VIRGINIA TRIOLI: 'I was told it was brave to go back on TV at my age.'

The well-meaning colleague looked me straight in my smile-lined eyes and said it. I can well understand that she thought it, but then she went ahead and actually said it.

"That is wonderfully brave of you going from radio back to TV at your age – most women would be going the other way."

My new show, Creative Types with Virginia Trioli is just about to air on ABCTV and while my colleague may have meant well (I think she meant well?) there was a Bridget Jones jellyfish sting to her barbed compliment – and it hit me where it hurts most.

A woman’s age, a woman’s face, and life in the public gaze. Ouch. I can never get away from it. So, let’s unpack the whole world of assumptions, limitations, self-criticisms, expectations and anxieties all contained in my colleague’s pat-on-the-back statement, shall we? Before I give in to my darker angels and go and get a face lift

Watch: Virginia Trioli arrests her own car thief. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

I turned 60 last year. It felt like a tremendous milestone, and I was enormously proud of my life, family, career and friends. It takes work and assiduous care and attention to nurture and sustain the family, friendship groups and career that bring you happiness. And I know I’ve done the work, because all that joy is present in my life and the effort shows on my face.


A life of laughing like a drain, weeping with friends, arguing for my position at work, combatting an uncountable number of politicians live to air, exalting at live music concerts, racing into cold water at far-flung beaches, aching in a curled-up ball as life dealt me defeats – they have all provided me with the 60-year-old face I love. 

Good skin care and a lot of sunscreens has helped – but there’s no denying it. I don’t look 20 or 40 anymore. I’ve never forgotten that line from Kerry Armstrong in the film Lantana, as she struggled with her husband’s infidelity: "I like being this age. I like the lines around my eyes: I don’t know if he does, but I do."

I do too. Up to a point. But I’m as vain as the next person, and a life on TV sensitises the already heightened state that any woman lives in when it comes our self-consciousness around age and appearance. And now I also reside in that land-mined zone between being happy with how I look and anxious about looking as good as I can. 

Image: ABC.


On Creative Types, I interview genetically blessed stars like Cate Blanchett and Kylie Minogue, and while they are broadly in my demographic, they glow with a beauty that I could never achieve, no matter how much hyaluronic acid I pour onto my skin.

And over the years in my job, I’ve interviewed the naturally beautiful, the artificially assisted, and the significantly altered. I’m as guilty as anyone of judging the quality of the work they’ve had or not had. But if I could afford to, wouldn’t I also avail myself of the serums and injectables and lasers and resurfacing and filling and sub-dermal threading treatments that women with more means than me are using? Possibly. Probably. Ask Oprah about Ozempic: who would ever refuse the genie’s three wishes?

I battle – in real time and in Ultra High Definition – the paradox that can make me a hypocrite: wanting to be judged by my work, not my appearance, but wanting my appearance to be as good as financially possible. And the dilemma is just as America Ferrera puts it in her now iconic Barbie monologue: be your age on TV, but don’t look too craggy; look good on TV but Oh My God How Much Work Has She Had Done! Using the interventions that modern medicine have made available is aspirational for many women – but we still reserve the right to ridicule you if you do.


Listen: Mamamia Out Loud talks about "Is the Act of Ageing Offensive"?. Post continue after podcast.

The paradoxes are everywhere: I doubt we have ever had in Australia as high a proportion of women on TV who are over 50 as we do now: Annabel Crabb, Jennifer Keyte, Liz Hayes, Sarah Ferguson, Sandra Sully, Natalie Barr, Laura Tingle, Julia Morris. But also I’ve never seen an Oscars red carpet as young (or as thin) as the one this year: older women were scant, and it made me worry for the longevity of the younger women stars of now: will their time be deemed over way before it should be? 

The one ray of hope? The only two female nominees over 60, Jodie Foster and Annette Benning, weren’t the usual age-denying Hollywood types. More reasons to love them.

Madonna, the chief sorceress of anti-aging black magic, once claimed that the most controversial thing she’s ever done is to stick around. 

Perhaps I need to listen to her and get comfortable living in the paradox of acceptance and resistance. It’s a small price to pay for the privilege, and provocation, of sticking around.

Creative Types With Virginia Trioli starts at 9pm Tuesday 9th April on ABCTV and Iview, featuring author Trent Dalton.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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