Monday, 11 November 2013

A Halloween Faux Pas - Heidi Klum goes granny

Sitting on an eleven and a half hour Virgin flight to LA on Saturday, having finished reading my book, I was flicking through the pages of Grazia (thank goodness I had a stack of mags, as well as my book - the in-flight entertainment had died, despite several attempts by the crew to reboot), and was stopped in my tracks by a page of pictures of celebrities all scaried-up for Halloween. I liked the originality of Dermot O Leary and his wife who went to a party dressed as Karl Lagerfeld and his pampered kitty, Choupette; Nicole Richie doing the sideways lean as Danny de Vito in Twins reaffirmed her coolness for me; Kate Moss and Jamie Hince were pretty unoriginal as white-faced zombies..... but wait, who is the sweet old lady, and why is she on a page of stars dressed-up to be either scary, ridiculous or topical?



Peering more closely, it turned out to be Heidi Klum - dressed up as an old lady. According to the article, Heidi had even had blue veins painted onto her legs, and prosthetic loose skin hanging off her. In fact, the exact words beside the picture said "Heidi Klum gives good granny". Seriously?? WTF??? First of all, who the heck has this much time on their hands, to take the trouble to go and get prosthetic skin? How lucky must her assistant be to have such a varied job; I can just imagine the instructions from her boss, "today darling I need you to go get me some kit so that I can be totally ageist and offensive, given that the scariest thing I can imagine is to be old".  Apparently, according to Heidi, there was so much media interest in her turning 40 this year, that she decided to really show people what old looked like.

To me, this speaks volumes about our attitude to age, and also to old(er) people. Sure, the transformation from a 40-year old supermodel to elderly woman was definitely a great disguise, however isn't the idea behind dressing up for Halloween also supposed to be primarily about being something scary, if the trick-or-treaters ringing our doorbell are anything to go by, or, it appears, to be something amusing or ironic. Nicole Richie did a send up of a short or vertically challenged actor, if you want to be politically correct - but she is already petite, so she was gently mocking herself too. On the same page, Jenny McCarthy went to a party dressed up as Miley Cyrus' tongue. Hmm, no comment. What if Heidi had dressed up as a pregnant woman, or had accessorised herself with a buggy and a couple of kids? Or what if she had decided to portray an ethnicity, and had done what a Student Union reveller did this year which caused upset and "blacked-up" (probably would not have gone down well with her hubby, Seal, though). It would have been deemed offensive or controversial, but somehow pretending to be a fairly normal looking but elderly woman was fine for an occasion that calls for depicting something silly or grotesque.

She opted for a total transformation which while well-executed is actually just as offensive, because it sends a message that growing old is scary, and possibly that growing old is unattractive. Somehow we have bought into the idea that ageing is something to be resisted, and this isn't new - for centuries people have searched for the elixir of youth, something to keep them, like Oscar Wilde's Dorian Grey, forever young, desirable, attractive. However, Heidi Klum dressing up as an old lady on Halloween specifically seems to send a message that getting old is scary and unattractive. The beauty industry makes millions yearly from the anti-ageing cosmetic products it touts, and we all buy into it, myself included. Who doesn't want to slow down the process? I wonder whether it is a way of us trying not just to accept change in ourselves physically, but also to do battle with time, to slow down the inevitable.

Why do we look at older people as less attractive - women, quite specifically - when the very wrinkles that mark out their age are what maps out the journey, lets us know that they are full of knowledge, experience, history? The recent documentary, Fabulous Fashionistas, celebrated women in their 70s and older who were still very much into fashion and style, and while it was wonderful to see them heroed, Honest Mummy and I were discussing recently the fact that there was a bitter aftertaste of surprise and condescension. Isn't it terribly amazing that they still care about what they wear at this age? Well, why shouldn't they? I don't anticipate no longer being interested in fashion just because of putting several decades of birthdays behind me. In fact, on Honest Mummy's Wonderful Women series last week (along with Mother.Wife.Me, we all run weekly interviews with great working women), film-maker Rebecca Brand talked about the verve and vivacity of her 76 year old grandmother. This is how we should think about older people. My own grandmothers were forces of nature, and still very chic right to the end. And even if they are not, they deserve our respect for the lives lived, for the paths they have created for us, for the lives that they have given to us. Not to be made into a Halloween joke.

11 comments:

  1. Very interesting take on Heidi's costume choice- I hadn't thought of how it speaks to the way we view age (especially in women) in our society. Great points.

    -Ashley
    http://lestylorouge.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for stopping by

      Delete
  2. I couldn't agree with you more. Old age is to be revered and respected not mocked in any way. I don't think she thought her choice of outfit through and probably thought she was being so original. Not!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. From what I've read I gather that her intention was to push the media's fascination with her age as she turned 40, but ultimately imagine if you were a granny being depicted as a scary or freaky thing, just plain offensive, even if original!

      Delete
  3. Popping over via #PoCoLuv and wow such an interesting read

    ReplyDelete
  4. Here, here! As far as I'm concerned her Halloween 'joke' blew up in her face. Ironically when I first saw the pictures and wondered why on earth she thought being elderly was a Halloween costume, I also thought she'll probably look exactly like she does now in thirty years time because she'll probably resort to lots of plastic surgery if she thinks old age is a horror scene.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Interesting post and certainly hadn't thought along those lines. #pocolo

    ReplyDelete
  6. arrgh I've had blue veins since I was 30!! I am very aware that I'm getting older and I don't really like it but it's something you have to get on with. I don't think of it as scary enough for Halloween though! Very interesting post, glad I clicked through from #Pocolo now

    ReplyDelete
  7. Here here Zaz....I am so passionate about this issue, I sat fuming the other week watching Graham Norton (!) There sat Robert De Niro aged 70, looking great, just as he is. But he was flanked by three women over the age of 50 who had clearly all had stuff done to varying degrees... at one end Jennifer Saunders and at the other end Cher. My antidote to this is visiting the Advanced Style blog - I even blogged about it earlier this week - we need to big up older women because 1. they are fabulous and 2. we will one day be them... oh and 3. for the sake of our own daughters xxx#PoCoLo p.s email you back this afternoon, on a mission to get out of the house to Christmas Ideal Home... pps still well jel you're in LA and I'm not x

    ReplyDelete
  8. I hadn't seen these pictures before. I think it's an amazing transformation but no it's not a Halloween costume for sure. I'm forty soon and although I don't mind the number, I really don't want to look old. And that's because of the way society views it, we are made to think that looking old is disgusting which is exactly what Heidi thinks too, obviously. All wrong. Popping over from #PoCoLo, I enjoyed reading this post x

    ReplyDelete
  9. I totally and utterly agree with you Zaz, It's funny that there was such a public outcry about the mental patient costume by Tesco (which was TOTALLY and UTTERLY wrong) but this seems to have been overlooked and is just as bad to my mind. Thanks for linking to PoCoLo x

    ReplyDelete


Always love your comments - thanks for taking the time!