BY MIA FREEDMAN When Madonna posted photos of her puffy mouth on Facebook last week, claiming she’d injured herself during rehearsals, this is what I thought: “Pah! That’s so not an injury! She’s just had too much lip filler! How brilliantly Madonna, to strike preemptively so that when her new mouth is snapped by the paparazzi, her alibi is already in place.”
I felt both smug and annoyed by this idea. Smug because I’d possibly ‘caught’ out the canniest self-marketer of our generation. Annoyed, because I’m tired of celebrities pretending they’re just born that way. Although I can certainly see the pressure they face.
Take a moment to kiss the ground and appreciate not being a woman in the public eye. Because there isn’t a moment when they can just….be. Let alone do. A famous woman’s appearance always comes into play whether she’s a news reader or the prime minister.
In the snarky narrative of gossip, she must be either too fat or too thin, trying too hard or not trying hard enough, desperately clinging onto her youth or letting herself go, suspiciously young or old and haggard. In other words, lose or lose. Sledge or ridicule.
It’s no accident that our most iconic beauties tend to die in their prime, immune to aging. Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Natalie Wood, Jayne Mansfield, Grace Kelly, Talitha Getty, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy…these are the enduring images of beauty in Western culture. And interestingly, they all died before injectibles went mainstream.
Compare that to 80s and 90s celebrities like Joan Collins, Linda Grey, Bo Derek, Linda Kozlowski, Debbie Harry, Christie Brinkley, Elle Macpherson, Madonna, Cher and Demi Moore who seem determined to stop time at the peak of their fame which was invariably in their 20s or 30s.
What’s new though, is the ‘gotcha’ smugness and schaedenfreude suddenly swarming around celebrities who never used to be challenged about their miraculously youthful appearance. Now it’s all: Has she had work or hasn’t she?
Ashley Judd copped this recently after appearing on TV with a ‘puffy’ face and becoming the instant target of “gloating, self-righteous condemnation” by media outlets and other women. She wrote about it this week, claiming the frenzy of speculation about cosmetic surgery was “blatantly gendered, ageist, and mean-spirited” and an insult to all women.
Blogger Kerri Sackville has a different view. She thinks we’re simply jack of being fed lies by celebrities who insist their youthful looks come from “nothing more than ‘sunscreen’, ‘good genes’, ‘drinking lots of water’ or ‘an organic diet’. We gaze upon these miracles of nature and think, ‘what is wrong with us?‘ Why can’t we look like them? We eat well. We drink lots of water. We use sunscreen. And yet our foreheads still move and our necks are getting crinkly and we keep looking older and they are frozen in time.”