Who's That Girl In The Bikini Selfie? It's Sharon Stone. She's Still Got It.
The mystique of Sharon Stone and her sexed-up internet presence.
Modern Renaissance is a monthly column that dissects culture through celebrity Instagram posts.
I'll set the scene: An off-kilter composite column. A terracotta Buddhist bust next to a black candle with a gold cross. A black and white French bulldog that should go for top dollar at a Sotheby’s auction. This is not the portrait background of a 19th-century Danish despot, but the latest bikini selfie from 65-year-old Sharon Stone.
“Ready for summer [kiss emoji] [sunglasses emoji]” the Academy Award-nominee declared in a caption on May 24th, a full month ahead of schedule. Always on her angles, the photo is butt selfie in ¾ profile. She turns over her left shoulder, phone in left hand, managing to display most of the front and back of her body from this yoga-honed twist. Stone is in conversation with her own sex symbol image. In August 2022, the Casino actress lamented, “Why do I always get in shape when summers over? [shrug emoji]” posing in front of the same mirror. 2022 Sharon Stone was cute; 2023 Sharon Stone said gorgeous devours cute.
Beyond the aforementioned oddities strewn about Stone’s (living? family? posing?) room, the photo continues to mystify the longer you look. The green leopard-print bikini she wears was created by the famously gay and homophobic fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana. The gold coffee and side tables scream West Elm while the column is giving Acropolis. Inexplicably, she’s wearing Wayfarer-style sunglasses indoors (I would’ve for sure thought she was an aviator gal). Her post is full of panache and contradiction, a combination that permeates every pixel and the essence of the woman herself.
Hanging above Sharon Stone like a Hollywood guardian angel is a 1961 Douglas Kirkland photo of Marilyn Monroe. In the photograph, the Some Like It Hot actress wraps herself in an almost transparent sheet, Clinging to a pillow, her mouth opens in quintessential Marilyn fashion, as if awaiting her lover’s every word. It’s a work of shocking intimacy and softness. It’s also gigantic, hovering above Stone like a veritable fairy godmother.
Stone’s affinity for the late starlet makes sense. If anyone can claim sex appeal as both her ultimate weapon and crutch much in the way of Monroe, it’s Sharon Stone. Sexuality and blonde ambition were her means of making it out of Meadville, Pennsylvania, a small oil town of 15,000 people with nearly a fifth living in poverty in the 1980s. She leaned into her sexed-up stereotype while pushing the boundary of what was acceptable for an actress, playing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wife in Total Recall and doing a Diet Sprite commercialin 1990. That same year, she was on the cover of Playboy, yet another career similarity with Monroe. Speaking with Variety in January 2023, the actress said: “I came into this world looking like a Barbie, so it’s complicated for people to allow me the opportunity to be anything else.”
This feeling of being trapped within the expectations of her looks was further exacerbated when she played openly bisexual murderer Catherine Tramell in Paul Verhoeven’s 1992 erotic thriller, Basic Instinct. Stone had practically begged to do the film, while male lead Michael Douglas, already a household name, almost refused if a then-nobody like her were cast.
Famous for its graphic and gender imbalanced nudity – including the infamous interrogation scene where Stone crosses and uncrosses her legs in a white dress sans underwear – the film made Sharon Stone a star while leading to further professional and personal costs. Stone made $500,000 compared to Douglas’s $14 million (without doing a full-frontal scene, from which we were ultimately spared). Even an Oscar nomination for her performance as streetwise Ginger McKenna in Martin Scorsese’s Casino would not eclipse her work in the pulpy movie. Stone later commented that she was told the interrogation scene wouldn’t show her naked, which Verhoeven subsequently denied.
The public perception of Stone’s sexuality bled from her acting work into the perception of her character. Aftershock from Verhoeven’s film reverberated well into her marriage to San Francisco Chronicle executive Phil Bronstein. During their custody battle in 2004, Stone lost custody of their adopted son, Roan, the judge citing her role in the Basic Instinct as a reason she was not fit to care for her child, even asking her son if he knew that his mother made “sex movies.”
In her four-decade career, Sharon Stone has lived in these contradictions. From Oscar nomination to partial blacklisting in Hollywood for her AIDS activism, from being the beauty standard to suffering from endometriosis and a brain hemorrhage in 2001 (just two weeks after 9/11, a fact which she highlights in her memoir The Beauty of Living Twice), extremes became commonplace in her work and life. Professional rock bottom came in 2002 when Stone sued MGM for scrapping Basic Instinct 2, a project for which she was to receive $14 million regardless if it came out. Stone was blacklisted entirely after the dispute was settled.
Stone has seen a recent resurgence in her career, performing in the Ryan Murphy series Ratched and working as a painter. More recently, she joined Sam Smith in January during his Saturday Night Live appearance in a surprise performance of his track “Gloria.” For most of the song, she does not move, lying on a black divan connected into her black and gold dress. As Smith’s voice comes in, Stone sits up and looks outward, enrapt, at once entirely present and somewhere far off. Her performance delivered what few celebrities today have left - beauty and unknowability. She understands what she has, and she will smirk into her mirror in a leopard print bikini knowing she can give so much more.