Three amazing women who help us realise that hitting 50 (and beyond) is no bad thing

·7 min read
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2019/08/26: Shirley Ballas at the Strictly Come Dancing Launch at BBC Broadcasting House in London. (Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Shirley Ballas at the Strictly Come Dancing Launch (Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Getting older means changes in our working lives, our family lives and our bodies. 

For women, the changes that come with hitting 50 can be even more acutely felt, as many begin to face ageism at work, deal with menopause and continue or take up roles caring for family members, with one in five women aged 55-64 being carers.

But many are also speaking out about increased confidence, learning to bounce back, and being able to relax as they get older.

Read on for the stories of three celebs who have spoken openly on White Wine Question Time about their experience – warts and all – of growing older, and the positives they have drawn from it.

WATCH: White Wine Question Time's Biggest Revelations

Strictly's Shirley Ballas on learning to love herself

'Strictly' head judge Shirley Ballas spoke to Kate Thornton about the pressures of the dance world, and body pressures she had always felt. But she also recognised that as she gets older, she is beginning to be more comfortable in her own skin.

She said: "What I'm also learning is low self esteem starts with me. So even though there's other people that might chip away at you it starts with me. 

"So I have to learn to love myself, I have to learn to be comfortable in my own skin, which to this day is still a bit of a struggle. Some things I didn't share in the book, but I'm not comfortable at 'Strictly' with anybody who says: 'You look great. You're brilliant.' 

"Everybody knows not to comment, it's uncomfortable for me. I like to do the best job and stay focused and go into my world. 

Shirley Ballas and Daniel Taylor attend the Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Press Night at the London Palladium. (Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Shirley Ballas and partner Daniel Taylor attend the Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Press Night at the London Palladium. (Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

"But I don't know what it is in me. I think it comes from a very, very small child at school and other parents. And I remember one parent saying when I got a boy partner: 'You'll be a teenager and he won't like you because you've got spots, and you'll leave pock marks all over your face.'

"All my life I wore these big talons, and eyelashes and makeup and now I'm comfortable in a pair of sweats and very little makeup, you know?

"You get older and you wake up, there's another bump or a lump or a dent. You look at yourself, and every day it's changing. It's a bit more of this or that, then it's self acceptance. And I do struggle with it. 

"I'm really trying and I have a good partner. He loves every part of me – warts and all, as they say – but until I can accept it, it doesn't matter who accepts it or who thinks what. Because I have to find myself and I'm in the process of doing that."

Listen: Kate Thornton revisits some of the most jaw-dropping revelations on White Wine Question Time, including stories from Craig Charles, Susannah Constantine and Arlene Phillips

Dame Arlene Phillips on losing the strictly role amid an ageism row

In 2009 Dame Arlene Phillips, then 66, was replaced on 'Strictly' by Alesha Dixon, sparking an ageism row which the BBC has always denied.

She spoke on White Wine Question Time about the way she recovered from that experience and found strength to come back from it.

She said: “They talk about people being cancelled today. It’s hard - not because you have lost that job or because you’re not wanted for the job.

“That isn’t what's hard. It's the way suddenly you're elbowed out of the way like you’re nobody. You think, well who was I? What happened to that person?

Arlene Phillips attending the 65th Evening Standard Theatre Awards at the London Coliseum, London. (Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)
Arlene Phillips attending the 65th Evening Standard Theatre Awards at the London Coliseum. (Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)

“Am I still that person because I'm not made to feel like I’m the same person. It takes a lot of strength to build up.

Read more: Arlene Phillips 'didn't have the strength' to fight during 'Strictly' ageism row

“Because suddenly when everybody suddenly ignores you, and it happens in a second, it’s like ‘oh well who was I and where will I find I’m still that bouncy person’?”

“What you lose is the belief in yourself. You question every little thing you’ve ever done, ever said. And then... I started comparing myself, what did I miss out on?” she continued.

“Gradually you realise it’s just a job and you just step forward and step out of that mirror and go to the next one. The feeling of failing is an awful feeling and I spend my life trying to build confidence in people.

“It’s so important. It's the best thing that you can give a child, it’s the best thing you can give to human beings. To be able to just feel confident no matter what happens, is like the gift of life.”

Jenny Eclair on the menopause

Comedian and former Loose Women panellist Jenny Eclair spoke around the release of her book 'Older and Wilder: A Survivor's Guide to the Menopause'.

She spoke about the taboo around menopause gradually lifting as more women speak of their experiences and the recognition that many will feel the impact in different ways.

She said: "The good bit is it doesn't kill you! We all know what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, so you will get through it.

"For me, it wasn't so much about the physical sides of the menopause, which some people suffer from terribly badly. For some people the hot flush isn't just a cardi-off type moment, it's a strip off and throw yourself in the frozen peas aisle!

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03:  Jenny Eclair attends the Oldie Of The Year Awards at Simpsons in the Strand on February 3, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Danny Martindale/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: Jenny Eclair attends the Oldie Of The Year Awards in London. (Photo by Danny Martindale/WireImage)

"My big problem was emotional and it hit me at about the age of 52 when other things are hitting you anyway. This is what is interesting about the menopause and beyond is that it hits you at a time of life when it's a perfect storm, your parents are ageing and falling to pieces, dying in some cases. That wasn't part of the plan. 

"Your children are leaving home. Work can be very difficult for women in their 50s, you can suddenly start being completely dropped off all those lists that you used to be on for potential jobs. 

"So it comes at a time when your defences are pretty low anyway. This ridiculous hormonal chaos that reigns. For me it was anxiety and weakness, and an inability to cope, and a total lack of confidence."

Read more: Why everyone including royalty is talking about menopause

While she recognised that for many women, getting into their 50s and 60s can mean more health issues and worries, she also spoke to Thornton about the positives of looking back with satisfaction on her achievements.

Eclair said: "It's very hard to learn things in the situation that we're in at the moment [during the pandemic] because we're all really struggling with our mental health regardless of hormonal stuff. 

"I am much more at peace with myself. What is satisfying, and I think you will have this because you've always been a very hard working girl, is there comes a time when you can sit down and go: 'I've done a lot, I've worked hard.

"I've done some good stuff, there's enough to be proud of, I can relax a bit on this. 

"I'm allowed to have a hobby now. I can even do a jigsaw if I want! I don't feel so agonisingly competitive in that I need to prove myself all the time."

Watch: White Wine Question Time's Best Laughs