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Ever-so brilliant women on never giving up

— by Alyson Walsh

Bernadine Evaristo author photo

 

In a week when I’ve been feeling quite despondent about how women are viewed, and how our success in the world is measured (prompted largely by the goings-on in parliament…), Booker Prize-winning author Bernadine Evaristo has written a brilliant, uplifting feature for the Guardian. ‘They are totally smashing it!” – Evaristo says of the black female artists, writers and actors finally getting the recognition they deserve, in their 50s and 60s. Women in art is a subject we’ve covered on That’s Not My Age many times and Evaristo mentions Sonia Boyce winning the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Biennale, together with artists including Lubaina Himid and Chila Burman. Attributing success later in life to a ‘commitment to creativity’, resilience, a strong work ethic and the ‘societal shift’ that has taken place allowing black women artists to become more widely visible. Evaristo honestly addresses representation and race, and I particularly like what she says about age:

‘ Women are still unduly judged on our looks; the younger we appear, the more marketable we are…Just as women are taught to be ashamed of menstruation and the menopause, so we are taught to be ashamed of our maturation. How sad that 30-year-olds worry about being ‘ past it’. We should celebrate every age and stage of our lives.  It is one of my mantras, pounding the concept into my consciousness to redress a lifetime of being told otherwise. In the past few years, I have so frequently mentioned my age in interviews that it no longer holds sway over me. I have talked the taboo out of myself. This year I will be 63.’

This is something I do. State my age with pride. That’ll be 58. And mention the ages of the women I feature on That’s Not My Age, so that it’s out there and (hopefully) becomes less of an issue. We should be proud of our age and experience, rather than hiding it away.

 

Photo: Viola Davis on Instagram

 

Viola Davis is another brilliant woman who speaks eloquently about representation. Over lockdown, the acclaimed, 56-year-old actor says, an existential crisis led to her writing a memoir Finding Me, addressing the vast chasm between her early life growing up in poverty in Rhode Island and her current award-winning career and palatial mansion in LA. Talking about diversity in Hollywood/ the film industry Davis told Channel 4 News, this week, how regardless of talent, her career was limited in her 20s:

‘ When I started out as an actress, I just thought my talent would get me everywhere. I didn’t know that being a dark-skinned woman with a wide nose and thick lips could limit me. Limit the scope and the perception of how people saw me in a movie. But when you have the gatekeepers who are predominantly white – the scope of how they see me is very, very limiting. We’re in the business of life and in the business of life there are billions upon trillions of people in the world – and they’re everything. All sizes, all shapes, all genders, all sexualities. And it’s our job to reflect them back to themselves; that’s our gift as artists, to them, a reflection of life.’

 

There’s an extract from Viola Davis’ memoir HERE. Bernadine Evaristo’s Manifesto: On Never Giving Up is available HERE.

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