Martha Stewart deliciously reinvents ageing


Martha Stewart deliciously reinvents ageing

Women were divided when 81-year-old Martha Stewart posed in her cozzie for a magazine cover. BIANCA DU PLESSIS stands up for the ex-beige, ex-prisoner who blithely flipped the bird at preconceived ideas of growing old.


AFTER 26 years as editor of the highly profitable Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, MJ Day has  hit the jackpot by putting 81-year-old Martha Stewart on the cover. Martha in a low-cut bathing suit unleashed an even bigger media storm than the first black or trans cover models.

When Maye Musk, Elon's mother, appeared on the cover last year at 74, the reaction was not nearly as intense. Maye is a beautiful woman but Martha looks so flawlessly fresh and young, so wrinkle-free and brightly polished. It clearly drove people mad.

“Don't give us this unrealistic example of ageing," social media raged. “Now I can't even relax in my eighties and let it all hang out," sighed one tired soul. “My kneecaps aren't as smooth as Martha's at 35," grumbled another. Martha had had too much work done and the photos were doctored too badly, said angry objectors.

Ja well, no fine. Martha claims she has never had plastic surgery. She also doesn't like Botox and says she uses a little on her neck because that's the only spot it really works (thanks M, good to know). She admits she has had the odd crack plumped out but she attributes her rosy complexion to Polish genes, Pilates exercises, horseriding, good doctors and skin care, a wholesome diet and the joys that come with a full and dynamic life.

She has brilliant doctors, no doubt. Whatever work Martha had done did not disturb the basic balance of her face, and I can't say that about the majority of Kardashian-Jenners. Or about many actors and models who have gone under the knife, such as Al Pacino, Nicole Kidman and Meg Ryan. 

Martha in the flesh

Martha knows it, too. On her personal Instagram account, @marthastewart48, she shared a behind-the-scenes look at the Sports Illustrated shoot, and she and the photographer often appear together in pictures where she looks much the same as she does in the published glamour shots. Like it or not, this is what Martha looks like in the flesh. Her photos in the magazine are no more heavily edited than those featuring her fellow cover model, 37-year-old Megan Fox. In one of Fox's photos, her thigh is so elongated it doesn't look like a human body part.

For the record, I'm not a hard-baked disciple of Martha. She used to be too beige for me. From her hair colour to the buttoned-up collared shirts and capri pants, she reminded me of a shiny-furred golden retriever in the Hamptons. I probably even experienced a little schadenfreude when Madam Perfection ended up in jail.

But in the recent past, her friendship and partnership with rapper Snoop Dogg caught my eye and I started following her on Instagram. That's how I know Martha occasionally — despite all the flower arrangements, caramel shades and brioche buns — is not averse to a little thirst-trapping. It's a term that refers to posting sexy photos to quench some people's “thirst"... and Martha's juice brings all the trolls to the yard.

I don't understand why anyone feels threatened by the youthful sensuality she exudes in the Sports Illustrated photos. I don't feel any pressure to look like Martha at any age because I wasn't like her at any age. Martha was exceptional at every stage of her life.

Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit issue is, to me, equivalent to a Playboy Lite. I've never been able to fathom how almost bare-ass women in juicy poses empower my gender. I find it more empowering to order a takeout meal or check my own oil at the petrol station. However, we have a biological expiry date and once the chicken coop no longer gives eggs, women's understanding of their purpose and value in this society shrinks.

The female archetypes of virgin, wild thing, mother and old lady don't offer much for women over 60. At a certain age, women are no longer allowed to wear longer hair and have to heed the mutton-dressed-as-lamb warning. Please stay in the background and come only if you are called.

Bring it on

At this point I say, “bring it on, Martha! For the sake of all of us." One of Martha's mottoes is, “If you're done changing, you're done." She fell far in 2004 but promised her supporters outside court that she would come back stronger.

She's not only stronger now, but funnier. I laughed out loud at her and Snoop's re-creations of iconic scenes in Ghost and Titanic.

Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg's version of Ghost.

Martha and Snoop Dogg play Titanic-Titanic.

During a Comedy Central Roast, rapper Ludicrous joked, “she's so old, if you look closely at a $100 bill you can see Martha photobombing Benjamin Franklin in the background". Martha barely batted an eye. And when a comedian quipped that there's something missing when you have five black rappers on stage and Martha Stewart is the one who did the most time in the chute, she replied, “Yes, that's not fair". The woman has guts. And she can laugh at herself, sort of, even if it's more of a sideways grin. The feeling is there.

Women just can't win, someone on Facebook said. We either do too much or too little or we put the wrong kind of effort into ourselves. Between the incensed remarks about Martha having had too much work done, there were also complaints that she hadn't had her breasts lifted. Really, people?

The saying “give yourself out as a toffee and you will be chewed" has never been more appropriate than in the social media age. With Martha, at least, you know it will be the tastiest, creamiest toffee. Because she can.


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