Brooke Shields is loving her life at 57 years old and challenging society's standards when it comes to the representation of women over a certain age.
"Almost every one of my friends is pivoting and starting new chapters and I thought, well, we’re not represented," she said during an episode of the Verywell Mind podcast with Amy Morin. "I’ve done all of these things, I’ve raised my children. One’s in college, I don’t have the other one for too much longer before she goes to college and I’m finding myself just saying, 'Oh well, what’s next?'"
The conversation is what led her to create Beginning Is Now, which is a community focused on shifting perspectives about age and finding new opportunities for growth at different stages in life. For Shields, it's an extended part of her fight against ageism, which she said starts young in Hollywood. "Ageism exists obviously in my industry and you expect it from my industry," she said. "But, I mean you shouldn’t expect it but that has been historically what it has been."
As she's gotten older, she's been able to better pinpoint when and how women get forgotten as they age.
"We’ve just become used to how we’re spoken about and we’re told, you hit a certain age and they just put you out into pasture. Oh, your ovaries are no longer gonna make the world continue, so we’re just gonna kind of lump you over there. You’ve had a good run and it’s just so not the truth. I mean, I don’t feel it," she explained. "It has to do a bit with procreation just historically. In talking about menopause, it’s looked at as your some withered dried up entity. And I think that that type of messaging is something that we got used to accepting because everything is for younger people. It’s flashy and it’s made fabulous and that’s the idea. And the idea is that’s the only time you’re really ever alive and vibrant. And I think that we’ve just gotten used to it. And I obviously didn’t think to question it when I was in my twenties. It wasn’t until I got passed 50 where I thought, wait a minute, there’s nobody out there talking to me, they’re overlooking me."
Shields acknowledged that a lot of the stigma is centered around appearance and the perception of what aging looks like for women.
"Sexiness doesn’t have to just be a young person’s reality. The commodity of being sexy and being vibrant and not being burdened by so many of the things that burden you. Whether it’s by your biological clock or the way things are laid out for you because that’s what traditionally is done," she said. "We take on a different look and different meaning really when it starts in your forties. That’s when I started to just really not waste time on things that just didn’t serve me or make me feel good about myself."
And while much of the world of advertising and entertainment play into those ideas, the actress also took some accountability.
"I could argue that I am part of that problem. I’m in the advertising world and the way I look has always been sort of first and foremost what people kind of pay attention to and that was my job over the course of the decades," she said. "But I really think that it is changing. Inclusivity is you are seeing it, you are seeing it gender wise, you are seeing it body wise, what we are saying is a body, a real body, not just this one thing and not just this one thing. And it’s about kind of keeping the dialogue going but sometimes it just starts at home."
Shields went on to explain her own experience with aging. "This is the period of my life that I feel finally much more confident and less complicated and very clear about what I want and who I am and that’s only come with years," she said. And while negative thoughts do creep in, creating community and embracing time with friends her age has allowed her to focus on the positive.
"You’re only going to be able to find the happiness and the confidence and the peace and the acceptance of your uniqueness inside you," she said. "Comparison is just the kiss of death and we all do it. And I have to remind myself daily not to do it, so it’s a human condition. But I really do think that the more that you celebrate other people, it starts to reflect back to you."
Most importantly, as she works to strike down the notions presented throughout society about aging, Shields said she doesn't allow herself to use her age to justify not feeling good about herself.
"You don’t get to just hide behind being of a certain age and all of a sudden now you don’t want to be healthy and in shape because, 'Oh well, I’m starting to gain it around my stomach now.' Ok, so find a good ab workout. It’s not an excuse because if we’re complaining about it, we don’t get to use it as an excuse as well," she said. "The importance of community and in lifting each other up and all of that kind of leads into this beautiful untapped chunk of time. It’s either you’re hot and sexy and fabulous or you’re [wearing] dentures or something or diapers. And there’s this whole contingent in what now is more the center."
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