If you got it, flaunt it: Why these grandmas say 'bikinis don't have an age limit'

Shantea Johnson, a grandmother of six, has been competing in fitness competitions for over ten years. (Photo: Shantea Johnson)
Shantea Johnson, a grandmother of six, has been competing in fitness competitions for over 10 years. (Photo: Shantea Johnson)

It is officially hot grandma summer.

Traditionally the word grandmother inspires images of cozy turtlenecks and sensible shoes. But such is not the case for these bikini-rocking grandmothers who are transforming the idea of what a typical grandma looks like, one two-piece at a time.

"Bikinis don't have an age limit," 47-year-old grandmother and personal trainer Shantea Johnson tells Yahoo Life.

Johnson, known as "nana" and "glam-ma" to her six grandchildren, views wearing bikinis as a way to show off her hard work, an homage to her past self who wouldn't dream of putting on a two-piece.

"I didn't even think about wearing bikinis and things like that," Johnson says, adding that it wasn't until she began competing in fitness competitions that she gained the confidence to rock skin-baring swimwear.

"I went through my own transformation, where I lost 20 pounds, and I started doing fitness competitions," she says. "You're loving what your body looks like so you want to wear stuff that shows off your hard work," she says.

For some women, a change in perspective helped them embrace their bikini bodies post-grandkids.

After seeing a throwback photo of herself, Jennifer Vanderslice, a 57-year-old grandmother of two, realized how damaging her hyper-critical self-view had been.

"In my late 30s I had my husband take a picture of me in Las Vegas in a bikini and I hated the picture and I wouldn't show it to people. It wasn't until I guess about 10 years later or something like that, when I saw the picture again, and I realized … how good the picture actually was," she tells Yahoo Life.

Now Vanderslice refuses to let history repeat itself and actively chooses to embrace her body in the moment.

"I may look in the mirror and [look] a little heavier, you know, a little rounder and I realized that it's not necessarily the way everybody sees you. What I see is not what everybody else sees and in another 10 years, I'll look back and I'll think, 'I probably looked pretty good,'" she says.

For others, it is simply the comfort of a two-piece that has them reluctant to switch up their beach and pool wear.

"It's easy in the water," says Juli Kramer, a 58-year-old small business owner and grandmother of one.

Kramer has worn one-piece swimsuits in the past, typically for athletic ventures such as competing in triathlons. However, when it comes to leisure, she is all about optimizing her sun exposure.

"Whenever I was hanging out at the beach or on a boat, it was always a two-piece just to get that vitamin D and all of the goodness of the sun," says Kramer.

Jazmin Light, 67, also enjoys how functional bikinis are in comparison to one-pieces. "I can easily slip into a dress and pull the bottoms and then the top off from under the dress without anyone seeing anything. This way, I could dry fairly quickly," the couples massage instructor and grandmother of one tells Yahoo Life.

Jazmin Light is a grandmother of one. (Photo: Jazmin Light)
Jazmin Light is a grandmother of one. (Photo: Jazmin Light)

Regardless of the reasoning, the women agree that their decision to wear bikinis even with grandchildren reflects a cultural shift in traditional grandma aesthetics.

Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and the author of Aging Joyfully, tells Yahoo Life that more and more women are embracing the idea that there is no age limit on beauty. She says women are redefining what the "prime" of a woman's life is every day.

"Women are realizing that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and ages. In the not-so-distant past, it was perceived that a woman who was around somewhere between 16 and 17 was at the prime of her life, and that was beautiful — then anything after that was a downhill slide. Women are fighting back against that perception," she says.

"My grandmother, I would never ever think of her wearing a bikini because she was really strict and really took on the 'grandma' role," Johnson says of the stark contrasts between herself and her own grandmother.

But according to Manly, things are different now.

"In the past a woman who turned 50 or 60 was supposed to wear longer dresses, baggy clothes, a swimsuit that covered as much as possible," Manly notes. "Women are saying, 'We're done with that, we want to wear something that makes us feel good and if a swimsuit is a little more revealing, or a lot more revealing, and we feel good about that, then that's what we are going to wear.'"

Every body is a bikini body, but for those still trying to bolster up the confidence to break out their two-piece this summer, these bikini grandmas say confidence is the name of the game.

Light admits that she sometimes does struggle with insecurities regarding the changes she's seen in her body as she's aged, but has learned to embrace them.

"I do feel a bit insecure about my aging body sometimes. My skin has a zillion marks, spots, little veins, sagging, but on the other hand, I also don't care," she says, adding that her confidence has become her biggest ally.

"I'm older and that's that ... Boldness is attractive," she says.

Johnson has a similar message: "Age is just a number," she says. "If you want to get out there and rock a bikini, do it. You're never too old."

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