Do you remember the first time you disappeared? That moment when you walked down the street, or maybe past a building site, and instead of turning heads, or getting a cheeky comment, there was just… nothing? No recognition? Like you were invisible? I do – and I have to confess, I didn’t like it, no matter how much the wolf whistles used to annoy me.
And it seems I’m not alone. Supermodel Paulina Porizkova recently told Los Angeles Magazine about the first time it happened to her. But rather than just gripe about it, do you know what she did? She fought back. She did a naked photoshoot and almost broke the internet. Now I’m not saying that’s the path I’d necessarily go down to reclaim my autonomy, but what an amazing thing to do. She’s a PRO AGE warrior after my own heart.
It says a lot about western society that a Czech supermodel who has appeared on 21 Vogue covers, done countless bikini shoots in Sports Illustrated and is still exquisitely beautiful fails to turn heads at the age of 56 – even though, as she said of that night, “I got really done up: tight black dress, plunging neckline, red lips, high heels. I thought I looked really hot, like I was sauntering down a runway.
“In the past, there’d always been this tiny bit of friction when I walked through a crowd – this infinitesimal moment of awareness. But that night, for the first time, there was none of that: it was like nobody even saw me.”
That moment made Porizkova determined to be seen as an older woman. Just take a look at her Instagram account, @paulinaporizkov: it’s honest, full of frank reflections and make-up-free selfies. She’s refusing to accept that a whole bunch of amazing women who are just coming into their prime can be dismissed by a society that deems us insignificant. She has joined the battle against ageism.
One thing I love about her is that she posts unretouched images of herself without make-up – and, of course, without clothes. She photographs her grey roots and her “awesome” neck wrinkles. She talks about losing her husband as well as her youth. And it’s that kind of frankness we need if we’re going to do battle against ageism, one of the last socially acceptable forms of discrimination. Why should we be dismissed because we’ve reached a certain age? It’s utterly illogical as well as grossly offensive.
Research shows that only five per cent of advertising is directed at people over the age of 50; it goes up to a paltry 10 per cent for the marketing of movies. Yet we made up 30 per cent of the pre-pandemic film-going audience and a whopping 75 per cent when it came to art-house movies. A 2018 study in the Harvard Business Review found that people over 40 were three times more likely than younger entrepreneurs to be successful at new business ventures. And though some cognitive skills might start to decline, the loss is offset by knowledge and expertise – which are widely used as predictors of career performance.
So how do we fix society’s attitudes towards ageing? It’s certainly not by trying to look younger. We need to get the world to embrace those in midlife and beyond just the way we are. I know the beauty industry has a lot to answer for, labelling products “anti-ageing” or “anti-wrinkle” and pointing up the negative aspects of growing older when clearly it’s something that happens to all of us.
Here at Studio10, we’re all about ageing positively, working to accept where we are in our lives and celebrating our status. We don’t use negative terminology when it comes to ageing. Instead, we strive to enjoy where we’re at. I feel strongly that embracing where you are can bring real happiness. Trying to stay young for ever will only cause misery.
And speaking of youth, they might actually be the ones to help us switch this debate around. Lots of young people are already on board with the PRO AGE movement. It was millennials, after all, who turned the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg into the hipster known as the Notorious RBG, and who have boosted the ratings of Instagram influencers such as Lyn Slater (757k, @iconaccidental) and Grece Ghanem (669k, @greceghanem). Maybe it’s that kind of fresh, non-ageist take on this old story that we really need right now. I think Paulina Porizkova would approve.