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Are 'ageless' celebrities like JLo, Salma Hayek and Demi Moore damaging women in midlife?

We talk a lot about how social media impacts teenagers' self-esteem, but what about women in midlife?

By: Rosie Green
26 April 2024
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'Reduce hips,' 'Remove blemish,' 'Fill in hair here.' I was a 21-year-old intern at a glossy magazine when I saw an A3 print of supermodel Helena Christensen with these instructions dotted around her image. Arrows helpfully connected them to her 'flaws'. 

It made no sense and total sense. No sense in that here was one of the world's most beautiful women and yet even she wasn't deemed perfect enough for public consumption. And total sense in that I had mentally wrestled, since the purchase of my first magazine with how these models could be literally flawless.

That was the mid-90s and my first experience of retouching. Back then it was done by hand and only available to 0.001% of the genetically privileged to make them look even more so. 

Rosie Green smiling in jeans and jumper
Rosie Green first encountered photo editing into the 90s

Now we can all improve our God given looks so easily, be it using filters on Instagram, fiddling with Photoshop on our computers and even Facetuning for the really advanced. Plus, thanks to the evolution of digital imagery, we also have the benefit of being able to take a gazillion pictures of ourselves from different angles in different lights till we look our absolute best. Back when it cost you £15 to develop your photos at Boots this was not an option. 

Research shows that constant exposure to idealised beauty images damages self-esteem. We (rightly) think a lot about how this affects teenagers. They find their faces lacking when presented all the time with beautiful people on their phones. Beautiful people who've been digitally manipulated to be more so. 

But it's hard for anyone getting older too.

There’s a slew of celebrities who seem to be preserved in aspic. JLo, Salma Hayek, Demi Moore, Jennifer Connelly, Sandra Bullock, to name but a few. But how does this make us grown-ups feel?

To quote a David Guetta song, "It's complicated, it always is."

 READ: I'm a divorcee and Bennifer gave me unrealistic expectations about blended families  

There is a positive to seeing older women smashing it on the red carpet, looking sexy and stylish. It makes us feel that once you hit 40 and beyond, you are not consigned to a life of invisibility, sensible haircuts and elasticated waistbands. 

But equally there is a disappointment that you don't have their cinched waist, wrinkle-free skin or snatched jawline. Throw in the fact celebs often doctor their image on social media to look even more youthful and the disparity between them and us becomes even wider. Plus, they know all the posing tricks, their best angles and, when they know they are likely to be photographed, often ensure there is someone on hand with large flattering light. 

Woman laughing on a boat
Rosie Green wants to see more realistic photos of celebs in midlife

This means that sometimes there's so much difference between a picture of a celeb that’s taken off guard and one that is posed, reality can make you gasp.

There's a paparazzi picture of SJP doing the rounds where she looks, well, her age. It feels unsisterly to look, but when you do there's a sense of relief that A-listers are not immune from the ravages of time. 

INSPIRATION: I'm happier than ever at 49 - here's how 

Ditto it's good to see women who look their age and are both inspiring and content. 

I'm thinking of Annette Bening, Jodie Foster, Christy Turlington and Andie MacDowell, the latter resplendent with grey hair.

Andie MacDowell walks the runway during the "Le Defile Walk Your Worth" By L'Oreal Paris Womenswear Spring/Summer 2023© Kristy Sparow
Rosie feels inspired by Andie MacDowell's grey hair

It makes sense that seeing realistic images of older women will boost our self-esteem. We need to be conscious about which images we consume and ditch any toxic Instagram accounts.

 I say let's get real people. We'll be happier for it.

Introducing HELLO!'s Second Act

Two women out shopping for the day, taking a break and sitting down on a couch in a clothing store together.© Getty

HELLO! wanted to create a space dedicated to sharing incredible stories from midlife; somewhere you can find inspiring stories of like-minded women, living their best life beyond 45.

Enter, Second Act...

For too long, we were expected to fade into the background when we hit 45, but we're here to reframe your Second Act as a celebratory, exciting new chapter with endless possibilities ahead.

From women who embarked on new careers in their fifties, to those who travelled the world alone after their children left home, to women who finally felt confident when they reached their forties, Second Act is devoted to celebrating the incredible stories of midlife, and we'd love to have you along for the journey - because being part of a community makes everything more enjoyable.

Visit HELLO!'s Second Act hub 

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