained how much the idea of space had enthralled her. Her memories of the moon landings were much the same as mine."

A $200,000 ticket later, she was booked for a 2 1/2-hour flight that will take her and five other passengers into zero gravity 360,000 miles above Earth. Why is she doing it? For one, she can afford it. Since the actress first washed her face on camera for its debut infomercial in 1991, her privately held Principal Secret skin-care company now has estimated annual sales of $100 million.

It may also be that Principal wants to step back—way back—and get some perspective. Six months ago she ended a 21-year marriage to plastic surgeon Harry Glassman, 63, in a divorce that cost her a reported $25 million. "The first year was difficult," says Principal, who spent it, in part, building the seven-bedroom beach house she now shares with her Llasa apso Mei. "You can't leave a relationship of that length without having to relearn being 'I' as opposed to 'us.'" Asked the reason for the split, she lets the piped-in, Enya-esque music fill the conversational gap. "I think it is good judgment to invest effort in a relationship that is working," she finally says. "And to stop doing so when you know it will never work again."

As for new prospects? Principal—whose long-ago loves include Andy Gibb, Frank Sinatra and Desi Arnaz Jr.—won't offer up details but says coyly, "I'm not lonely." No surprise there. "If anybody needs proof that sexiness and beauty have nothing to do with age," says pal Perry King, her costar in the short-lived 2000 series Titans, "Victoria is glowing proof."

She credits, in part, her skin products, which grew out of a childhood passion—" I was giving facials to family members with Crisco and flour from the time I was 8," she says—and a solution to a problem early in her career. Principal says that when she started acting, "I found I was allergic to many ingredients in makeup." So in 1973 she hired a chemist to make her custom cleansers and moisturizers. Variations on these formulas later became the basis of Principal Secret, which debuted on QVC 16 years ago, and she eventually added antiaging and makeup lines.

Walking on the beach that is her backyard, Principal is wearing her own blush, gloss and mascara today. Her skin, however, is foundation-free. "I feel you deserve to see what I look like," she later says. But is her face really the result of nothing more than great skin care? She was, after all, married to a plastic surgeon. "I've never had a face-lift," she states plainly. "Or a professional peel or lasers." Asked about Botox or line-fillers like Juvéderm, however, and she demurs. "Do I believe in plastic surgery? Yes. If I decide to do something, is there going to be a story about it? Absolutely not."

Besides a dewy face, she has a young woman's body—toned through yoga and resistance training. Still, she says she doesn't work out, as she once did, "for the industry or other people." After an early taste of success—her first film cast her opposite Paul Newman in 1972's The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean—she buckled under "the stress of trying to live up to a perfect image." Then 23 and living alone, she took solace in cooking—and eating. At 150 lbs., "I ate myself out of the business!" she says. Wanting to work, the 5'6" Principal hired a nutritionist. For nine years on Dallas, she weighed 110 lbs. and fought to maintain that size. No more. Seven years ago, "I realized the most important thing was how I felt."

Someday soon, Principal will be above such earthly concerns—quite literally. For a precious few hours, she'll be weightless. She has seemingly no worries about the journey. "I don't see it as a risk, I see it as living," she says. Still, given the choice between a three-day or two-week training session, she chose the latter. She says: "Why would I miss a minute of fun?"

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