Penélope Cruz

Penélope Cruz has discovered "true" beauty. Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

It's been a whirlwind year for Penélope Cruz.

After quashing many a woman's hopes by marrying dashing costar Javier Bardem last year, the 37-year-old Madrid-born actress gave birth to her first child, son Leo Encinas Bardem, this past January.

The star then sunk her hands into the legendary cement of Hollywood's Walk of Fame as the first Spanish actress bestowed with the honor, and Lancôme came calling with an offer to appear as the new face of the luxury French brand's iconic fragrance, Trésor.

The sultry siren has sure come a long way from collecting stray cats to keep as her only friends while living a lonely life as a struggling actress in L.A. in the '90s -- a story Cruz recently shared with Vogue.

StyleList caught up with the belle du jour at the Sunset Tower Hotel in West Hollywood, where Cruz sat down and indulged us with some one-on-one beauty chat. But with such perspective-altering life changes in just the past few months, talk inevitably meandered to beauty's bigger picture, and what it means to Cruz as a woman.

"I've been very fortunate to live in a lot of different cities and countries in the world, and to see how beauty can have such variety," says the star, who currently has homes in Madrid, New York and LA. "My mind doesn't think in that way: This is beautiful, that is more beautiful. I see beauty in all kinds of women, no matter their age, or what they do."

In fact, says Cruz, you need to look beyond the pages of fashion glossies and blockbuster movies to be able to fully appreciate the scope of true beauty.

"You can't let society lock that concept of what beauty is, and say that only a few things are considered beautiful. You have to open your mind to see all the forms that beauty can take. When you start seeing it in all other people, you can see it in yourself," Cruz tells StyleList.

The beauty that Lancôme has recognized and celebrated in Cruz is especially poignant for the actress, as a teenage memory she has of the dainty peach-colored Trésor fragrance reads almost like a Horatio Alger novel.

As a young and impressionable 14 year-old studying classical ballet in Madrid, Cruz was one day enraptured by a passing ad.

"I saw a campaign Lancôme did with Isabella Rossellini and Peter Lindbergh," the actress says of the brand's most recognizable face to date and the famed fashion photographer. "I was so captured by the images. I asked my parents to please buy me a bottle, I wanted it so badly. And they did! I wore it all the time, for many years, and to this day. I wore it to feel like that ad I saw of Isabella Rossellini," says Cruz.

With an ending you could only write in a Hollywood chick flick, Cruz is now the noveau face of the best-selling floral fragrance, that spikes a rose base with sparkling notes of peach and apricot.

The Madrid native joins fellow Spaniard model Inés Sastre and Dominican model Arlenis Sosa in adding ethnic diversity to Lancôme's portfolio of famous faces, which also includes A-list heavyweights Julia Roberts, Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway, and most recently, Emma Watson.

Such an opportunity isn't lost on Cruz, who understands that it may not have been so easy for her to win a contract from a major cosmetics brand just a generation ago.

"The door has been open for me, so I feel very grateful. It's just not a few of us anymore," says Cruz of the growing presence of Spanish women in popular culture. "I think that it opens more and more every day for more women, and we must continue to push it open for all women."

As for the media and movie industry's more encompassing definition of beauty, Cruz believes it's due to the changing landscape of the world.

"I think it's because movies and beauty campaigns need to reflect the reality of life, the reality of the streets, and how we mix more and more with one another. Otherwise, what sense does it make?" asks Cruz.

Every actress has a litany of icons that have likely inspired her ascent, and Cruz's list is of the most glamourous pedigree. Citing Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Meryl Streep, Sophia Loren and Anna Magnani, the star says, "They are all women who are not just beautiful, but had amazing character, hearts and talent."

As for her own legacy of much-envied curves accented by a slim waist and an exotic sense of beauty, Cruz takes a joie-de-vivre sense of living that eschews dieting and complex skincare routines in favor of low-key common sense.

"I always wear moisturizer and sunscreen. Aside from that, I don't get too complicated. I think simple is best. When I'm not working, I don't wear makeup. Maybe a little blush, mascara. Your skin needs to breathe," advises Cruz, who, true to her claim, arrived for her interview in a face refreshingly free of makeup -- her olive-toned complexion glowing, and lips plump with natural color.

And when it comes to food, Cruz credits her homeland with helping her naturally maintain her svelte figure.

"I don't follow any special diet, I think that takes all the joy out of food. I'm used to the Mediterranean way of eating, which is very healthy," Cruz says of the heart-healthy cuisine rich in vegetables, whole grains, fish and moderate portions of olive oil and red wine. "I think if you eat good ingredients, you don't have to eat less."

While the star's beauty, health and life philosophies all seem to gravitate towards the basics, there's one indulgence that Cruz loves to turn to for some fancy treatment.

"I think everyone loves a massage once in awhile. For me, nothing compares with it. The spa in the Hotel Miguel Angel is my favorite," says Cruz of one of Madrid's top destinations.

We think that after the cyclone of events that have hit Cruz in the past year, some deep tissue and shiatsu action is well-deserved.

Another celebrity we adore who has an empowered view of beauty? Kim Cattrall. Check out StyleList's interview here.

Watch the video below on how to get the perfect pout like Cruz!