Everyone’s a critic, and fashion model Mel Brady, a 55-year-old Australian, is well aware of that fact. But when criticism over a photo of her on the Facebook group Fashion Over Fifty turned to personal attacks, she decided she had to respond. She did so with a bold, sexy video of herself modeling underwear and a lengthy plea for women to support each other, instead of tearing each other down.
It all began last week with a photo of Brady in a leather jacket over a low-cut top that Fashion Over Fifty founder Wendy posted, asking “Would you wear this look?” which she does periodically. Some readers were not content to say, “No.”
“I noticed a few hours in after she posted it, there were a ton of people who just loved it (the majority),” Brady tells Yahoo Style. While there were a few that “weren’t really that hurtful,” Brady says, such as those critiquing how much chest her shirt exposed, there were a handful that were awful. “It was much more than saying I was showing too much skin. I actually commented in the thread and pointed out that there was a real person reading the comments and reminded them that they had been invited to comment on the fashion look, not me,” she says.
The comments got vicious enough that Wendy took down the photo. In response to the negativity, she decided to declare this “Sexy Over 50 Women Week.” She also invited Brady to write an essay. Brady went a little further and accompanied her editorial with a video of her unretouched outtakes from a lingerie shoot for Target Australia.
“The whole thing has caused considerable conversation about why there is a proportion of women who think tearing down another woman is ok…that the fact they sit behind a keyboard somehow makes them invisible,” Brady wrote. “Personally, I’m Teflon. I don’t give the haters any air or comment on their comments. (I say that, but every now and again a hurtful comment takes my breath away for a day or two). But, it leaves me feeling helpless. If I don’t say something when I’m given the opportunity, then I feel powerless just accepting it.”
Brady had a career as a stylist in the ad industry for 35 years, but she said she became a model in part to show other women that they don’t have to stop being sexy when they reach a certain age.
“It started out simply enough, but then something clicked in me that women over 50 just didn’t seem to be seen often enough in a vital, fun, sexy, natural way,” she tells Yahoo. “It’s become a passion to be what I want to see in the world and show my peers we are not invisible. There is no need to apologize; there is no reason to judge.”
In real life, Brady said she does not walk around baring quite as much skin as she did for that shoot, and she’s never been shamed in person for what she wears.
“I don’t generally have my boobs out in real life — special occasions only,” she says. “Truth is, it’s a modeling shot. I wanted to show myself in that shoot in a fun, sexy, confident way.”
In another post on her page, Wendy attributed the negative comments to “competition and jealousy,” but Brady said she wanted to do more than just write off the haters. “I want to understand why, I want to show them that being kind is the true way to self love. Being kind to others is the best way I know towards loving yourself,” she says. “Women judging, shaming, and vilifying other women is just sad.”
Subsequent posts on Fashion Over Fifty have inspired others to declare their love for their imperfect bodies.
“In my mind, I know I look like Mel, but when I look in the mirror, that is not who I see!” wrote Katherine DiPietro. “I have a difficult time accepting me, my weight, my looks. I’m thankful for women like Mel who aren’t afraid to put themselves out there to show me that maybe ‘my time’ just hasn’t arrived yet!”
Others protested that they should still have the right to voice their opinions. “I’m weary of getting scolded here for giving an opinion so I stay mute. I don’t understand what we’re supposed to do, or say,” wrote Sidney Steed Treat.
Brady hopes this conversation will remind people that hate isn’t OK. “I want my peers to inspire our younger counterparts and each other,” she says. “We are not our mothers, and when younger women are older they will all be cooler. Society makes us invisible once we are past ‘a certain age,’ so I want women to be seen, I want people to play nicely, I want people, especially women, to think twice before they attack another woman.”
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