Paulina Porizkova believes Madonna — with the new look she debuted at Sunday's Grammy Awards — is forcing the world to discuss aging. Specifically, women and aging. And she respects the singer for it.
"I’ve been receiving tweets that mention my face as an example of aging gracefully, as opposed to Madonna," the 57-year-old supermodel wrote this week in an Instagram post that highlighted a New York Times guest essay about reactions to the Material Girl's appearance. "But what Madonna is doing, whether accidentally or deliberately, is flushing out the shaming of older women."
Madonna "is forcing us to talk about, or at least notice, our cultural and societal biases and judgements," the Czech-born Porizkova wrote in her Thursday post, which actor Lily Tomlin then shared on her own Instagram account. "She’s putting herself out there once again, seemingly shameless, and drawing ire."
The pop icon, 64, turned heads at the Grammys as she introduced Sam Smith and Kim Petras. It wasn't what she was wearing or what she was saying, according to essayist Jennifer Weiner; it was her "preternaturally smooth and extravagantly sculpted face." Social media went into overdrive with memes and comments, many of them cruel.
Weiner, known for novels such as "Good in Bed" and "The Summer Place," wondered in her NYT piece why Madonna had presented herself as she did. Was it beauty culture? Pressure to look young? Or perhaps something else?
"I’d like to think that our era’s greatest chameleon, a woman who has always been intentional about her reinvention, was doing something slyer, more subversive, by serving us both a new — if not necessarily improved — face and a side of critique about the work of beauty, the inevitability of aging, and the impossible bind in which older female celebrities find themselves," Weiner wrote.
The piece apparently touched something in Porizkova, who earlier this week promoted a Scandinavian Vogue cover that showed her with gray hair. The model has been a steadfast proponent of embracing aging with both arms.
"Madonna, love her or hate her, has always seemed fearless in refusing to accept shame. Is her look the result of the (perhaps) unwilling acceptance of shame heaped on an aging woman in the public eye, magnified to an extreme, so she can deflect the shame of aging - by being so obvious about refusing to age?," Porizkova wrote.
"Honestly, I don’t care. I respect her for paving her own road, and grateful that she gets the rest of us talking."
Madonna clapped back at critics this week as well. On Instagram, she chided people for not listening to what she said about "the fearlessness" of Smith and Petras and instead focusing on "Close-up photos of me Taken with a long lens camera By a press photographer that Would distort anyone’s face!!"
The singer blamed ageism and misogyny in a world that, in her opinion, "refuses to celebrate women past the age of 45." And she reminded people of her track record.
"I have never apologized for any of the creative choices I have made nor the way that I look or dress and I’m not going to start," wrote Madonna, who recently announced a world tour to celebrate her 40 years of hits. "I have been degraded by the media since the beginning of my career but I understand that this is all a test and I am happy to do the trailblazing so that all the women behind me can have an easier time in the years to come. ...
"I look forward to many more years of subversive behavior -pushing boundaries-Standing up to the patriarchy -and Most of all enjoying my life."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.