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Charlize Theron, W Magazine

Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott

Smoking is no longer in fashion, though it is in a fashion magazine.

Charlize Theron lights up in W's May 2015 issue, on newsstands Apr. 28. Posing for photographers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, the Mad Max: Fury Road actress, 39, plays up her inner vixen by unzipping her New York Vintage jumpsuit and puffing on a cigarette in the edgy spread. In another provocative photo, the South African stunner sits in a car while wearing a Sonia Rykiel top and Prada briefs.

Looks can be deceiving, of course.

When she's not playing a part in movies or in magazines, Charlize is in full-time mommy mode. "I've never been a fan of bringing my characters home. Even when I just had my dogs at home, I didn't feel like it was fair to them: Cocker spaniels don't deserve Aileen Wuornos [from Monster] walking in the door," the star says, adding, "If anything, I'm more attracted to dark material since becoming a mother."

How has life changed since she adopted son Jackson Theron in 2012? "Choosing to be a mom in my late 30s has been really great for me," she tells W. "It's given me perspective."

Charlize Theron, W Magazine

Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott

Charlize, who found love with Sean Penn after becoming a mom, admits that "like many women," she "was judgmental toward women as they aged. Women, in our society, are compartmentalized so that we start to feel like we're cut flowers and after a while we will wilt. I realize now that's not the case—we can celebrate every age," the Young Adult star says. "That's my encouragement to 20-year-olds who are terrified of getting older: Don't have a nervous breakdown and don't hit the Chardonnay too hard. Getting older is not that bad."

"Actually, I'm a complete alcoholic," she jokes, "but, please, don't worry."

Charlize Theron, W Magazine

Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott

On a more serious note, what advice would Charlize give her 20-year-old self?

"I would say, 'Calm down.' I was always in a rush. I felt like time was going to run out. Now that I'm older, I know I'm not missing out on anything. Now, I go home, and that feels really good. When I hit 30, I realized I didn't have to please everybody. I could actually enjoy life, which is not a bad thing at all."