What should a 45-year-old woman look like?
Does she have wrinkles around her eyes from more than four decades of smiling? Does her body reveal an amazingly beautiful heart that brought life into this world and worked hard to support her family?
Yes and yes, but that’s not what the fashion and entertainment industries want them to look like.
Actress Renee Zellweger is 45-year-old, and she shocked pop culture this week with her appearance at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards. The star of “Bridget Jones Diary” and “Jerry McGuire” was virtually unrecognizable on the red carpet.
Her skin seemed unusually tight, her eyes smaller, and her brows flat and frozen, but Zellweger told reporters her look was the result of a healthy lifestyle and natural changes that come with aging.
Plastic surgeons cited by various news media disagreed. They said Zellweger’s look was likely the result of fillers, a brow lift and Botox.
Zellweger bought into Hollywood’s expectations of 45, and now it’s difficult to gauge her age based on her physical appearance. She doesn’t look younger, she doesn’t look older, but she does look different.
For a woman of any age.
Like Zellweger, I too am 45. My knees pop like bubble wrap when I climb stairs, and I have more underwear from Hanes and Spanx than from Victoria’s Secret. I have crow’s feet and a wrinkled brow when I smile, and my skin and other body parts sag a little more than they did before. THESE are the natural changes that come with aging, and yet I still look like the young woman I was in college.
If money were no object, would I fight my mature look with cosmetic surgery and fancy skin procedures? I’ve been tempted, but my answer is “no.” I’m not trying to position myself on some moral high ground with my response; I’m confessing I have a huge issue with my own vanity. With a few rare exceptions, most of the women I’ve known who have tried these procedures don’t look any younger with their new frozen faces and anatomically impossible features. They look weird, and too many of them end up on a never-ending quest for the fountain of youth packaged in a syringe, surgical suite or worthless cosmetic products.
There is a kind of beauty the young will never have and Hollywood will rarely show. It’s the beauty and downright sexiness of maturity that radiates from a woman who has lived life and maintained a youthful attitude. There are a few Hollywood examples of this kind of beauty in the form of 40-somethings Jennifer Lopez and Sofia Vergara who have more natural beauty and energy than women half their age, and the legendary Rita Moreno, whose radiance has not diminished in more than 80 years.
To be fair, these women have a lot of help that makes them look good – an army of make-up artists, hair stylists, fashion designers, lighting professionals, private chefs, and personal trainers. They also have access to great photographers, who in turn have great access to Photoshop.
Every entertainer, regardless of age, has the same support.
Nonetheless, these women have something no cosmetic army could ever give them.
They, like me and millions of other wonderfully mature women, still look like the young women they were in their 20s.
And that’s very beautiful.