Vanity Isn’t Just for the Young: Part 2

Senior celebrities who age gracefully set an example of accepting the inevitable
August 20, 2020 Updated: August 20, 2020

I don’t know about you, but I just love it when older celebrities choose to embrace their age rather than try to look several decades younger.

Recently, there has been a spate of photographs circulating on the internet of famous seniors who are vibrant, active, and (really) attractive—even though years ago, they moved into what the entertainment industry considers the retirement-status wasteland.

From Robert DeNiro to Julie Christie to Jack Nicholson—all of whom are in their 70s—a growing number of talented actors have turned the art of acknowledging and accepting one’s age into a worthy cause. And don’t even get me started on the appeal of 80-something screen icons such as Michael Caine, Julie Andrews and Robert Duvall, and whether or not these living legends have “had some work done,” as they say in Hollywood. They’ve obviously—and wisely—chosen to accept and embrace the process of aging rather than pretend they’re decades younger.

Leslie Caron, the ingenue of the classic film “An American in Paris,” is now 85 and was recently interviewed by Jane Pauley for “CBS Sunday Morning.” Take it from me: She was amazing. I just love it when an older woman loves herself, is comfortable with her looks, and radiates confidence.

From Caron’s hair, with plenty of visible white, to her mildly creased face to her understated clothes, she obviously knew two very important things.

First, that she should be comfortable being a woman of a certain age.

Second, that her appeal had far more to do with her lively aura than her age.

It was so refreshing to see a mature movie star whose charm and grace have surpassed the need to be forever young. Fortunately, there are lots of savvy celebrities who simply want to look good for their age rather than appear as a facsimile of who they used to be.

Did you know that when “The Force Awakens” was released, a number of fans criticized Carrie Fisher’s appearance, saying she hadn’t aged well since her first performance as Princess Leia in 1977?

Fisher was quick to respond to their negative comments with this laudable statement: “Youth and beauty are not accomplishments; they’re the temporary happy byproducts of time and/or DNA.” In my opinion, her appearance was both appropriate and attractive for a soon-to-be 60-year-old woman—actress or otherwise.

Another iconoclastic heroine is 85-year-old Harvard professor Anne Bernays, a great-grandmother who found a way to avoid the stigma of being among the older and overlooked women in our culture.

In her NPR essay about dying her hair electric blue (as opposed to “wussy ‘blue-rinse’ blue”), she observed: “While young people sparkle like diamonds, old folks are invisible—except, as I discovered, if you have bright blue hair. … Sadly, vanity and its companion, the compulsion to shave years off your age, do not go away as you get older. … why do we behave as if our appearance trumps kindness, intelligence, imagination, enthusiasm, and humor?”

Indeed. Why do we?

Celebrities or not, let’s always find a way to fondly remember Nora Ephron’s best-selling memoir, “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman.”

This remarkable little book chronicles many of her expensive and time-consuming efforts to fight the visible signs of aging. Who among us could forget her wry observation that “Anything you think is wrong with your body at the age of 35, you will be nostalgic for at the age of 45”?

What better argument could there be for ignoring the numbers that others use in their attempt to categorize us?

A number of years ago, I happily made a conscious decision to define and describe the things that made me feel good about myself, regardless of my chronological age. May I suggest that no matter how young or how old or how vain you might be, you try to do the same?

Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker, and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of “The Self-Empowered Woman” blog and the award-winning memoir “One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes.” She can be reached at To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at Copyright 2020