How 'empowered' bikini photos from Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Hurley helped combat ageism in 2020

Kerry Justich
·3 min read
Women 50 and over posted empowering bikini photos in 2020. (Photos: Instagram)
Women 50 and over posted empowering bikini photos in 2020. (Photos: Instagram)

Despite the pandemic’s attempt to cancel summer and tropical travel in 2020, our favorite female celebrities still flooded Instagram feeds with photos in their best bikinis. And while some made followers envious of warm quarantine weather, those of women embracing their bodies at all ages made people feel empowered and inspired during an otherwise difficult time.

Jennifer Lopez recently admitted to Yahoo Life that “I’ve never struggled more with my health and nutrition” than she has during the pandemic. Still, the 51-year-old didn’t let that stop her from feeling comfortable and confident in her own skin as she showed off her figure in a number of pieces of swimwear.

And the singer, dancer and actress wasn’t the only one.

Lopez was joined by a host of women 50 and older posting their own photos featuring their supermodel poses in swimwear — including 54-year-old Paulina Porizkova and 55-year-old Elizabeth Hurley, who have both been praised for doing so.

And while many followers comment on the photos to say that the two “don’t age,” Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and author of Aging Joyfully, tells Yahoo Life that displaying aging bodies is exactly the point.

“These are women in their 50s and 60s and 70s saying, ‘I don't look like I did when I was 20 or when I was 30 and I'm not going to let that hold me back from showing myself as who I am now, nor will I devalue that,” Manly explains. “I will make it as valuable and beautiful when I am 50 or 60 or 70 as when I was 20. I'm not lesser. I am different.”

Salma Hayek, 54, did exactly that when she posted photos of herself in a bathing suit from 1999 followed by similar photos in 2020.

By drawing attention to the 20 years in between, the actress is not only sending a message of empowerment to her followers, but also to herself.

“The concept of ageism not only comes from others, but it comes from the self, the self-judgement: ‘I’m not pretty enough, I’m too wrinkly. I’m too this, I’m too that,’” Manly says. “When a woman says, ‘Hey, my body’s changed and it’s beautiful,’ we’re able to say exactly that. She is empowered. She is proud. She is putting herself out there as the embodiment of what I can do.”

These images, Manly explains, combat the culture of ageism which is often upheld by women who subscribe to the idea that their body should be hidden after a certain age. “We were used to women, once they were mothers and once they were certainly in their forties being told, ‘Cover it up and act your age. Don't wear a bikini, wear a one-piece. Don't wear one-piece, wear a muumuu,’” she recalls. “As women come out, stand solid with each other, then we create a different culture.”

And while women like Molly Shannon, 56, and Beverly Johnson, 68, are part of those leading the way, Manly is sure that younger generations will follow in a movement of body and age acceptance.

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