Certainly the point in hiring a gorgeous high profile public figure to be the face of a product line is intended to achieve a singular goal: to sell product. However, at what point can you no longer buy into the fantasy? At what point is the chasm too wide between fantasy and reality that you can no longer suspend your disbelief? At what point do we consciously and unconsciously get the message that buying this lipstick or that eye cream will not deliver you some perfected version of yourself that is pore-less, blemish-less and line-less? When did we become so terrified of aging that we needed to have a beautiful nearly 50 year old woman look as though she was twelve in order to feel okay about the inevitability of growing older?
Living in Los Angeles, one is constantly bombarded by imagery promoting the latest and greatest way to achieve the fountain of youth. In fact, living at the epicenter of the entertainment industry means that one is privy to all of the real life transformations of celebrities who, in order to remain marketable, must adhere to the rigid and ageist tenets built into the Hollywood paradigm. Seeing so many high profile entertainers who capitulate in order to try to achieve unrealistic standards of beauty by way of repeated trips to their favorite Beverly Hills plastic surgeon fools no one. This is particularly true as their once beautiful selves are enveloped by their homogenized idealized selves that are devoid of any character. What made them unique is replaced by something that is not.
A very well known successful TV and Film actress, who recently made a career change to an entirely unrelated industry, told me that as an aging actress good roles were few and far between. Rather than capitulating and undergoing the knife to preserve her career, or to take one-dimensional "mom roles" that she wasn't interested in- she made the bold move to change careers altogether. Her move was brave and proactive, but also necessary to preserve her self-esteem (and to remove the expectation that her agent would send her another great role).
The fountain of youth pressure cooker that is Hollywood serves as a microcosm for the pressure that society exerts on woman to fear aging, and to do whatever is necessary to conceal, erase, remove, and replace the signs of aging with those that represent youth. By doing these things we are made to feel as though we are able to defer aging to some unknown time, or to continually renew our contract and remain ageless through repeated visits to the plastic surgeon.
I am neither suggesting that plastic surgery and photoshop are bad, nor am I pretending that there aren't good reasons to use both when appropriate. What I am suggesting is that aging is an inevitable part of living and trying to erase its signifiers on the outside is only ever an illusion. Overly photoshopped faces in ad campaigns and overly altered faces and bodies (courtesy of a plastic surgeon) set unrealistic standards of beauty for all of us. I remember seeing an interview with Cindy Crawford a few years ago wherein the host was holding up one of her magazine covers and proclaiming that Cindy was a flawless beauty. Cindy responded by saying that she didn't even look like that since the pictures had been manipulated. What these types of idealizing distortions tell us is that we simply aren't good enough on our own, and that our inherent value is tied to our perceived youth- therefore do whatever is necessary to preserve it.
Beauty is ageless and timeless, and isn't defined by a lack of expression lines. As Erno Laszlo said, "Beauty is the way that a woman wears her looks." To that end, there appears to be a new trend to embrace aging that Madison Avenue has taken note of. Most notably is the recent launch of the Iris Apfel for MAC Cosmetics Collection featuring the 90 year old fashion icon.
Iris Apfel's refreshing interview gives hope that the tide is changing, and that people are taking note.
Cate Blanchett's decision to forgo being photoshopped for her recent cover on Intelligent Life helps to galvanize this new trend in being real, and with any luck this trend will persist. Tim de Lisle posits, "When other magazines photograph actresses, they routinely end up running heavily Photoshopped images, with every last wrinkle expunged. Their skin is rendered so improbably smooth that, with the biggest stars, you wonder why the photographer didn’t just do a shoot with their waxwork." That the 43 year old Blanchett is willing to unapologetically wear her age on the cover of a magazine is a breath of fresh air that surely helps sow the seeds of change.
And for a bit of levity...
What are your thoughts? Do tell.