It will is Yahoo Life’s body image series, which delves into the journeys of influential and inspirational figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.
Paulina Porizkova received praise and criticism for showing off her body on Instagram at the age of 57. Despite mixed opinions and even accusations of vanity and narcissism from onlookers, the supermodel is doing what feels best for her as she ages, which she says are vulnerable and visible.
The two words come up often in her conversation with Yahoo Life, where she discusses the lessons she’s learned during her time in the spotlight. Though she has long been valued for her youth, her beauty and her body, Porizkova says she was nothing more than a “clothes hanger” during what was considered her heyday.
“From an older woman’s perspective, I look back at myself as young and I think what was there to celebrate? I didn’t have half my intelligence, I didn’t have half my understanding, I didn’t have my patience, I had not the character. Really, when they say I was in the prime of my life, the only thing that was good about me was that my face had no wrinkles, I had none on my body, that I was a smooth canvas,” she explains. “All the good things come when you get older. So why do we celebrate youth to the extent that we do? I’m still looking for that answer. Like why do we worship the youth? Why do women my age want to look 20 years old? younger?”
As Porizkova continues to spend time acknowledging the privilege she experienced through her beauty – something she writes about in her latest book of essays, No filter — she also works to struggle with the isolation and unknowns that come with being told you’ve aged that beauty.
“As a young woman, I thought I was the most interesting person in the room. And because of my celebrity and the way I look, people let me get away with it,” she says. Now she feels like she can’t even post to Instagram unscathed. “There’s shame associated with getting older, so if you post a picture of you looking that old, you’re already embarrassed. … There’s a fair amount of trepidation, you feel very vulnerable posting yourself where people can be ashamed of you, and you get shamed. social media. There will always be some who say, “Oh, you should retire, you old witch. Why are you posting ugly pictures?” Like, ‘Who wants to see this s***?'”
The difference in those experiences is “humbling,” she says. Most importantly, it has allowed her to reflect on the perspective she has gained as she better understands that her childhood and her body have been a commodity. By acknowledging the value that has long been placed on her appearance, she can better define what she values today. Turns out it has little to do with how she looks.
“I’ve at least come to a point of internal self-acceptance. I don’t know anything about the external because it keeps changing with me. But the internal, I’ve come to accept that I’m a person who is anxious, I’m a person who has depression will have periods I’m a person who can be really nice and empathetic and also very judgmental and b****y I’ve kind of come to accept that I do all those things and it allows me to have a better relationship with my body I know who I am,” she explains. “I also think, wow, my body has gotten me this far and it’s still working, most of the time. If it wasn’t for arthritis, my body would be doing great and I’m thankful for that.”
Porizkova reflects on the fact that she had a completely different outlook in the past, emphasizing how she looked rather than how she felt. In her book, she recalls one morning when she experienced an overwhelming amount of anxiety after waking up with a pimple on her face before going to a modeling job. “That Paulina who had an anxiety attack because she had a pimple, God damn it, I definitely wouldn’t want to go back to be her, I’ll tell you. That was no fun,” she says. “Most people my age would never want to go back to a younger body even for three months. Isn’t that great? I have no interest in that.”
And while she now appears to be looking at it from a healthy and healed place, Porizkova says her perspective is simply the result of life experience. “I don’t really think gratitude is for youth, you know, hope is for youth and then gratitude is for us middle-aged people. Because we already know what’s ahead, we know how hard life can be “, she says. . “When you’re young, you wake up and take your beautiful smooth skin for granted and your perky high breasts, and whatever. And sometimes you might be a little chubby or you have acne, I mean, like, you know , things that are socially not considered beautiful but then there’s the hope that it will go away right? That it will be fixed. At my age it’s like I mean you can still fix things but do you “Will my dimpled fat thighs really keep me from living a good life? No. I know. So I don’t really need to focus on that as a problem.”
It’s a difference in priorities, she explains. “When you’re younger, your priority is to do everything and yes, you really think, ‘Oh my god, if only my nose was shorter, I’d be loved and I’d get all the dates I wanted’. ” she says, “When you’re in your 50s you know that’s not true. Your nose got you here and making it different isn’t really going to do anything. That’s the way it is. So that’s the beauty of being older.”
What’s more difficult about where she’s in right now, though, is that while the aging process isn’t stopping, the visibility of women over a certain age is declining. Still, it hasn’t stopped her from posting poolside bikini photos or sharing intimate scenes from her bedroom on her own Instagram page, where she’s garnered an audience of over 893,000 followers. It’s not that she feels her most beautiful and confident in every post, but rather that women over 50 deserve to be seen, even at their most vulnerable.
“Sometimes I post because I have something to say, but sometimes I post because it’s what I want to see. I posted some photos that are very fragile to me, where I looked older, you could see every wrinkle and every pore and I thought it was a little unflattering to myself, but I could tell other people really liked it. Other women my age really loved that,” she says. “I would like my colleagues to show me them at home in their sweatpants and with a greasy face. I would like to see them without makeup, without filters and up close. I want to see what they look like. That service is not super offered on Instagram, so I’ll provide what I’m looking for.”
Porizkova has been consistent in her efforts, impressing other women who she says have “gained the courage to embrace their age” by following her lead. But being the one to put herself out there to talk about beauty and bodies and aging isn’t easy, especially since she’s starting to feel a sense of responsibility.
“It kind of petrifies me because now I’m like, ‘Whoa, I accidentally made myself an aging advocate.’ I don’t even know how I feel about aging I don’t know all the facets of it Now it’s like I’m posting about a laser I’ve had there’s going to be plenty of women stepping up and saying ‘Well then can’t you be a pro-aging advocate. You just cheated,” she says. “It’s kind of like giving in to make yourself more youthful with available things. And I feel like if I do a laser too, I feel like I’m giving in a little bit. Caving I can’t hold on , I’ll have to give a little bit here. That’s kind of a constant battle. ‘
She uses other people as her blueprint when she can, noting how much she admires the natural beauty of women close in age, like Naomi Watts. “She’s so beautiful. And she’s so obviously real and I can read all of her emotions on her face and I love the way she looks, like I’m transfixed. And then I feel a little better about myself because I think, well maybe someone feels that way about me,” she says.
The problem lies in how rarely those women are represented in the mainstream media and have honest conversations about the nuances of aging and looking older.
“I don’t find enough representation of myself, a woman my age who looks her age and who talks about the good and the bad,” says Porizkova. “So I do.”
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