There’s an avalanche of double standards that come with ageing in the public eye. And for women in Hollywood, turning 50 years old can feel like a milestone to dread.
Thankfully, there are a plethora of A-list leading ladies who have been honest and open about their experiences with ageing publicly.
Their decision to be so vocal about how society treats women over the age of 49 is refreshing, to say the least. Their new perspectives, especially on an age that women have been made to believe is the end of their ‘prime’, has helped redefine our youth-obsessed culture for droves of women.
From Gwyneth Paltrow to Jennifer Aniston, famous faces have been taking every chance they can, whether that be social media or interviews, to prove to the world that turning 50 years old needs to feel nothing but empowering.
Below, our favourite A-list stars who has spoken candidly about reaching half a century, and how you can reframe how you see the dreaded birthday too.
Gwyneth Paltrow will be turning 50 years old on September 27, 2022. In anticipation of the milestone birthday, the Goop founder has opened up about dreading her 40th birthday a decade ago—and how she’s now “so excited” to turn 50.
“I’m so surprised and delighted that I’m not freaked out about it, because when I was turning 40, I was a mess,” she shared on Sunday TODAY show, as per Yahoo.
“And I was so anxious about it, and I had, like, grief, and it felt, like, really scary. And so I thought, ‘Oh boy, 50’s gonna feel…'”
Ultimately, she figured that her fear of turning 40 years old was likely because there was “a lot going on in my life that I hadn’t resolved yet”.
At the time, the Academy Award winner was still married to her ex-husband, Chris Martin, with whom she shares two children with, Apple and Moses. However, the couple announced their “conscious uncoupling” in 2014, and Paltrow has since married Glee producer Brad Falchuk and launched her wellness brand, Goop.
“I think I grieved a lot [about] the physical part,” she told the TODAY show host. “I think when you grow up in the culture very much, and [there are] pictures of you everywhere and you turn 40 [and] people make such a big deal that you think, oh my God, I’m, you know, over the hill. So there’s a kind of grief and letting go of that youth, in a way.”
As for turning 40, she compared the birthday to getting “amazing software upgrade” and remembers thinking that it was “actually kind of great, and I feel like I can be who I am a little bit more and I have permission”.
She continued, “And now I feel like that times a hundred. I just feel, this is who I am, and I really like myself. I really know all of my flaws and I’m really working on them.”
“I’m so happy to be turning 50. I feel so grateful. I’m so happy that I have my health,” the wellness buss said. “I feel so good!”
It’s hard not to love Jennifer Aniston any more than we already do, but thankfully, her thoughts on turning 50 have solidified her icon status.
In a 2019 interview with InStyle, the Morning Show star revealed that she feels “physically incredible” since turning 50.
“Fifty was the first time I thought, ‘Well, that number’, I don’t know what it is because I don’t feel any different,” she told the publication, as per Grazia. “Things aren’t shutting down in any way. I feel physically incredible.”
“It’s weird that it’s all of a sudden getting telegraphed in a way that’s like, ‘You look amazing for your age’, I think we need to establish some etiquette around that dialogue and verbiage,” she said.
And in a separate interview with Us Weekly, she shared that she doesn’t think that “life stops after 50—if anything, it gets more and more exciting”.
“For some reason, we don’t honour or pay respect to ageing. It’s something that we look at as a negative, and yet every single person on this planet does it.”
She concluded, “Why are we only looking at women through this particular lens? Maybe my purpose isn’t to procreate—maybe I have other things I’m supposed to do.”
Having turned 50 years old in August 2015, Viola Davis decided that it was time to talk about how it feels to reach the half century mark.
In an interview with AARP the Magazine, the How to Get Away With Murder alum shared that turning 50 years old has changed her perspective on life and how she treats others.
“Turning 50 is making me reflect on my life in a way that’s more compassionate and forgiving,” she told the publication, as per E! News. “I’m able to almost accept the old me.”
When looking at photos of herself as a child, Davis explained that she would tell herself, “‘Look how fat I was’ or ‘My goodness, look at my hair!'”.
“What I saw was dark skin, being poor and all the things that come with poverty—smelling and being unkempt,” she shared, adding that now, she can only see “how passionate I was, how much I dreamed, and what a good and loyal friend I was”.
In an interview with Stellar magazine, Nicole Kidman shared that she loves what her fifth decade has offered her.
“Just joy. I’m just really going, ‘OK, this is my life’, and I’m very, very happy to be 50,” she told the publication, via The Statesman. “I think that’s what happens with birthdays once you get to a particular age, you’re just like, ‘Yay, OK, here we go!’'”
The former marie claire Australia cover star continued, “I did not have a huge party. I was like, I just want to be with my family. And my sister came over with all her children, my brother-in-law, I had I had [husband] Keith [Urban] and my girls“.
But it was turning 50 that left her more empowered than ever, with Kidman explaining how “lucky” she has felt as a result.
“I’m absolutely embracing it. I try to embrace all parts of my life now because I think you just go ‘Wow. I’m so lucky, so blessed’,” she said.
She continued, “I’m turning 50 this year and I’ve never had more work than right now. And that’s partly because I work in television, I can work on films that are made to be shown on a small screen and I can work on films shown on a big screen. As an actor, I get to work in all of the mediums.”
For Elle Macpherson, she felt that turning 50 in 2014 was the moment she began to radiate more confidence and happiness than she ever has before.
In an interview with Redbook magazine, the now 58-year-old model shared that it lead her to feel a much bigger sense of security within herself.
“I feel very secure within myself—strong, happy and motivated,” she shared with the publication. “Hopefully I’ve gained some wisdom over the years.”
The supermodel even admitted that she can now look back at her mistakes and laugh, because she has found peace in the fact that she won’t always get everything “right”.
“And I have a sense of humour about my mistakes. I’ve accepted that I don’t always get it right, but it’s not the end of the world.”
In an interview with ABC News, Madonna shared how she feels about turning the big 5-0. And in her usual, brutally honest fashion, she wants the world to know that it hasn’t fazed her one bit.
“F–k you. I’m 50. That’s what I’m going to say when I turn 50. Sorry,” she told the publication.
“Why’s everyone rushing me over the finish line?” she said. “No, I’m not thinking about my birthday. I’m thinking about what I’m going to eat for dinner tonight. That’s my future plan.”
But despite all of this, the now-63-year-old musician said that she feels “very happy” with her life, and doesn’t feel the need to compete with her younger self.
“If I didn’t feel good and wasn’t doing what I wanted to do with my life, maybe [turning 50] would bother me,” she said.
“But I feel good about what I’m doing. I feel like in a way it’s given me a feeling of accomplishment for living this long and to still be able to do what I want to do and feel as good as I do. It’s a blessing.”
From her radiant skin and contagious joie de vivre, Julianne Moore might not look 50 years old, but she’s certainly sick of people speaking down on the age.
“The beauty questions are sort of tedious,” she said. “It’s not about the outside. The thing about 50 is that you’ve clearly reached a point where you have more of your life behind you than ahead of you, and that’s a very different place to be in.”
She concluded, “You’re thinking, ‘I’ve done most of it.’ I don’t like that feeling. But it makes you evaluate your life and go, ‘Am I doing what I want to do? Am I spending my time the way I want?’ ”
While there’s an endless list of reasons to admire former First Lady Michelle Obama, it’s her carefree opinion of hitting 50 years of age that inspires us the most.
“I have never felt more confident in myself, more clear on who I am as a woman,” she told Parade magazine, as per The Independent.
“But I am constantly thinking about my own health and making sure that I’m eating right and getting exercise and watching the aches and pains. I want to be this really fly [when I am an] 80, 90-year-old.”
Having turned 50 years old in 2017, Julia Roberts doesn’t see the big deal about reaching the milestone age.
In a 2017 interview with InStyle, the Pretty Woman alum doesn’t even see the reason why society wants us to treat a 50th birthday any different than the others that we celebrate every year.
“There’s nothing different about this birthday than any other one,” she told the publication.
“Really, people? Are we still in that space? Did anyone ever go over this with George Clooney or Brad Pitt before their 50th birthdays?”
Emma Thompson has always been an advocate for viewing ageing with a positive eye. In fact, she couldn’t give a damn about getting older and is more focused on treating her body with respect.
“If you look after yourself and you’re healthy, then you’ll have the energy to do things. But not to recognise getting older for what it is?” she told The Guardian.
“I do think the infantilisation of our generation is one of the huge issues of our time. People wanting to be 35 when they’re 50 makes me think, ‘Why? Why don’t you be 50 and be good at that?’ And also embody the kinds of choices that are sustainable at that age. It’s a different patch of life, your 50s.”
As a 68-year-old, Oprah Winfrey waved goodbye to 50 quite some time ago. And now, she can look back on the age with a fresh perspective and can reflect on everything that she has learned.
In an essay on Oprah Daily, the journalist and former talk show host shared how the fifth decade of her life treated her. And after her 50th year around the sun, she believes that we should all “live fearlessly”.
“What I’ve learned in this first 50 is that if you can allow yourself to breathe into the depth, wonder, beauty, craziness, and strife—everything that represents the fullness of your life—you can live fearlessly,” she wrote.
“Because you come to realise that if you just keep breathing, you cannot be conquered.”
Helen Mirren is no stranger to talking about society’s unfair expectations on women as they age. So, when it comes to sharing her personal experience, she has a lot to say.
In a 2019 interview for Vogue, she doesn’t stand for Hollywood’s belief that women should be ageing gracefully.
“It’s much better to age disgracefully!” she told the publication. “Take it on the chin, and roll with it. You die young, or you get older. There is nothing in between! You may as well enjoy it.”
“My mother once said, ‘Never worry about getting older’,” she recalled. “I know the thought of you being 45 when you’re 25 is, ‘Oh, my god! Who wants to be 45?’ But it’s amazing because when you get to be 45, you’ll realise it’s actually very cool and you don’t want to be 25 again.”
She concluded, “And I have to say, she was absolutely right. With every age comes advantages and disadvantages. And you tend to find that you don’t want to go back. You want to be exactly where you are with everything you’ve experienced.”