Word of the day: “Gerascophobia.” It is commonly defined as the abnormal and persistent fear of growing old or aging. Also known as modern American culture.
It’s no secret that the media idolizes youth. As women age, Botox, plastic surgery, and a generous dose of Photoshop are purported as the recipe for immortality. If you’re fifty and look your age, there’s something wrong with you or you’re not trying hard enough.
Of course it’s possible that you just haven’t found the right age-defying product yet. Keep looking and spending that money, lady! You’re not going to cheat death if you wear the wrong foundation.
However, with recent beauty and fashion campaigns that are embracing older models, I am (tentatively) hopeful that the youth-centric idea of beauty will evolve to include women of all ages.
It’s about time.
American Apparel released a new lingerie ad featuring 62-year-old actress Jacky O’Shaughnessy, with the tagline, “Sexy has no expiration date.” O’Shaughnessy is known for having a natural elegance, and her photos from the shoot are lovely – according to Vogue, no surgery or Photoshop touch-ups played a part either.
Now, American Apparel has a history of shady ads that sexually exploit their young female models (a simple search for the company on About-Face will tell you more). While I don’t support the company, I am a fan of this campaign.
And O’Shaughnessy is in good company, with a group of mature models who are the stars of other contemporary beauty features:
• Daphne Selfe is a model in her mid-eighties and considered the world’s oldest supermodel. She prefers to age naturally and hasn’t had any plastic surgery. She recently modeled for TK Maxx.
• Carmen Dell’Orefice, a model in her early eighties who starred on her first Vogue cover when she was 15, walked in two shows at New York Fashion Week in 2012. Her shoot for YOU Magazine is very Devil Wears Prada in the best way possible.
• Linda Rodin is a 65-year-old model who starred in a shoot for The Row, the fashion brand by the Olsen twins.
• Jenni Rhodes, a Hollywood actress in her early eighties, appeared in a chic spread for the fashion house, Vielma.
• Sarah Wiley (dubbed the “Silver Siren”) is a 66-year-old model who recently appeared in a shoot by Stella magazine.
Yes, these mature models are thin, white, and evoke a mainstream idea of beauty in that sense.
Still, I would definitely call this movement much-needed progress in the mainstream media, and a trend that will hopefully expand to rightfully recognize women of color and more diverse portrayals of beautiful women and girls.
What is your take on the campaign for mature models? What are other ways that our culture can cure its gerascophobia?
Allie Semperger studied English at Kalamazoo College and screenwriting at UCLA. After studying abroad in London and traveling around Europe, she became a travel lover for life, and is always making plans for her next adventure. She recommends Marina and the Diamonds. She created the feminist Tumblr blog, Women’s Issues Are Society’s Issues, and aspires to make the world a better place for women and girls.
The film “About Face” from HBO (yes really that’s its name!) has some fascinating interviews with these older ladies, too.
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