The rise of the 'grankini'

Posted on: 27 August 2010 by Editor at Large

The price of fame is never appearing to grow old. For 65 year old Helen Mirren, that means appearing in some well-planned candid swimsuit shots.

GrankiniCelebrities, to misquote F Scott Fitzgerald, are different than you and me. They even look different to you and me, almost like they are part of some separate but similar humanoid race.

Fame changes people and it changes women most of all. Nothing is fixed if you're famous. Black women like Beyoncé can gradually become white. Middle aged women like Madonna can remain young seemingly indefinitely. Just don't get too close and you won't spoil the illusion.

Take the photos this week of 65 year old actress Helen Mirren looking hot, hot, hot in a red two piece bikini. Despite reports in some papers that there has been a ‘rush’ to the shops of women over the age of 50 to snap up their own itsy-bitsy teeny-weenie bikinis, my guess is that most women over 40 either have to have true grit or a borderline-insane’ I-don't-care’ attitude to squeeze themselves into something so revealing.

Yes, I know. It's society wot's to blame. Fifty is the new 40 and 40 is the new 30. There's no need to wrap yourself in a shawl and sit knitting in a rocking chair when you hit middle age. These days we all pride ourselves that we grow old disgracefully and go not gently into that good night. Why shouldn't 65 year old women wear bikinis?

Of course, if you can get away with it, then,  go girl! For celebrities, though, it's much easier than it is for the rest of us. They have armies of trainers, dieticians and plastic surgeons on hand to sculpt them into convincing simulacra of their younger selves. Botox, collagen, face tucks, boob lifts, botty tucks, coupled with attrocity-level gym sessions are all that is required to arrest time.

They don't have stretch marks across their tummies because when they're pregnant, most of them have elective Caesarians just before they come to term which makes it easier for their muscles to be toned back the way they are far faster.

Of course, you have to understand why. It isn't all vanity, it's economics. Fame will dump you faster than any fickle scumbag of a boyfriend or husband at the first hint of crow's feet or smile lines. If you are seen to age, your career - whether in music, TV or film - will evaporate.

Nothing to do with talent. Look at 40 year old Macy Gray who was told by a (female) executive when she delivered her new album The Sellout: "I don't know how to get a 40-year-old woman on the radio. If she was 20, 25, this record would be incredible." Look at newsreaders, such as Moira Stuart and Anna Ford, who are deemed unfit to practice their trade over a certain vintage.

Magazines like OK! and Heat, celeb TV shows like E! and websites like Holy Moly! are savage. They circle like vultures waiting to tear poor girls and rich women apart at the first sign of weakness. A picture paints a thousand words and a bad picture paints words like 'has-been' and 'washed up' a thousand times over.

Look at the way actress  Kirstie Alley had her career destroyed when she put on a few pounds. She never became grotesquely fat, she looked like many normal women in their later 30s, yet the press jeering was painful to behold: paparazzi shots of her walking along the streets with headlines that screamed: FAT KIRSTIE!

You wonder why Helen Mirren was spotted in a bikini this week? Like Demi Moore, Cher and Madonna, she's almost obliged to go out and flaunt it. She's sending a message for all older women: Screw you!

She looks great, but it's sad that she has to.

For those of us who aren't famous, though, the good news is that you only have to wear hot pants, have a pierced navel or a full-sleeve tattoo if you actually choose to. And if we choose not to, thank goodness there won't be an army of photographers camped out on your doorstep to tell the world that you have wrinkles, a big bum and go down to the shops in your tracksuit bottoms.

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