Old But Gold

Blean Tsige


The visual representation of different races, gender and sexuality is discussed and has become a vital matter around the globe. Nevertheless, it is also vital to consider age as an important sociological category, which has a certain socio-political ordering effect. That is, specifically, the fact that the experience of being old is a sociocultural construct.

In what follows there will be a short analysis of the representation of elderly people in media. In order to understand the representation of elderly people in the media, I will use two examples that showcase somewhat the reality of elderly people in today's world. 


Fenty + Netflix = Golden Ladies 

The first example is Rihanna’s Fenty (fashion company) in which she chose to feature a 67-year-old model in her campaign (Figure 1). The elderly woman's name is Joani Johnson and she is the first elderly person to model in this campaign. She made her first public depute at the age of 65, just two years before Fenty. Joani is known to the Fashion industry as a black woman who would like to dispel beauty myths about ageing. 


Figure 1. Rihanna's Fenty Model Joani Johnson.


The fashion industry is a place in which a fixed standard of beauty exists. It is furthermore non-inclusive, making it difficult for non-ordinary beauty standards to partake (Figure 2). Especially for the older generation, it is improbable that we would see something like this in other beauty campaigns, as pictured here. In other words, an elderly person posing in campaigns is an act of continuously breaking stereotypes in the fashion industry. 


Figure 2. Joani's instagram account showcases her success in the modelling world despite her age.


In an interview with Paper Magazine, Joani was asked about her purpose for starting late with modelling. She explained that being black and not of a certain height made it very hard for her to take part in the fashion world. Nonetheless, she made it now as an ‘older model’, a term she is not too keen about. Apparently, it takes the fun away, so she considers herself ‘ageless’. Joani states that due to her age, she can bring valuable life experiences, that benefit the brand. Something younger models are not able to do.  

The second example is a Netflix TV show called “Grace and Frankie” (Figure 3).  The two main characters, Grace and Frankie, are two elderly women who have just separated from their husbands because they had a secret relationship. The TV show follows the two families' daily lives, representing typical situations elderly people have to deal with. This could be for example simple things, such as finding a hobby (both ladies are retired) or experiencing dating again at this age. 


Figure 3. Grace & Frankie TV show is a big hit on Netflix.


The positive part about this TV show is that it showcases elderly people as ‘normal’. This means that the TV show focuses on positive representation of elderly people. For example, you would see Frances aka Frankie smoke marijuana and go drinking with friends. These would be things young people would not expect of the older generation. 

Another example would be, Grace and Frankie starting a business that is aimed at self-pleasure for the elderly (Figure 3). These are examples that perfectly express the aim of this TV show, that is, normalizing elderly people’s lives. 



In conclusion, it is vital to note that the two examples I have chosen represent the positive aspect of media representation of the elderly. However, it is also important to keep in mind that these measures would not have been important to create if there was enough representation in the media of elderly people. These examples just prove that we do not have a positive or in other words ‘enough’ representation of the elderly people. TV shows and modelling campaigns need to furthermore work for the inclusion of such minority groups to change the stigma they have to live with.  



IMDb. (2015). Grace and Frankie. Retrieved 2019, June 18.

Kennedy, R. (2019, May 27). Rihanna’s Fenty features a 67-year-old model in new campaign. Retrieved 2019, June 17.

Michael, M.L. (2019, June 5). JoAni Johnson: The 67-year-old Model Rihanna Cast for Fenty. Retrieved 2019, June 18.