Nicole Kidman and Linda Evangelista Magazine Covers Send Different Messages to Women Over 50

I posted the images of Evangelista and Kidman to my Instagram with the caption, “Women in their 50s get a lot of fucking mixed messages.” The general reaction was that we shouldn’t judge other women and that we should support all their choices.

Another perspective was that we simply apply a bit of common sense to our own aging and look inward for contentment rather than comparing ourselves to celebrities who have private chefs, personal trainers and plastic surgeons on the dial quick.

Yes, it would be nice to look at these images more objectively. But it’s hard. We absorb it all, we compare ourselves, we feel conflicted, we feel inadequate.

Evangelista, one of the world’s most legendary supermodels, felt inadequate, and now she’s the star of failed cosmetic procedures and the sad price of vanity. Imagine the pressures she faced, internal and external, after decades of working in one of the most arbitrary industries of all? The one who puts Kidman in a schoolgirl outfit.

We’re bombarded with all the fake “You look fabulous at 50!” articles, leading us to wonder why we have a growing midsection and a sagging jawline. Maybe if we just had more self-discipline, we tell ourselves, we could all look like J. Lo, now 52 and living her best life, or Emily in Paris actress Philippine Beaulieu-Leroy, who is 58 and apparently does not have a single gram of body fat.

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It is of course refreshing to now see older women on magazine covers and being praised in the media, but there are still exhausting physical ideals being presented.

Fashion magazines were rightly held responsible for only featuring the young and the ‘perfect’, but being mature and ‘perfect’ is not a big leap forward. It’s just as insidious – and Evangelista sensed it.

During my time in magazines, older women were seen as a huge risk on newsstands, after a cover of a gorgeous Lauren Hutton on Harper’s Bazaar Australia tanked. The publishers decided it was a cataclysmic sales disaster that had to be avoided for the next two decades.

At most levels, consumers have demanded and obtained changes in terms of body diversity, but the message is still erratic when it comes to aging naturally. As my hairdresser wryly said, they love to feature women who have gone gray – prematurely.

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So what’s the way through our 50s and 60s if it’s not radical plastic surgery and Britney Spears-inspired miniskirts, but it’s not sensible pantsuits and pearls either? Someone on my Instagram happily noted that maybe we should all completely move on and embrace the “young girl, mother, old” period of our lives. But most women over 50 aren’t quite ready for the “crone” yet, thank you very much. Or maybe we just need to redefine what that means. If an old woman can wear whatever she wants, with cool sneakers and a little back fat, then bring it.

Kirstie Clements is an author, journalist and former editor of Vogue Australia. She is the author of Why Did I Buy That? Fashion mistakes, life lessons.

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