22 June 2007

Age cannot wither her

What a lot of brouhaha there’s been following the news that Sophia Loren will appear in next year’s Pirelli calendar. As you’d expect most of it has focused on the fact that La Loren is almost 72 years old, just a smidgen older than another Oscar winning actress Dame Judi Dench, and the last time she posed nude - that’s Loren and not our Judi you understand - was as a fresh faced and, crucially, unknown starlet aged sweet sixteen. It has since been confirmed that the iconic Italian actress will, very patriotically, be wearing a dress by Georgio Armani so the nudity thing ceases to be an issue. A piece in last week’s Grazia magazine shows that the age thing rumbles on …
I may be a dummy but I just don’t get it. Sophia Loren is drop dead gorgeous. She was as a young woman, as a middle aged woman and unsurprisingly – to me at least – is as a mature woman. The truly, classically, preternaturally beautiful tend to remain beautiful regardless of the unrelenting march of time – Honor Blackman, Julie Christie, Audrey Hepburn, Rachel Welch, Lauren Bacall, Twiggy and Cindy Crawford to name the first few that pop into my head. Of course they’ve changed a bit, but isn’t change good? Now I’m aware that some of these lovelies have been surgically enhanced but it’s been done subtly; they look like older glamour pusses rather than weird alien beings from Star Wars II like many American actresses who shall remain nameless. And the Pirelli calendar – probably the most famous and prestigious glamour calendar of all time – is all about honouring beauty. What ever its age. We should be celebrating this shift in our culture rather than slamming Loren for doing something supposedly undignified for a woman of her advanced years.
As Ms Loren said herself it’s fun and much more importantly it sends out a good message. Being older doesn’t have to mean that you cease to be attractive and sexy, stop having a laugh, hold back from new experiences, etc, etc. Signs of this shift are everywhere. Big companies are choosing older faces – Madonna for Versace, Jane Fonda, Andie MacDowell for L’Oréal, Elizabeth Hurley still holds on to her Estée Lauder contract, the list goes on. There are those who will argue that Loren is not representative of female OAPs and you know what, I’d agree. But hell, Penélope Cruz and Naomi Watts who also appear in the 2007 calendar are hardly representative of your average 30 something. The glamour and beauty industry is all about aspiration and aesthetics. If you’re in the public arena and easy on the eye you may get offered a beauty contract. If you’ve a lot to say or you write wonderful stories you may get published. Horses for courses. I for one like looking at beautiful images of gorgeous people, no matter what their date of birth.
And the best thing is that the Italian siren will appear in a normal Pirelli calendar, not a specially made for the oldies, making a political statement one like the Women’s Institute calendar of a few years back – spunky though it was. Beauty is not the preserve of the very young. Anyway, she won’t look like a wrinkly – she’ll be air brushed to within an inch of her life…

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