What’s wrong with looking your age?

— by Alexia Economou

Linda Evangelista on the cover of Vogue’s September 2022 issue


Madonna turned 64 in August. Once the icon for unapologetic feminism and ageing-well-through-clean-eating-and-exercise, she was unnaturally puffy-faced, frozen in age-indeterminate limbo. Similarly, Linda Evangelista, 57 – fronting the September issue of Vogue UK was taped, tucked and wrapped to present a jawline worthy of a much younger self. Nicole Kidman, 54, appeared on the cover of Perfect magazine with the admirable arms and body of a young Olympian, and Demi Moore is approaching her 60th with an age-defying bikini body (honed to promote her swimwear collaboration with Andie Swim).

These exceptional examples re-ignited a hot topic at TNMA. We’ve queried before, and continue to be alarmed at the pressure on women to defy the ageing process. The message is consistently ‘preserve yourself at a socially acceptable’ age, lauding women who manage to look 20-30 years younger than they are. It smacks of ageism from a pre-woke time. These gender paradigms are not kind to women, new technologies in beauty feed into this movement with a proliferation of fillers and muscle-paralysers that have overtaken the ‘wind-tunnel face-lift’, in the evolution of capturing youth.

Just to clarify, I am all for freedom of choice to do whatever makes you feel stronger, more beautiful and confident. With advances in health care we know more about beauty and grooming now, which means most women are naturally ageing better than our mothers did. The worry, however, is the pressure that makes women feel they have to achieve extreme beauty ideals and the real life implications this message – largely one of privilege and systemic misogyny – continues to have on all women.


Photo via The Canadian Academy


Take, for example, Lisa LaFlamme, 58, a prime-time news anchor on a national Canadian network (Canada’s equivalent of Christiane Amanpour or Mishal Husain). She is a gorgeous, super-smart, award-winning professional at the top of her game. She deliberated whether to go grey and eventually did so during lockdown. Fans and viewers lauded her choice – she looks even more stunning with silver locks. Yet, she was ‘blindsided’ when unceremoniously ousted from her job a few weeks ago (a good 20 years earlier than her male predecessors without even so much as the months-long tributes and farewells they enjoyed). At the time of writing, the network haven’t been transparent about their decision-making process, but LaFlamme’s female colleagues implied that ageism is front-and-centre in this situation. They are terrified that it signals what will happen to them.

And so, here we are with gendered ageism rearing its ugly head again, and unending examples of talented, successful women, taking risks with their health and bodies in order to remain relevant, aspirational or, dare I say it,… employable. After previously declaring she had been ‘ permanently deformed’ by a cosmetic procedure, at least Linda Evangelista and her team at Vogue have been transparent about employing the professional version of the ‘photo neck pull’ from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I appreciate knowing this. Even Jane Fonda who has had, arguably, some of the best plastic surgery on the planet came out recently warning women to eschew the pressure to undergo procedures.

As Vanessa Friedman wrote in The New York Times, ‘This is a moment when the most urgent conversations have to do with the embrace of multiplicity and plurality, rather than the monolithic and homogeneous. It’s a moment of understanding the value of transparency, and sharing different points of view and experiences. Not to mention different definitions of beauty, which reject the size-ism, ageism and racism once endemic to fashion. In the context of now, the airbrushing of insecurities [is]… perhaps best relegated to the dusty archives of academia rather than preserved on the covers of magazines.’


Let’s hope that plural, intersectional and non-ageist beauty philosophy is finally taking root.


Alexia Economou is a design and culture journalist, and regular TNMA contributor @thedesignfeedTW

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  Madonna turned 64 in August. Once the icon for unapologetic feminism and ageing-well-through-clean-eating-and-exercise, she was unnaturally puffy-faced, frozen in age-indeterminate limbo.