We've all heard the phrase "age is nothing but a number." If this is so, why is it that the media neglects to represent something that is such a natural and universal process such as getting older? Why is it that we only see the faces of 20-somethings or the heavily airbrushed faces of 30, 40, 50-somethings?
As women, as humans, our true worth cannot be expressed in a numerical value. Whether that be weight, height, the size of our breasts, the circumference of our waist, and especially not our age.
Why is it that in our culture age is so heavily scrutinized? We see the pressure of permanently retaining youthfulness all around us. Take a look at grocery store checkouts. We have a variety of fashion, health, and lifestyle magazines all of which target different ages, yet their covers are all adorned with women who appear to be an average age of 25.
Here at HNS, our girl gang is all inclusive- curvy, thin, black, white, blue, seventeen or seventy---you’re in the club. There is a lot of discussion revolving around beauty in size diversity, but what about beauty in age diversity? As women, if we fight to be seen past our physical aesthetic and to know our value is more than a number, then we have to see past the age number as well.
Recently we were introduced to stylist and classic model, Mel Brady. Brady, 53, is spearheading the fight against ageism in the industry by showing the world that beauty does not have an age limit.
In December, Melinda Brady was featured in a Target Australia as a part of the "Every Body" campaign (below), which showcased a diverse group of women modeling swimwear. This campaign first made headlines in June 2015 when Target (US) launched a series of photos featuring "real women" of different sizes and ethnicities in their swimwear. The "Every Body" campaign has been met with widespread positivity and in turn, Target has continued this campaign into 2016.
Yesterday, Target Australia launched their Valentine's Day lingerie catalogue, featuring another diverse group of women, including Brady (below). We feel that this is such a HUGE step in the right direction and inspires us to keep up in the fight for more diverse representation of women in the media! These are the types of campaigns we need to see!
We were so inspired by Brady, we wanted to hear her thoughts on the perception of age in the beauty industry:
HNS: How does the media perceive women and age?
MB: Oh my where do I start? It’s my belief the media does its best to ignore a women once she’s past ‘a certain age’. The very young, fit and beautiful are celebrated and congratulated, but past 40, women more or less become invisible. Past 50, never seen at all in advertising. Yet strangely it’s women over the age of 45 who have the greatest global spending power. Go figure huh?
HNS: In your recent Target campaigns you were featured in a bikini and lingerie. In America, we would never see that in an ad? What do you think about this?
MB: Ha Ha Hmmm well I had modeled underwear and tankinis for Target this year but even I gasped a little when I was asked to wear that bikini…but the fact Target and all of the production crew had great belief in me and my youthful attitude really made me do it. As the campaign has gone viral I’ve read a lot of comments made by people and it’s been incredibly heartening as most of the comments have been so wonderfully positive, and hundreds of women my age have contacted me through Facebook and Instagram to let me know if I can do it, so can they. MUSIC TO MY EARS...(the reason why I started to model).
The thing about me in a bikini is I’m not perfect, but at 53 I eat well and exercise. I’m proud of my body ;) We all should be! We are all different shapes and ages, and I think that generally that 'every woman' just wants to be able to imagine what she would look like wearing something.
HNS: You mentioned that Target Australia does this as a part of their #yayforeverybodycampaign. How did you get involved?
MB: I’ve worked as a stylist in the advertising industry for 30 years in Australia, and last year whilst styling a campaign for Target they asked me if I would model in it. They loved my silver hair and youthful attitude and really wanted to include a broader cross section of women in their catalogues. I jumped at the chance, as I have long thought my demographic as a 50 plus woman was never seen in catalogues. If we were, we were made to look much much older to represent 70 something women.
From there I joined my agency Chadwick models who were happy to represent me and allow me to maintain my deal breakers. These included NO incontinence products, NO retirement homes, NO nanny nighties-- not that there is anything wrong with that but I knew clients would see my silver hair and pigeon hole me. NOPE not me, I wanted to represent my 50 something demographic as being exactly what I am-- fit, fun, youthful and CONFIDENT!
HNS: Would you like to see more countries implement this campaign?
MB: HELL YES!! I’d like to see mainstream retailers in all countries just embrace the broad cross section of the community they sell to, whether that be to celebrate the difference in our shape or in our age.
That doesn’t mean I want or think this needs to pervade all advertising. Magazines will always feature the young and beautiful because they’re aspirational. But I think large budget retailers should really take a look at who their customer is.
HNS: It is a common fear for women to fear aging, did you experience this fear?
MB: Of course it’s a common fear. We are conditioned to believe that youth means everything. Call me old fashioned but it’s my belief as we age and our wrinkles appear, then comes a sense of confidence and years of experience and living life makes us wiser, more interesting as people.
As far as experiencing that fear myself, yes I did for a time in my early 40s. I tried Botox at 40 and at 45 I disliked the way it made me look, but more importantly I couldn’t express myself. Communication is key to me, if you can’t tell what I’m thinking from my expression, well I’d be lost. I’m not saying people shouldn’t do it. What I am saying is SELF CONFIDENCE is the most attractive thing about anyone at any age, and I decided I really wanted to age gracefully sending that message of confidence. I stopped dyeing my hair in my mid 40s too--oh the liberation not just from chemicals, but my wallet loved me too.
HNS: How did you overcome it?
MB: Well that’s a complicated answer. I think because I’ve worked in the industry for so long I’ve seen the change from film to digital. Yes the digital revolution has been an incredible advance, but with it has come the ability to Photoshop absolutely everything in order to create perfect people and product. I know it’s all and ILLUSION, I’ve worked with beautiful people, made even more beautiful by a team of experts, lit, and shot to look EVEN MORE beautiful and then retouched to the Nth degree.
I don’t think this will ever stop, but, it’d be fantastic for our daughters to know that those images aren’t real and that they don’t need to compete with an illusion. I’d love it if there was some kind of small watermark on advertising images that could show us the image has been retouched…wouldn’t that be AMAZING??
HNS: What are the stereotypes that surround women that are mature in age?
Old = ugly
Wrinkles = tired
Men get to be ‘silver foxes’ but women get called ‘old and grey’. It’s perfectly acceptable for an older man to date a younger woman..but tongues wag and heads turn in the reverse. When someone says ‘she looks great’ and then quantifies it with ‘for her age’. That’s like saying ’she’s really smart for her age’ wtf can't someone just look good? Period. I’m part of a group of women on Facebook who either have silver hair or a trying to transition to their natural color. The stories I’ve read of other women belittling them would truly curl your toes. ‘You’ve let yourself go’ is one of the most common.
Many younger men hit on me and when I refuse they’re nonplussed, like I must be gagging for it because I’m old. They view older women are no longer ‘desirable’.
HNS: Body image: What were you taught about your body as a child and how has that beauty ideal affected you as an adult?
MB: I was born with feet deformity so I had to wear special boots into my early childhood as a young teenager I didn’t have a lot of confidence. Luckily my mum sent me to deportment school and then I did a little modeling it helped to bring me out of my shell a little. But really I’ve spent many years forgiving myself, learning how to love myself, reading a lot, and debunking ‘the beauty myth’, has really helped too.
HNS:What is a "Classic Model"?
MB: Generally in the modeling industry there are the standard size girls who fit into the tiny samples prepared by manufacturers, over the past decade ‘curve models’ have begun to be commonplace, but the classic model is representative of any woman over 35.
HNS: What would you like women to know about age and beauty?
MB: Aging shouldn’t be a dirty word, we shouldn’t try and run from it because it happens to us all. I truly believe the more you try and ‘hold back the years’ the unhappier you become. Fear is a mind killer! I’m all about embracing my age youthfully, naturally and with lashings and lashings of self-confidence.
Melinda Brady has been a huge inspiration to us and we hope to see more of her in the future!
For more inspiring posts by Mel, you can check out her instagram here.