When are you ‘too old’ to follow your dreams?
If we are lucky, we get to grow old. So why do we fear it or worse, ignore it when we are young?
We wanted to share with you this dazzling retrospective of women over 40 by the brilliant photographer Sane Seven. She is determined to make women visible as they age – celebrating the lines and wrinkles that mark the passage of time and which reflect the power of their achievements and stories.
Who says that getting old means that life is over and that you can’t shine? It’s all a matter of how you think. At The Female Lead we believe that at any age, you can love what you do, live a fulfilling life and have impact in whatever form most matters to you. It’s about what you do, where you invest your time and energy, and not just about how you look.
We spoke to Sane about why she created this project…
“Am I too old to follow my dreams? This is a question I've found myself asking lately, especially as I stand on the precipice of turning 40.”
People often tell me that I look ‘good for my age’ – much younger than I am. It should sound like a compliment if it didn’t reflect a worrying societal prejudice – it’s not good to not look young.
Wait, why? What will happen to me? How will society treat me when I don’t look ‘good for my age’? Will I lose my talent? Will I become less important, and will my opinions be devalued?
My career as an artist is just taking off and being 40 feels like the best time to start something big. I have life experiences which have added layers to my work that a fresher eye might not see and so feel as sharp and vibrant as ever. I'm just getting warmed up, but the thought in the back of my mind always says: "you're too late."
I don't harbour that fear because of my skills, but because of how society may perceive me.
I, like many women, stand in front of a mirror and monitor every new wrinkle and every strand of grey hair. I have to convince myself that I'm OK. And of course, I am OK; I wouldn’t swap with either the 20-year-old version of me or the 30-year-old version of me.
I know millions feel the same because I have photographed thousands of women, and I see how they dread showing their signs of ageing, waiting to feast on the comforting statement: ‘you look much younger.’ Even money and fame are powerless, as many older musicians and actresses will attest. Their industries constantly search for the next sex symbol that will drive sales - beauty and youth are seemingly the only talents that define a woman’s worth.
Some say things are changing. I don’t see the change happening fast enough. Many brands try to embrace diversity, but their attempts often feel forced, more of a token gesture than a genuine celebration of depth and experience.
Everywhere you look, the emphasis on youth is evident. Ads target anti-ageing creams, young models dominate fashion billboards, and films predominantly cast young actresses in main roles. Age isn't just a number; to many, it's a ticking time bomb. The message is clear: age is the enemy.
“We need to flip this narrative on its head.”
As a woman, of course, I strive to look good. But that’s not the measure of my worth. My value is in being exceptional at what I do, irrespective of age. I know that age isn't a cage; it’s a stage. And on it, I’m just getting started.
PrimeTime is a project that aims to dissociate beauty & youth from women’s worth. We invited women aged 40 to 89 to share their feelings about looks and age. Our goal wasn’t to seek praise but to foster a conversation, inviting other women to share their experiences.
What we are genuinely too old for is outdated social expectations. As 89-year-old Gloria Dominguez eloquently put in this project ‘Our age is our power. We should use that power collectively to define our own worth.’