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Paulina Porizkova on aging: 'The older woman is still invisible'

Paulina Porizkova as told to Erin Donnelly
·4 min read
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This is the second of three installments in Yahoo Life's Unapologetically Paulina video series with Paulina Porizkova.

I remember somebody once asked me, "How did you feel when you walked into a room and everybody would just be mute in your presence? How did it feel to be so beautiful and to be acknowledged for being this?" And that kind of visibility is also kind of a burden, obviously, because God forbid you walk into a room and trip, God forbid you walk into a room and throw up... it's like everybody's watching you. 

But when I was a full-time model, the competition was always between me and other models — not that I competed, and not that they competed, but other people will always pit against another. So you'd walk into a room and you'd instantly be compared to all your peers — sometimes positively, and sometimes negatively. So it was the kind of visibility that always draws immediate judgments of the mathematics of what you look like, and then also what your character is like based on the way you look.

You have to have a pretty good dose of self-confidence to be able to withstand that kind of scrutiny. I think most of us models always felt a little insecure walking into a room where we were supposed to be the most beautiful girl in the room, because the expectations are so high. There's no way to really meet them. 

It sounds odd to say, but at 56, I do miss some of that attention. There's a sense of power that comes with it. It's a little bit like flashing a black American Express card; it's obvious, it's a little vulgar, but it works.

My invisibility in my marriage [to Ric Ocasek, whom she married in 1989 and separated from in 2017, two years prior to his death at age 75] coincided with my general invisibility in the world. It's an age-related thing in society, and for my marriage, I guess to a certain extent, it might also have been an age-related thing. I was never very clear on what happened, like why I suddenly became invisible to my husband — that was never explained to me, and that's one of the reasons our marriage couldn't move forward and couldn't remain. 

I often use the hashtag #BetweenJLoandBettyWhite on my Instagram posts. Jennifer Lopez may only be just a few years younger than me, but you're talking about a woman who is 51 and looks 30, and is incredible gorgeous and sexy and absolutely viable as a woman — everyone can agree that she's hot. And then Betty White is just adorable and charming and so funny and we just love her because she's such a firecracker at her age. And in between the two of them, there's nobody. So you either have the middle-aged woman that looks incredible and doesn't look her age, or the truly older woman that absolutely looks her age, but doesn't act her age. There's no celebration of actual age.

I think I look more like my age, so for me to do a provocative shot, where you can see the ropes in my neck — which I actually like, I think they're cool — and you see my wrinkles and quite often I don't wear any makeup, it's me trying to incorporate the fact that I look 56 with the fact that I can still look good, rather than look younger. I don't think I look younger.

Of course, sharing these photos on social media stirs up some attention, and you always have some negatives in there. That comes with it. I think anybody that's a half-way celebrity is pretty accustomed to being a target for fire at some point or another. As a matter of fact, this morning, I had this one troll said I was just a "has-been model." You get that sort of thing all the time, and that's OK. If I put myself out there as a public figure, and I decide to accept all the positive comments, then I also have to accept the negative comments too. It's just par for the course. 

There's a magazine cover coming out that I think is going to grab some attention — but as everything goes, 24 hours and it's over. But I do like to provoke, because provoking means I provoke a conversation and I find that this invisibility of mature women is kind of like the last thing on the burner. Body positivity has really kicked in. We're free to celebrate all sizes. We're much better at diversity; when I started modeling that didn't exist. But when it comes to age, the older woman is still invisible. You're only visible if you don't look your age. I am trying to look my age and be visible, and I think the only way I can achieve that is actually by being provocative.

—Video produced by Stacy Jackman

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