Many of us -- myself included -- have likely crossed paths with the fear of aging. Some 70 per cent of Americans are taking proactive and non-invasive measures to fight the signs of aging. Having just watched About Face: Supermodels Then and Now, I've been reflecting on how our definition of beauty changes as we age.
The documentary shares the reflections of the supermodels that took the fashion industry by storm in the '70s, '80s and '90s (Christie Brinkley, China Machado, Isabella Rossellini, etc.) and how they have come to redefine beauty as they age. These women prove that beauty is more than skin deep. They are still as breathtakingly beautiful as they were in their modelling days, yet it's a different kind of beauty -- a beauty that radiates from their eyes and all that they have learned through the years. This is why these models were featured and have achieved lasting success; they now have a confidence that comes not from their physical beauty, but from their wisdom and self-awareness. Marisa Berenson describes it as "something in your core which goes beyond the physical...because it has to."
As a woman in my 40s, I often think about how my definition of beauty has evolved through life experience. My priorities have changed; the element of insecurity that I have seen come and go has been replaced with what was missing in my 20s: self-security, confidence and wisdom. With this in mind, the documentary really resonated with me. Here are my observations on how these supermodels have come to redefine beauty.
"Working off of your looks makes you the opposite of self-confident." - Paulina Porizkova
It took me a moment to wrap my head around this; do we not live in a society that associates happiness and success with beauty? Yet upon further reflection, this statement makes perfect sense. When a woman is told she is beautiful, it becomes a part of her identity. For pretty girls (especially models), their physical appearance may be given so much attention that it begins to define who they are. The source of successes like landing a job or finding love may become falsely attributed to beauty rather than the depth of personality. We all know (and fear) the fact that looks fade, which leads to the uneasy question of "what else do I have going for me?" When a woman's self-worth becomes contingent on her appearance, long-term insecurity could be inevitable. It's important to find a passion in something that excites us, something that builds our inner confidence as a base of our self-worth.
What matters above all else is knowing who you are, not what you are.
Cindy Crawford walked into her first chemical engineering lecture at Northwestern University and was immediately questioned whether she was in the right class by her Professor. For Cindy, she refused to let it undermine her confidence, and instead used it to fuel her development intellectually, making her education a priority. Cindy is one of my favourite models for this reason; her beauty came second in how she grew to define and value herself. I believe a pretty face or perfect body is simply icing on the cake. As I watched the About Face documentary, I was touched at how each woman reflected on their beauty. Sure, being beautiful brought in a paycheque, but all of them attributed their success to traits like confidence, uniqueness, intellect and perspective.
That being said, there is nothing inherently wrong with being told you are beautiful...embrace it!
But also know what other qualities define you. What are your strengths, what makes you special? Beauty shines brightest through the eyes and through the soul; this is what makes Jerry Hall, Isabella Rosellini and Christie Turlington beautiful. These women navigated their way through an industry where millions of models fall by the wayside, something they were able to achieve by having a good head on their shoulders and self-assurance independent of their looks. They were able to survive the cut-throat, competitive and short-lived career of modelling because they came from a place of security and confidence that went beyond their physical beauty. Many years later, these fashion icons are still landing modelling contracts and runway spots because the industry is embracing their age, as well as their innate grace and ability to work the camera.
A little boost of confidence can work wonders, but won't create true happiness.
How does cosmetic surgery fall into this? Isabella Rossalini embraced her wrinkles, while 82-year-old Carmen Dell'Orefice approached cosmetic surgery as such: "If you had the ceiling falling down in your living room, would you not go and have a repair?" Touche! At the end of the day, your face is your business. I'll be the first to say that if Botox is something you feel will help you be at your best, then by all means go for it. However, no amount of cosmetic surgery will bring true happiness unless a woman is secure with herself, just as she is. There is a distinct difference between getting Botox to mimic eight hours of sleep or trying to look like someone 30 years younger. If your goal is the latter, no amount of plastic surgery will bring lasting fulfilment! Knowing this, as we age we must continue to cultivate interests and passions that make us happy and bring us joy -- things that help define us, from the inside out.
As Yves Saint Laurent once said, "Looks fade; style is eternal."
About Face was not only interesting from a fashion perspective; the documentary also serves as a reminder of the need to respect ourselves for the many unique and wonderful qualities we can bring to the table. These timeless faces prove that attractiveness is not contingent on youth. For women like Christie Brinkley, Cindy Crawford and China Machado, their beauty radiates from an innate style, grace and sense of self.
So let's re-evaluate our attitude towards aging; life is about constantly evolving through experience. Embrace the change! And remember, a beautiful face catches the eye, but a beautiful soul conquers the heart.