When she was in her forties, actress and model Andie MacDowell was asked a shocking question by a journalist in Italy: How does it feel to be losing your beauty?
“I didn’t get upset. I didn’t get angry,” MacDowell recalled in an interview with Flow. “I felt sorry for her. You know what I thought? You’re gonna be my age. And are you gonna feel like that? Is that what you’re gonna think? You’re gonna think you only get to be beautiful up until 40 and then that’s it?”
Instead, the award-winning movie and television star explained that she didn’t feel like she was losing her beauty, thank you very much. And twenty years later, MacDowell is even more sure of the fact. “I think I’m a beautiful older woman,” she declared. “There’s something in your eyes when you get older. You don’t have it when you’re young … It’s a soul.”
During the pandemic, MacDowell stopped coloring her hair. It was a chance to try something she’d been mulling over since her sister went gray, and her friends cheered her on. “My girls would say to me, you look amazing. You look badass.”
MacDowell agreed: “I loved it,” she enthused. “I thought my eyes looked like a completely different color. I loved my skin tone and I just really wanted to do it. I had to do this for myself, ’cause you only get one life. And this was gonna bring me so much pleasure and joy.”
With a smile, MacDowell admits that she’s “felt prettier” — and more powerful — ever since going gray. “It made me so much more powerful and so much more comfortable. It made me feel me… I’m not trying to be something that I’m not.”
That doesn’t mean it’s been effortless for MacDowell to embrace aging in a culture obsessed with youth and an industry centered so heavily on appearances. “You have to start looking at those pieces of yourself that age, and I sit there and I look at myself when I see myself in a mirror and I have those negative voices — but then at the same time, I’m in great shape, and I can run, and I’m fast.”
At 65, MacDowell has a critical piece of wisdom to share: “It’s just a body.”
“You can’t remain this young, youthful beauty forever. It’s unrealistic,” MacDowell explained. She’s eager to see that fact permeate in the media, where women are still often shamed and dismissed as they get older, while men (think: George Clooney) have the privilege of being seen as even sexier and more successful as the years go by. “That pisses me off,” she admits. “Men have had so many privileges: going gray and being the ‘silver fox’ and being sexy as they age and having that allure and charisma.”
MacDowell doesn’t begrudge them that celebration of aging well — but she wants the same for women, too.
In the dressing room MacDowell prepped in before her interview, she encountered a photo of Willie Nelson that made her reflect on the beauty of aging — and the disparities women and men face as they do. “I was looking at him and his hair’s slightly silver, and his skin’s not perfect… And I, before I started looking at the details, I just thought, what a handsome man. He has no makeup. And we just don’t do that to women. We don’t see the flaws in a woman like that and go, oh my God, they’re so beautiful, because we haven’t been fed those images at all. We’ve been fed these unattainable images of women. And so that’s what our expectations are. And we can never be happy with ourselves because we set the standard so high that we’ll never be happy.”
MacDowell hopes that women will band together to make more room for each other and embrace aging in new ways — and in the meantime, she’s leading the charge by abandoning the standards shame and a sexist society have put on all of us.
“I use the term a lot for myself: I’m debonair. ‘Cause that’s something you would think of a man,” she shared. “I love taking those terms that you would use for a man and giving it to myself. Because it is how I feel about myself. I do feel that way. I am debonair.”