History has proven that when women reach a certain age they are oftentimes not considered as desirable by society and go through a range of emotions as they embark on the inevitable journey of aging. But now the narrative of women being their best in their 20’s is being re-written as ladies 40 and over are aging like fine wine, particularly African-American women.
“Men have been comfortable with self preservation. They don’t feel they need to ask permission from society. I think that women are really beginning to challenge what society has said or decided,” Nathilee Caldeira, a licensed Clinical Psychologist in practice in New York City, tells theGrio. “Women feel more empowered to challenge some of the ideas and ideals, and beginning to push the boundaries of leadership and ways to self preserve.”
Beauty product Olay and a doctor at Harvard Medical School have added more validity to the adage that “Black Don’t Crack.” Olay conducted a study on over 300 women of varying ethnicities and ages to gather a better understanding of the skin aging process. The results indicate that African-American women age at least 10 years slower than their white counterparts.
Genetics is not the only reason women of color are aging gracefully; a new wave of confidence and positive thinking is also a factor.
“Women are finally realizing that regardless of what stage of life they’re in, they are still valuable, they still have worth, they still have a role,” says Dr. Sherry Blake, a licensed Clinical Psychologist in private practice in Atlanta.
Hollywood and beauty editors realize it too. Recent covers of magazines, and the small and big screens are showcasing the beauty of women of a particular age. This year, Kerry Washington landed the cover of Glamour, Viola Davis was on the cover of People, and 5 out of 8 of Essence covers so far have featured women over 40. Star of the OWN network’s Greenleaf, Lynn Whitfield, is conniving, while Vanessa Williams is cunning with ease on VH1’s Daytime Divas, and Gabrielle Union oozes sex appeal on the BET hit drama Being Mary Jane. These characters and several others are testaments of how showrunners are intentionally displaying the multi-faceted sides of women on screen.
In a recent interview, the beautiful Vanessa Williams (54) stated, “I am happy for my journey – I am right where I am supposed to be – and I’m looking forward to where I’m going in the future.”
“As I grow older, I feel like my authentic self has been able to shine through more and more, and people can see that.
Arkansas State University Multimedia Journalism Professor Dr. Lillie Fears shares similar sentiments.
“I am 55 years of age. The secret to my aging gracefully is being comfortable in who I am and in my ability and desire to fulfill my purpose in life,” Fears says. “Being comfortable and confident in who I am supersedes any notion that youthfulness is more valuable than growing old. In fact growing older is a constant reminder that God still sees the value in what He created me to do and be in this earth despite my age. His purpose gives me that grace.”
In the past women did not make much time for themselves. They put family first, raising children, or pursuing a career before their personal needs. Well, not anymore. Many African-American women are adjusting their priorities to include living their best life…no matter their age.
“Enjoy every moment. When we are younger we are trying to get our careers on track, and you don’t realize you are not actually enjoying life; you are going through life. Don’t live up to standards that are external, because the rules are always going to change,” says Dr. Sherry.
It would be irresponsible to not mention that plastic surgery could be partially credited for seasoned women’s more youthful glow up. Plastic surgery used to be a thing almost exclusively for the rich and famous, but is now more mainstream and safer. Last year, over $16 billion was spent on plastic surgery, but less than 2 percent ($1.3 million) of that number came from African-American women as indicated by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The most popular procedures included: wrinkle treatment injections, butt augmentation with fat grafting, lower body lift, and labiaplasty. Of those procedures, African American women still represent the smallest amount.
“You want to be careful about changes you make on the outside that they are also reflecting major change in your thinking. Your mindset needs to undergo the same dramatic change that you are looking for on the outside,” Dr. Caldeira says.
Exercise, less stress, and a healthy sex life and diet have been credited as other sources for extended youthfulness among older women. Younger women are taking note and find themselves less concerned about aging due to this shift in thinking.
“Having beautiful, realistic, examples of women from minority backgrounds that society continues to hold a place for and value even as they have surpassed their 20’s is a testament to young girls that they too can also have the same value and importance as they age,” says Counselor and Founder of Diamond Mind Kola Brown, who is 32.
“I hope this relieves the pressure young girls face of having to accomplish all of their goals and establish their life well before their 30’s and allows them to see more opportunities for their future and look forward to each life stage, instead of seeing every year after 29 depressing.
Growing older is inevitable, but embracing the beauty of it is key. The shift in consciousness by society to embrace and celebrate women 40 and over will likely improve the self esteem of young girls, bridge the gap between younger and older women, and strengthen relationships.
Dr. Caldeira says it’s all comes down to perspective: “Changing your thinking is actually more powerful than any change you can make on the outside.”