Between Meghan Markle & The Grandmothers of Instagram: Welcome to the Changing Face of Health, Beauty, and Aging

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Two media stories caught my attention recently that brought me hope we might be seeing a shift towards healthier attitudes regarding aging, beauty, and the value we see in ourselves and each other. 

The first was an article published in the New York Times entitled “The Glamorous Grandmas of Instagram”, a wonderful discussion around outdated perceptions of what “being older” looks and feels like. This article highlights women in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s using Instagram as a platform to fill a void in representation of this age group as well as smash stereotypes around life after 50. 

I loved seeing the self-portraits created by these international women. Their faces are diverse. They are university professors, grandmothers, single women, fashion designers, and retirees. Many of the photos are indeed stylish. They show that you can be sexy at 70 but also that “being sexy” isn’t what gives one value. 

Marie Stafford, European director of the JWT Innovation Group which recently conducted a survey of English women ages 55 to 72, spoke to the diversity of this group saying, 

“A woman in her 50s, then, ‘might be a grandmother or a new mother, .… She might be an entrepreneur, a wild motorcyclist or a multi-marathon runner. Her lifestyle is not governed by her age but by her values and the things she cares about.” 

Underrepresentation of this age bracket perpetuates notions that as a woman, both my desirability and value to society after 50 will diminish, and that I will inevitably quiet down, button up, and fade into the background to let the younger generation rightly occupy the spotlight. That beauty is exclusive to the reproductive years along with a voice that holds interest and significance. These self-proclaimed “Insta-grans” are calling bullshit of the highest order and I love it. As a women approaching 40, I want and need to see positive role models for the future. It seems that I am not the only one. Many of these mavens followers range between 25 and 35 years old.

The second place I caught a glimpse of shifting attitudes towards beauty was amongst media coverage of the recent royal wedding of all places. Our current culture holds a fascination with how high-profile people prepare for these massively publicized events. What process or products does one with resources employ when your face will be seen by approximately 29 million people? Inevitably, many interviews with Meghan Markle at this time revolved around her pre-wedding beauty regime (I couldn’t help but note the absence of this same beauty sleuthing geared towards prince Harry). I'm normally not very keyed-in to these types of celebrity interviews, but talk of Meghan highlighting her love of acupuncture and preparing for her skin for the big day with light therapy certainly caught my eye since these are the main modalities I use in my facial acupuncture treatments.

Also interesting to me was that amongst the noise of tracking down what bronzer she owns, Meghan Markle herself continually placed emphasis on taking care of her health as the core of her beauty routine. She seems to legitimately embrace the inside out approach to beauty which historically has been difficult under industry pressure -both as an actor and now a public figurehead.

In an article published in the Daily Mail last year, Megan had this to say about her attitude towards self care:

“I take care of my skin and my body. And I don’t just take care of myself for aesthetic reasons, but because how I feel is dictated by what I’m eating, how much rest I am getting, and how much water I’m getting.”

This “beauty-rituals-as-healthcare” approach is something I would love to see more of! It takes the emphasis off of covering up perceived flaws and diminished self-worth and focuses instead on supporting the mind-body-soul benefits of good health. It also acknowledges that there is no quick-fix to looking and feeling radiant. There is no replacement for sleep, nutrition, or hydration.

In an article she penned for Darling Magazine, Meghan Markle highlights a run-in with casting director April Webster that changed the lens through which she viewed her own self-worth: 

“She saw all that self-doubt beaming through the self-tanner and excessive blush. ‘You need to know that you’re enough,’ she said. ‘Less makeup, more Meghan’.”

Meghan cites this one paradigm shift of “I am enough” as pivotal moment in reclaiming her confidence and self-value from an industry of people who judge you “on everything that you’re not versus everything that you are.” 

Today Meghan (along with becoming the Duchess Sussex) is a global ambassador for World Vision Canada and has worked with the UN for Women’s right and gender equality. She has been poised as a face for change on many fronts and is a vocal champion for her causes. As much as Meghan Markle has been praised and admired in some media streams, she continues to be met with ignorance, racism, and sexism in others. I think her brand of glowing modern beauty and grace under pressure that people admire so much can only stem from true self-acceptance first.

Beauty is a highly subjective term. At the most superficial level it represents what we as individuals or a collective find aesthetically pleasing. A little more substantially it can include characteristics and a way of interacting with the world. To me, beauty is represents rituals for practicing health, harmony, and love towards self and others. It is not tied to race, sex, or age. I hope we continue moving toward this type of beauty in the world!

Photo Creit: Jenny Kee, 71, @jennykeeoz