I Never Expire

Becoming an influencer, or if you prefer to call it, an “instagrammer” in the world of social media has never been as competitive as it is today. Everyone always talks about what’s in, but no one talks about the reality of what’s not. It’s no secret that it is a lot easier to succeed with youthful looks because we are naturally attracted to what looks good. When it comes to building a name for yourself in an industry of traveling, fashion, or makeup that capitalizes on looks – does age effect your chances of success? I had the amazing opportunity of interviewing four women on completely different social media platforms encompassing ages from early 20’s and beyond, whom all gave me some amazing insight on this sensitive topic.

It’s common news that the fashion industry has always marketed young models to the commercial customer for decades and no one has ever batted an eye until Dolce & Gabbana’s Spring Summer 2015 collection featured old Italian ladies as their models. This artistic expression was photographed by Domenico Dolce with Stefano Gabbana styling the shoot. Despite the duo’s controversy earlier this year relating to a tasteless advertisement this was one campaign that was both innovative and forward thinking. It lit a match on fire when it came to conversations about women and age within the fashion industry everywhere. A Japanese skincare company by the name SK-II launched an international campaign in 2018 dubbed #INeverExpire in order to “liberate women from societal expectations around age and live their lives on their own terms.” Women have to deal with a lot of what society throws at them, but they should never have to question if they are worth less after turning thirty. The iconic campaign and it’s videos garnered over 100 million views and shed light on how women everywhere deal with age related pressure. The entertainment business also reached a historic landmark when it came to iconic film Crazy Rich Asians, the first all Asian cast since Joy Luck Club’s debut in 1993. This may not have to deal with age directly, but I feel that it propelled the question of whether women are worth less after a certain age into the light because people started to wake up-becoming more aware and less desensitized when it came to the lack of inclusion and diversity that’s been missing. Even desert wildflowers need rain. And we’re all looking to quench our thirst. As citizens of the world, wouldn’t it be our birth right to feel included in every sense of the word? Age, size, culture, health, race?

When it comes to multi-million dollar industries using girls as young as 12 to market and become the forefront of their brands, this has a profound effect on both men and women. Ting Ma, an extraordinary mother, skincare enthusiast, and style veteran, inspires thousands of women to feel comfortable in their own skin has a few things to say about this. “It sends a message to all women that we need to grasp on to our youth and hold on tightly. This is probably the reason why young women start Botox treatment as early as 20 something. Don’t get me wrong, I think that women should be able to do what she wants with her own body, but society has projected a double standard when it comes to women. We already put so much stress on ourselves, we don’t need that from the media too.”

( instagram @ tingmystyle )

She also feels as if there is a weight on her shoulders when it comes to not succumbing to the pressures staying young, “I would be lying if I said I don’t feel the pressure when it comes to my age. I have to be very careful with what I eat because I can no longer eat the same diet when I was in my 30’s. In your late 40’s, everything goes straight to the belly.” Yet with unwavering confidence and wisdom, “but you know what, this is the normal aging process and I don’t want to look like someone who is in her 30’s when I am indeed in my late 40’s.”

Turning back the hand dial of our imaginary illustrious watch back a few minutes (man I wish I could afford a Rolex one day) I visit with Annabelle. As an influencer of feminism, Annabelle aims to empower women, especially women of color, to become their most authentic selves while encouraging others to think about the world, society, and culture around us. She’s a fresh faced 21 year old who reminds me of someone eager and ready to take on the great unknown, a brave undertaking that most people usually back away from.

Reflecting inwardly when asked where does she see the future of the fashion industry going when it comes to brands and influencers, “I am lucky to be young right now, but something I really do worry about is this question. Am I going to be able to make it past 20 as an influencer, especially if I’m not planning on becoming a mommy blogger? Thankfully the future of the fashion industry seems to be toward diversity and inclusion. While the focus is currently on diversity of race, gender, and size I am hopeful that brands will soon begin to realize that age is just as an important factor. Younger is definitely not better, just as older is not better. Every age brings its own trials and tribulations, but also its values and lessons. No matter what my age, I am worthy.”

( instagram @ a_nnabae )

She also believes that “the fashion industry only wanting younger women to be at the fore front of their brands is simply unrealistic and is just as harmful to older women as seeing only white women in the fashion industry as it is for women of color. I cried when I saw Crazy Rich Asians because it was so powerful to see Asian women depicted in such dynamic roles, even to be depicted in such a major movie at all. I imagine older women notice the lack of representation of women like them in the industry in a similar fashion and crave it without even realizing it, just as I do with seeing Asian women in the media.”

Beaming with fiery compassion, she advises that no matter your age, if you want to start an Instagram/blog/YT with an aim towards fashion and beauty you should, “create your own opportunity, even if they don’t seem to appear at first, you should keep going. When you believe in yourself, things have a way of working out.” As the voice of feminism in this millennial age, she ends with, “We should continue to lift each other up, support, inspire, and affirm one another. It’s not possible to tear down an entire system that looks down on women, but it’s possible to say ‘screw that’ and believe in yourself.”  

“I think that women are in their prime in their 30’s. In their teens and 20’s they are still finding themselves, establishing their careers, exploring the world, meeting new people, and finding love,” says Christina, a digital darling in her own right who takes the most dreamiest photos in enviable locations across the globe. She is a traveler and lifestyle fashionista who’s presence just oozes wanderlust. The travel industry is interesting anomaly because it tends to feature young people traveling all over the world, often times in the most expensive places. However it’s a bit of a sad reality that those who are in their early 20’s can barely afford furniture and fixtures, much less spend money on travel. A seven day vacation in picturesque Maldives alone can cost seven to eight thousand dollars or more depending on your pick of villas that each nests effortlessly on opaque, turquoise sea water. Even Thailand, the land of a thousand smiles offering bountiful, cheap foods galore can cost an arm and a leg if you decide to stay at a luxury resort and do excursions on the side. I know that there are cheaper places to stay such hostels or even couch surfing at your friend’s apartment, but kids we are talking about instagram-friendly places that are all about aesthetics. Places which exhibit that and more, cost a lot of dough.

( instagram @ love.christina.xo )

Being the experienced nomad herself fresh from a recent travel to Italy, Christina explains this concept in a most honest way, “I know the trend is to show attractive young men and women in their 20’s in the travel industry content but the reality is most of them can’t afford the luxury holidays and accommodation that they portray unless they are an influencer who is getting the stay comped for exposure on their social media accounts. I feel it would be clever for travel brands to work with men and women who are in their thirties as it is the older audience that has the money to afford luxury getaways.”

She also states that, “it makes sense for brands with a younger audience to work with younger women as that is their target audience. However, if the brand has broad appeal, it’s great to see them work with a broad range of women of all ages and ethnicities.” With some final parting words, she points out that she doesn’t feel the pressure to keep up with other travel influencers because,”The older I get, the more at peace I am with who I am. I enjoy meeting people of all ages through Instagram and have made a broad mix of friends of all ages. That’s the great thing about Instagram, there’s so much diversity. Women shouldn’t feel pressure to pretend to be younger, as they will find an audience that will resonate with their travel, style, and general interests.”

Asha has got to be one of the most creative artists I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with since joining Instagram for a few years now. She’s a girl’s girl and a relatable one at that. She grew up biracial, never feeling connected to her culture of European and Indian descent, so creativity and fashion became an outlet for her. Through her platform, she strives to encourage and connect with other creatives who might feel alone, while also building a positive community for anyone with an artistic side. She doesn’t believe that women expire past the age of 30. In fact she says nonchalantly, “As I head into my very late twenties and soon thirties, I realize that I have gotten so much wiser and more confident in myself on the inside and outside and feel more beautiful, energetic, and powerful than I was when I was eighteen.”

She also proposes an idea that challenges societal views of beauty standards, “We need to have a balance. We should encourage a healthy and achievable approach to beauty as simple as good nutrition or something spiritual like finding happiness in one’s life, rather than encouraging Botox at the age of 20. I think brands should include more women of 40 and above in campaigns to show the real beauty of having some wrinkles, because it is a part of the beauty of aging.”

Though with an ounce of self doubt that even I am surprised to see in her, she does say,”I don’t feel the pressure about age yet, because I have a very youthful style. So age does not come up when I work with brands. I will admit though that I do feel the pressure to fit into sample sizes. I do think regardless of age, many designers still prefer thinner influencers and usually will send me very small sizes of their clothing (because they only keep small sizes to give out to influencers, especially the more boutique independent labels). So yes, I do feel the pressure to be thin and try my best to eat a healthy clean diet and run or work out everyday. If I weren’t an influencer I probably would work out less.”

( instagram @ mscoffeeandcream )

When I asked how can we challenge the conventional norm that women expire past 30, a glint in her eyes appears as she reflects on her past, “When I look back at pictures of myself in college and high school, I cringe. I used to sleep in my makeup, eat a lot of sugar, wear crazy weird clothes, fixate upon really stupid thoughts and date people who were totally wrong for me.” As she said this, it brought back all the memories of how I was when I was 18, “Now I truly feel beautiful in myself and my life. I have learned to slow down, I treat myself well. I eat food that makes me feel great. I work out. I am in relationships that are positive and foster my growth. I treat my skin very well and enjoy the process of taking care of it. We need to highlight the stories of how through aging you gain life experience and experience on loving yourself. Brands and ads need to highlight what a joy the experience of becoming an actualized women is and how time and experience can foster that within a woman.”

After interviewing these fascinating ladies, I left with a more open mind. Not exactly the kind you feel after a bout of hot, sweaty oddly satisfying bikram yoga. But the kind of openness you feel after a good, soul searching meditation session. Age shouldn’t be a trend that fades away once you are 30, 40, or even 90 years old. It should be looked at as a badge of honor. A notable evidence that you’ve survived for this long on this earth and you are still going strong, regardless of what brands, advertisements, entertainment industries, fashion industries, or even the whole of what social media thinks.  After all, Ting’s favorite inspirational quote is from Charles B. Handy, “The moment will arrive when you are comfortable with who you are, and what you are- bald or old or fat or poor, successful or struggling- when you don’t feel the need to apologize for anything or to deny anything. To be comfortable in your own skin is the beginning of strength.”  So does age effect your chances of success when it comes to building a name for yourself? I guess that depends on how you define what success means to you, ironically, despite your age.