05/09/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT
Don't be fooled by her willowy, light-as-air loveliness: Onscreen and off, Barbara Babcock, 57, is no fragile flower. From her Emmy-winning turn as the lusty tigress who hounded Sergeant Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues to the frontier newswoman she plays on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, the CBS hit now in its second season, the Kansas-born beauty has always made tough seem sexy. "There's an inner radiance that is ageless with Barbara," says Medicine Woman producer Beth Sullivan. "A luminescence that comes through her beautiful pale skin."
What's more, in her free time, she likes to rough it on no-frills adventures. "The only way that you know what's beautiful is if you find something that you define as ugly," says Babcock, who once traveled the Amazon studying monkeys and feasted on fried termites in Kenya. That taste for the exotic traces back to her upbringing in Japan, where her father, an Army general, and her actress mother taught her to appreciate inner splendor. "My parents raised me not to focus on the external," she says. "When the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical are in alignment, then you have beauty that's universal." To achieve such balance, Babcock meditates, does yoga twice daily, works out and uses environmentally friendly products from the Body Shop, along with frequent yogurt facials, "to keep the skin clear, clean and supple." Twice married but now living alone in a century-old Craftsman home in Los Angeles filled with antique furniture and Celtic artifacts, Babcock is drawn to inquiring minds. "Curiosity, the need to learn and to know, that's what I find attractive," she explains. "Picasso in his 90s was enormously sexy."