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Let’s Face It, Aging Is So Not In Vogue

4min read
Culture

There has been a lot of talk about British VOGUE's revolutionary non-issue and the fact that it's a good thing fashion is finally recognizing older women.

I call bullshit.


First of all, we are still not represented in the pages of Vogue. It is an advertising supplement produced by L'Oréal. The only women on the cover are both over 70. Not a woman between 50 and 70 years old in sight.

Don't get me wrong, I love Jane Fonda, an 81 year-old woman who looks amazing. But we know it's a feat only attained by Hollywood royalty (through surgery, stylists, trainers, chefs, beauticians, make-up artists, hairdressers and re-touchers). Jane openly admits to it all. She knows her audience.

We've grown up with her; she's like our cool, beautiful best friend, and we know we've never looked as good as her, but we are totally fine with that.

It hasn't been for lack of trying. There's barely a woman over 50 who hasn't at least attempted a Jane Fonda workout. She's never bullshitted us—looking that good is a lot of hard work. Some of us still put in the hard yards. But those of us who produce endorphins in other ways have decidedly slacked off.

Yet L'Oréal thinks we want a youth-activating serum.

What? Go back to a time where they made girls feel bad because we weren't as perfect as Barbarella?

That's me at 17. Even when I see this photo now, I can still remember looking at it as a teenager and seeing nothing but my enormous thighs. The beauty industry's hatred of "normal" was so virulent that it spread to all aspects of life. I was called "big girl" and "thunder thighs"; I got told that my jaw line was too soft or my favorite old chestnut, "If you lost [some weight], you'd be beautiful." And that was just from men I slept with.

I wasn't alone. I was surrounded by brilliant young career women doing amazing things from nine to five who were just as powerful and talented as Ms. Fonda.

But it was a different story for the women behind the camera: stories that played out in quiet, in tears, in the bathroom. Brilliant young producers throwing up expensive lunches because the creative boys thought their naturally wobbly thighs were hilarious.

We pretty much all hated something about ourselves. And we tried to do something about it. In our young womanhood we bought creams to get rid of cellulite, lift our boobs and ward off those dreaded laughter lines.

None of them worked. Now they want to keep selling to us, but are we going to keep on buying?

Apparently, most facelifts are carried out on women in their forties, when those terrifying laughter lines start appearing. By the time a woman hits her fifties she realizes the enormity of the job ahead—trying to ward off the inevitable. She knows the only way to try to look ten years younger is to spend a fortune and face a lot of pain.

She also knows she won't really look ten years younger—just rich enough to be nipped, tucked and to have had her face burnt off. And we all know if you have that sort of work you can afford the latest 'bee sting serum regime from the foothills of the Andes' that's peddled post-surgery.

Not a $25.99 cream on the top shelf of the beauty aisle.

Look, us mere mortals will always buy the cream. We like it. We like the way it feels on our skin. We like the way it smells. We feel better when we use it. We don't know if it makes us look better because we don't know what our skin would be like without it. But we sure as hell know it won't get rid of our wrinkles.

So stop with the snake oil salesmanship and start affording us the respect you show our daughters who you empower and portray realistically.

After all, we took our own anger at your deceptions and educated the next generation of women to define their own standards of beauty. They have forced you to show young women of color, women of size, trans women, disabled women, sports women and intellectual women.

But you're still trying to scare the shit out of them about aging. Which is ridiculous because it's going to happen. And for many of us it's the best time of our lives, something for younger women to look forward to.

Now they want to sell to us again?! Isn't it time the big cosmetic companies gave us a break from the impossible expectations and show us as the powerful, creative, intelligent, forthright, controversial, and time-marked women we are?

Not just the leading feminist on your cover. A woman we look up to and admire. A general in Gloria Steinem's army of grey-haired women.

We know Jane Fonda's laughing all the way to the bank, and she deserves it. She's worked hard enough—she spent most of the 80s jumping up and down in leg warmers FFS! We love her, and we'll buy a magazine with her on the cover because we want to hear what she has to say. We know her unbelievable good looks are the result of great genes and a lot of work. We also know all L'Oréal contributed was a big healthy cheque.

I know all about this, because Revlon was the biggest client of my agency for many years. I remember once a new independent cosmetic line was launching with brilliant packaging, an eco-friendly product and a really cool ad campaign. I asked my client if he was worried; he said, "Until they have a $50 million ad budget I'm not in the slightest bit concerned."

That was early this century. Now you can build an audience on a shoestring. With the right message and product, you can get the same exposure as a Vogue supplement. You don't even need to be in Sainsbury's to sell it anymore.

There are lots of smaller companies popping up that have formulated products designed to enhance the ageing process not deny its existence. Clever marketers who show beautiful older women realistically with messages to enhance our confidence not encourage us to criticize our reflections.

The most successful companies nowadays are those that take selling to the most powerful consumer group (women between 50 and 70 years old) seriously. If the big cosmetic companies want to compete, I suggest they forget this 'youthful' folly and celebrate our wisdom.

It's not us who need to Reset. Revitalize. Renew.

It's them.

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