How Madonna, Céline Dion, and more celebrities defy \"mature, age-appropriate\" fashion expectations

How Madonna, Céline Dion, and more celebrities defy "mature, age-appropriate" fashion expectations

Golden age

Text: Ryan Sng

In case you missed it, Céline Dion had the time of her life at the most recent edition of Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week, despite making headlines for crying on the front row last season. No innocent slice of happiness eludes the internet's notice, however, and Dion's typically kooky wardrobe choices — made with some assistance from new her stylists Sydney Lopez and Pepe Munoz — instantly generated ageist backlash.

It's 2019, and society should know better than to demand that all women past 'a certain age' make themselves less visible or vocal in the world. But from Alexandra Shulman's tirade against supermodel Helena Christensen to Project Runway's pejorative use of the term 'old lady', it's sadly apparent that ageism is still going strong. That's why uplifting women like Dion and her fellow pop icon Madonna, who embody the best of fashion's expressive and — in the context of a culture that abhors vibrant, mature women — transgressive power is more vital than ever; collectively, we can change the narrative surrounding ageing from one of pity and despair to one of joy and inspiration.

What we're saying is, there's a (long overdue) anti-ageist movement afoot, and all one needs to do to be active and activist in it is not just accept, but embrace the happiness that women of all ages choose to pursue — whatever form it takes. In retaliation, we've compiled a list of kick-ass female celebrities who regularly defy ageist expectations below.

Céline Dion (b. 1968)

Losing your partner of 36 years and launching yourself into the unknown after years of familiar Vegas-residency routine would be destabilising for most, but Céline Dion has landed on her feet with admirable grace. For one, she embraced her camp reputation in Ashes, last year's ballad contribution to the Deadpool 2 soundtrack. She has since made a splash as a newcomer to the fashion week scene with her effusive applause, cheering, and — in the case of Pierpaolo Piccioli's spring offering for Valentino — crying. The heart truly does go on, and only gets stronger with time.


Catherine Zeta-Jones (b. 1969)

One imagines that there's not much that can scare Catherine Zeta-Jones. She's publicly shared her struggles with mental illness; returned to the stage — to make her debut on Broadway, no less — after a 17-year absence, winning a Tony Award in the process; and gone one step further than other A-list film actors who've transitioned to TV or series work, by landing a starring role in a Facebook Watch soap opera. Never let it be said that the woman plays by the rules.


Madonna (b. 1958)

Pop music's obsession with all things youthful hasn't discouraged this legendary — and legendarily defiant — artist. Most recently, designer Marcelo Burlon criticised Madonna for wearing his designs, while her latest, eyepatch-wearing persona earned her more than her fair share of shaming and ridicule.


Nicole Kidman (b. 1967)

Back in the days where beauty precluded depth in the popular imagination, Kidman was widely considered a character actress trapped in the body of an A-list leading lady. The 2010s have seen her release some of her most inspired and rewarding work yet, but that's not all. No stranger to intrusive paparazzi interest (see: her entire divorce from Tom Cruise), Kidman has long run out of damns to give, and coyly baits the press by flirting with Alexander Skarsgard, her monstrous onscreen husband in Big Little Lies.


Angela Bassett (b. 1958)

Whether you fell in love with Angela Bassett in What's Love Got to do with It (1993) and How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998), or were introduced to her more recently via American Horror Story (2013) and Black Panther (2018) doesn't matter; Angela Bassett is excellent at every age. Period.


Jane Fonda (b. 1937)

Fonda's anti-Vietnam War stance outraged an entire generation of American conservatives — most of whom still refer to her disdainfully as 'Hanoi Jane' — but the Hollywood icon remains as politically outspoken and liberal as ever. She also continues to star in projects that destigmatise the sex lives of older people, including her Netflix sitcom Grace & Frankie and the film Book Club.


Susan Sarandon (b. 1946)

From portraying the ride-and-die — literally — bond between two women in Thelma & Louise, to capturing the notorious antagonism between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Feud: Bette and Joan, Susan Sarandon can do it all. She's as spirited as her feistiest characters in public life, firing back at critics of her cleavage and advocating for the legalisation of marijuana. The latter of which is hardly surprising; Sarandon is also well-known for her prolific, recreational consumption of weed.