It figures is Yahoo Life’s body image series, delving into the journeys of influential and inspirational figures as they explore what confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.
Paulina Porizkova has received praise and criticism for baring her body on Instagram at the age of 57. Despite mixed opinions and even accusations of being vain and narcissistic from viewers, the supermodel is doing what feels best to her as she ages, as she says by being vulnerable and visible.
The two words come up a lot in her conversation with Yahoo Life, where she discusses the lessons she’s learned throughout her life in the spotlight. While she has long been admired for her youth, beauty and body, Porizkova says she was nothing more than a “clothes hanger” during her prime.
“From an older woman’s perspective, I look back at myself as a young person and think, what was there to celebrate? I didn’t have half the intelligence, I didn’t have half the understanding, I didn’t have the patience, I didn’t have the character. Really when they say I was in my prime, the only thing about me was that my face didn’t have any wrinkles, I didn’t have any on my body, that it was a smooth canvas,” she explains. “All good things come as 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 youth? Why do women my age want to look 20 years YOUNGER?”
While 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 – also works to deal with the isolation and unknowns that come with being told you’ve outgrown that beauty.
“As a young woman, I thought I was the most interesting person in the room. And because of my celebrity and my looks, people let me off the hook,” she says. Now, she feels like she can’t even post on Instagram unscathed. “There’s shame associated with aging, so when you post a picture of your age, you’re already shamed. … There’s a lot of fear, you feel really vulnerable if you’re posting yourself in places where people can shame you and you’re embarrassed on social media networking. There’s always going to be some that will, you know, like, “Oh, you should retire, old man. Why are you posting ugly pictures?” Like, “Who wants to see this s***?”
The difference in those experiences is “humbling,” he says. Most importantly, it allowed her to reflect on the perspective she has gained as she better understands her youth and that her body was a commodity. By recognizing the value placed on her appearance for so long, she can better determine what she values today. Turns out it has nothing to do with her looks.
“I have reached a point of at least internal acceptance of myself, I don’t know about the outside because it keeps changing on me. But on the inside, I’ve come to accept that I’m an anxious person. , I am a person who will have bouts of depression, I am a person who can be really kind and empathetic and also very judgmental, and impossible. I have somehow come to accept that I am all of these things and that makes me able to have a better relationship with my body. I know who I am,” she explains. “Also, I think, wow, my body has gotten me this far and it’s still working, mostly. If it wasn’t for the arthritis, my body would be doing great, and I’m grateful.”
Porizkova thinks she had a wildly different view in the past and emphasized how she looked rather than how she felt. In her book, she recalls a morning where she experienced overwhelming terror after waking up with a pimple on her face before going to a modeling gig. “That Paulina who had an anxiety attack about the pimple, hell, I sure wouldn’t want to go back to being her, I’ll tell you that. It wasn’t fun,” she says. “Most people my age would never want to return to a younger body even for three months. Isn’t that amazing? I have zero interest in that.”
And while it seems she’s now looking at it from a healthy and healed place, Porizkova says her perspective is simply the result of life experience. “I don’t think gratitude is really for the youth, you know, hope is for the youth and then gratitude is for us middle-aged people. Because we already know what’s ahead, we know how hard life can be,” he says. . “When you’re young, you wake up and you take for granted your beautiful smooth skin and your perky high breasts and everything that comes with it. And sometimes you might be a little chubby or you might have acne, I mean, you know, things that socially don’t they’re considered beautiful, but there’s hope that they’ll go away, right? That they’ll be fixed. At my age, I mean, you can still fix things, but isn’t that what I want? My dimpled thighs are going to stop me from having a good life? No. I know. So I don’t really need to focus on it as a problem.”
It’s a difference in priorities, he explains. “When you’re younger, your priority is to do everything and yes, you think, ‘Oh my God, if only my nose was shorter, I’d be loved and I’d get all the dates I wanted.'” says, “When you’re in your fifties, 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.”
The most difficult thing about the position she is in now, however, is that while the aging process does not stop, the visibility of women over a certain age is reduced. However, it hasn’t stopped her from posting bikini poolside photos or sharing intimate scenes from her bedroom on her own Instagram page, where she has amassed a following of more than 893,000 followers. It’s not that she feels more 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’ve posted some photos that to me are really vulnerable, where he looked older, you could see every wrinkle and every pore. And I found it a little flattering for myself, but I could see that other people liked it. Other women my age were really into it,” she says. “I wish my peers would let me watch them at home in sweatpants and a greasy face. I would like to see them without makeup, without filters and in person. I want to see what they look like. This service is not provided super on Instagram, so I will provide what I am looking for.”
Porizkova has been consistent in her efforts and has influenced other women who, she says, have gained “the courage to embrace their age” by following her example. But going out into the world to talk about beauty, the body and aging isn’t easy, especially as she begins to feel a sense of responsibility.
“It kind of petrifies me because now I’m like, ‘Wow, I accidentally became anti-aging.’ I don’t even know how I feel about aging, I don’t know about all aspects of it. Now it’s like if I do a post about a laser I’ve had done, I’ll have a lot of women step up and say, ‘Well, then you can’t be anti-aging. You just cheated,'” she says. “It’s a little bit like retreating into youth, empowering yourself with things available. And I feel like when I do lasers as well, I feel like I’m retreating a little bit. Cave, I can’t maintain, I’ll have to give a little here. It’s kind of like a ongoing battle.”
She uses other people as her project when she can, noting how much she admires the natural beauty of women her age, such as Naomi Watts. “She’s so beautiful. And she’s so clearly real and I can read all her emotions in her face and I love the way she looks, like I’m confused. And then that makes me feel a little better about myself because I think, well maybe someone feels that way about me,” he says.
The issue is how rarely these women are represented in mainstream media and have honest conversations about the nuances of aging and looking older.
“I don’t find enough representation of myself, of a woman my age who looks her age and who talks about the good and the bad,” says Porizkova. “Well, I do.”
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