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Brigitte Nielsen isn’t one to care what others think of her — especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
The ’80s icon, 60, says her life changed when she met Italian model Mattia Dessi in 2004, when she was 41 and Dessi was 25.
After a whirlwind romance, the couple married and began their journey to become parents. After 13 years of trying IVF, they finally welcomed daughter Frida, 5.
Nielsen says she’s experienced plenty of criticism from people who say she’s too old to have a 5 year old, but she says she also received backlash when she married a younger man.
“We’re celebrating 20 years together in a few months,” she says.
“I remember people were saying, ‘It’s ridiculous, who does she think she is?’” Nielsen tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. But she says the couple have no problem with the age gap. “It just fits perfectly. We’re a good team.”
She continues, “A good marriage is all about making it exciting and about acceptance and respect. You shouldn’t ever try and change the person you fell in love with to ‘make them better.’ Allow them to be them.” She adds, “And by the way, all those people who were laughing and pointing fingers at me are divorced now, and we’re still together.”
She even jokes that it’s a good thing her daughter has a much younger dad.
“One day when she tells me I’m too old to drive her to school, Mattia can do it!” she says with a laugh.
Nielsen also says she doesn’t feel pressure to stay fit and maintain a youthful appearance to keep up with Dessi — well, not yet, anyway.
“Listen, I feel good at 60, but 10 years from now? That’s when gravity really starts pulling everything down,” she says.
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“There’s a big difference between 60 and 70! So I’m just going to take it one day at a time, and if I’m really miserable about the way I look at some point, then I’ll do something about it.”
Nielsen has zero regrets about an just content spending her days with her happy little family — and she can’t believe how much joy being a mother again brings her.
“I’ve become this person who’s just so grateful,” she says. “For Frida, for my health, for everything.”
For more on Brigitte Nielsen, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.