Hats off to the editors of People magazine for naming Sandra Bullock “2015 World’s Most Beautiful Woman.” Bullock wouldn’t have been my choice — I don’t consider her a “classic beauty” — but I find it intriguing that the ensuing media conversation centered on the idea she’s both beautiful and 50.
Showcasing Bullock in this fashion is an improvement over People’s previous stance, I suppose. In February 2014 the magazine put a swimsuited Christie Brinkley on its cover with the headline “She’s How Old? Christie at 60!” But as I thought at the time, no one should be surprised to learn that a world-famous supermodel would dare to have a birthday or two. And though Brinkley is known for her gorgeousness — and for her dedication to maintaining it — mere mileage on her chronometer is not what makes her fabulous; she’s also a talented artist, a knowledgeable businesswoman, an advocate for the environment and a fearless risk-taker who appeared as Roxie Hart in Chicago on Broadway.
Society’s definition of beauty, particularly when it comes to age, is undergoing a much-needed makeover, and People’s decision to go with Bullock — who dismissed the “honor” as “ridiculous” — is smart marketing. Real women in our 50s, 60s and 70s are still rocking glorious smiles, long hair and, yes, sexy swimsuits. We do yoga and pilates; we swill green juices and run marathons; we run companies and households, often at the same time.
If you ask me, it’s women of a certain age and accomplishment who are redefining beauty. To us it’s a balanced blend of brains and looks; of experience and daring; of knowing and accepting your age. Beauty at 50 has become something much more than the product of lucky genes or the handiwork of a tasteful plastic surgeon; it has transcended meeting (or falling below) a certain size, or showing off a specific set of features, or modeling the look-of-the-moment.
The “World’s Most Beautiful Women,” to borrow the magazine’s label, are those summoning the courage — and exerting the leverage — to improve the lives of others. I’m thinking here of Melinda Gates (50) and her work with the Gates Foundation; or Desiree Rogers (55), who's killing outdated media stereotypes as CEO of the Johnson Publishing Company; or Angela Ahrendts (54) for her cool under fire at Apple; or Tory Burch (48), who's investing in companies run by women.
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In other words, beauty has swelled to become something much bigger (and less soapy) than those celebrity bubbles of yesterday. In an ideal world, an older woman being named the planet’s most beauteous would set heads nodding, not tongues wagging.
Photos: Getty Images
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