Photographer: Hugh Gilbert. Model: me
Briefly, in case you were away on Mars and further afield for the past week or so: Renee Zellweger, best known for her interpretation of Bridget Jones, for which in order to portray the character she had to pile up the pounds, only to lose the extra weight immediately after filming, recently made a public appearance and sent the media in a frenzy because she looked 'different'. How different? Well, she is 45 and is a Hollywood actor, struggling to get roles because by Hollywood standards she is somewhat past it. Like many women in her position and tinsel town dwellers, she has allegedly had botox and cosmetic surgery to ensure she looks youthful. But somehow the surgery, according to observers, seems to be obvious and her eyes seem to be somewhat rounded, in comparison to what they were before - when she was younger. The result is that people decry she is no longer the Renee audiences fell in love with, the Bridget Jones that stole our hearts, and all this because apparently the eyes look different, now that her face is more angular.
Renee Zellweger. Google images
I recently met a woman I had not seen in years. I did not recognise her at all, she was larger, her face was not as I remembered, she had to remind me of her name and the occasion of our meeting before I could recollect who she was and truly, she looked nothing like her former self. Not worse, just different and older. Like I do too, to anyone who meets me after a long gap.
Zellweger looks amazing, a very well preserved 45 year old, great figure, great face. So why are people suddenly saying she does not look like herself? What is it that makes you who you are? Your hair, your eyes, your legs? Or is it something else altogether, such as your personality?
This twisted notion of having to look youthtful at all costs really bothers me. It is really warped. According to it one should be youthful but at the same time it should not be obvious that the youthful look has been achieved through an external intervention. Zellweger's 'sin' is that she does not look ageless, she looks merely youthful, yet different from what she used to be.
I am very troubled by this idea of 'effortless agelessness', apparently women should aspire to have a 'classic ageless' look, whatever that may be. In practice this means showing some very minor sign of ageing - perhaps a touch of grey hair, if the hair is beautiful, but definitely an unlined or only mildly lined complexion, blemish free, and a toned, slim body, are de riguer. If you have cosmetic surgery, it should be subtle. By all means remove thread veins, and any other 'unsightly' blemish but do not let it be guessed.
It's fine to be ageless, less so to be youthful with evident help. The problem with either looks is that neither bears any resemblance to your younger self, no matter.
I will not address here the strain of unwarranted comments by those who feel entitled to a 'holier than thou attitude' and find faults with the fact that some women do have recourse to cosmetic surgery, as they grow older, claiming that this is anti-feminist. I will discuss this in a different post. All I will say is that these are personal choices, like that of dying one's hair or shaving one's armpits. Sure, they are often taken because there is pressure to look youthful, especially in the entertainment industry, but I think that pitching one celebrity against another, claiming that one is more feminist than the other only because the 'work' she has had done is less visible as to appear non-existent, is complete nonsense.
The good thing for Zellweger is that she has received so much attention, it cannot be to her detriment in the long run. Perhaps an unplanned yet very effective PR exercise?
As we ponder on which part of our body is likely to encapsulate our 'identity', a notion the media seems to have embraced in connection with the Zellweger case, I invite you to view the inimitable Russell Brand and his comments on the case. Enjoy! (click here if you are using a mobile device)