Joan Didion Is NOT My Icon For Aging Women!

That’s the famous writer, Joan Didion,
in the Céline ad.

She’s 80, and Céline has lately decided it’s cool to “celebrate” age. So they’ve chosen a “model” who they believe suits their “understated look.” (BTW, those are fashion buzzwords usually synonymous with over-the-top expensive.)

My cool 33-year-old daughter thinks Joan looks “totally chic,” as does FabOverFifty’s cool 25-year-old art director. As a matter of fact, so does my stylish FOFriend, Marla Ginsburg, who is the hottest fashion designer on HSN right now.

Call me vain (don’t become more disagreeable than that, please). I’m just not into that kind of “chic,” at 67, and I don’t want to look that kind of “chic” if I live to be 80. Although Joan’s writing is certainly inspirational, I don’t find her wispy thin hair, jowls and turkey neck especially inspirational, chic or cool, even if they are accessorized by trendy big black sunglasses, an oversized pendant, and a simple black (undoubtedly $4,000) sweater. I’m also not a fan of the anorexic look at Joan’s age. (One fashion writer called her “cigarette thin.”)

I know many women would think Joan is growing old “gracefully.” I’m not sure what that means. Does that make you unrefined, uncouth, unsophisticated, graceless, and unattractive if you color your hair, buy a wig, have your jowls eliminated, wear makeup, and shoot your wrinkled forehead with Botox?

Please don’t misunderstand me. If Joan Didion doesn’t mind showing off her crepey neck, good for her. Katherine Hepburn hated her neck but didn’t want plastic surgery, so she covered it with lovely scarves and high-necked sweaters, and I think she looked gorgeous, at 40 and at 80.

I think pretentiousness is the only thing the Céline campaign “celebrates,” something at which
the fashion industry excels.

On the other end of the “let’s celebrate age” spectrum, Dolce & Gabbana brings together two nonnas and throws four of its hip bags and a teddy bear into their laps (chic nonnas never leave home without two handbags each AND their teddy bears!). I’m not sure what message the creative geniuses at D&G are attempting to communicate (Be young again with D&G? D&G: Ageless?) but I also think its campaign is affected.

The last ad, from American Apparel (below), gets it right, as far as I’m concerned. Sixty-year-old with a great body modeling underwear.

I would not want to see a 60-year-old with a
jiggly stomach modeling panties. So why do I want to see an 80-year-old with jiggly jowls modeling eyeglasses and a pendant?

Then again, you don’t need to care what you look like when your eyeglasses cover your entire face.

Tell me, my FOFriends, which approach do you favor?

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You Begin To Feel As If You Are Alice

When you see Julianne Moore in a typically witless L’Oreal commercial, it’s easy to forget she’s a marvelous actor, not just a beautiful redhead idiotically gushing about the latest magical skin cream you
can pick up in your corner drugstore.

Watch Ms. Moore for one minute in her new movie, Still Alice, and you actually forget she’s a brilliant actor, not really the 50-something victim of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. From the moment Alice Howland, a renowned linguistics professor at Columbia University, starts to forget words, you feel as if you are her, as her frustration progresses to fear and then to anguish. As she struggles to stay connected to her job, and to her husband (Alec Baldwin) and three grown children, you ask yourself if you’d be as resolute to take control over your hideous illness; as practical to assess its forward march through your brain, and as gracious to everyone around you.

When I read the 2007 book, by Lisa Genova, upon which the movie is based, it made an impression that has remained with me ever since. I can still see the words describing Alice as she takes her routine jog through Cambridge (she’s a Harvard professor in the novel), and stopping suddenly because she can’t remember where to turn next. The movie isn’t quite as powerful as the book (which spent over 40 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and garnered numerous prestigious awards), at least to me, but it’s a masterpiece nonetheless. Although I didn’t see all the movies starring women who received Best Actress nominations, it’s unlikely anyone’s performance rivaled Ms. Moore’s.

“Julianne could not only project the scintillating intelligence and complexity of a linguistics professor but also the vulnerability and simplicity of the later stages,” wrote director Wash Westmoreland in a press release.

“She’d be able to master every beat of the character’s deterioration. She is quite simply one of the finest actors on the planet.”

Preparing for the role, 53-year-old Ms. Moore met Alzheimer’s patients who are close in age to the 50-year-old portrayed in the film. “[Writer Lisa Genova] made the character 50, and not 80, because that way you’re able to talk about Alzheimer’s as an actual disease, not a condition of aging,” Julianne told Closer magazine in an interview. Praising those who were generous to share their stories with her, the actor said it was “devastating” to meet these victims. She remains friends with Sandy, a patient she met who was diagnosed at 45 and “had a hell of a time coping with the disease,” Julianne said. “One of the reasons I connected with her is that she has red hair—we look very similar.”

Accepting the Golden Globe Award, earlier this week, for best actress in a drama, Ms. Moore recalled author Lisa Genova telling her, “No one wants to see a movie about a middle-aged woman.” She praised Sony Pictures Classics for deciding to “celebrate who we are, what we value and who we love.”

Still Alice opens this week across the country. Even if you only see happy movies, make an exception. Still Alice is a far cry from Meet The Fockers, and although it won’t tickle your funny bone, it will touch your heart.

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Fame After 50: Loved It, Left It, Longs For It

This is the story of three real women—one in her late 70s, one in her early 60s, and one in her late 50s—who have either achieved fame, given up fame
or are on an endless quest for it.

Searching for
New-Found Fame

I recently met the woman in her late 70s, whose name is known to most of us over fifty. I’m not going to reveal her identity, however, because what I’m going to say probably wouldn’t delight her. Besides, her identity is less important than what she symbolizes.

This woman has enjoyed a great deal of professional and personal success throughout much of her adult life. I guess you could have even called her a “celebrity” from the 70s through the 90s. But while she has continued to do her craft, and has a great deal to offer others, her “star” doesn’t shine nearly as brightly as it once did. This is not because she’s any less talented now, but simply because the “world” in which she once circulated no longer exists. For one, the media that helped her attain fame—namely newspapers and magazines—don’t have the clout they once did. So even if she’s quoted and her photo appears in the New York Times this morning, no one much cares or thinks about it by noon. Second, she hasn’t created a powerful presence for herself on the Internet. She’s trying, but she lacks the digital marketing savvy she needs. No matter how successful she is at attracting real live audiences when she lectures, in person, that doesn’t translate to a great number of fans on her website or Facebook page.

Now, here’s the rub: This woman yearns for the good old days, when she would draw a crowd around her by just walking into a party, and the next morning her name would appear in all the papers, which only fueled her celebrity status. While chatting about the present, I sensed that her mind was focused far away from our conversation. Oh, she’s darn astute, I assure you, but seemed most “present” when she talked about the past. Part of the reason, I suppose, is that she lost her husband a number of years ago, a man with whom she enjoyed great happiness, both personally and professionally.