How Female Stars Are Spoken To Differs Whether They're In Their 20s, 30s, 40s Or 50s
When, in October, Liv Tyler revealed to More magazine that, at the age of 38, she isn't being offered the sort of juicy roles that tend to either go to women two decades younger or older than she is, I wasn't exactly shocked. I was, however, curious — did the ageism she described also extend to how female celebs of various ages are treated when they aren't being considered for a role? Specifically, do the questions they're asked by publications change depending on their age, even when there's no need?
Sure, a lot depends on the publication; some know their readers want the goods on a 20-something celeb's shiny hair or a 50-something's workout routine, and there isn't anything wrong with focusing on fun aspects of one's appearance. Yet you would hope that if these questions are asked, they're alongside weightier ones about a star's career, ambitions, etc. There's a reason why a movement like #AskHerMore, which prompts entertainment reporters to ask female celebrities questions far deeper the usual, "Who are you wearing?", exists — women in Hollywood, whether they're 20 or 60, are often subjected to topics and inquiries not befitting of their talents and achievements.
Still, the age of a female star does affect the questions they're asked. After reading many interviews with celebrity women of all different ages, here's what I found about what kind of questions they're posed:
Celebs In Their 20s
Megan Fox — 29
When Megan Fox was interviewed by Esquire in 2013, an interview that will go down in history for using the words "bombshell," "gorgeous," and "perfectly symmetrical" to describe the actor more times than I can count, she was asked to liken herself and celebrity in general to an ancient, perfect-looking Aztec god who ultimately self-sacrificed. "It's so similar. It totally is," Fox said, and you can you picture her rolling her eyes. How do you answer that question?
Rihanna — 27
In 2012, Rihanna slammed an Esquire UK journalist for asking one too many questions about her collaboration with ex-boyfriend Chris Brown and implying that they were still romantically involved. "Some people felt it sent the wrong message ... You'd gone back to someone who put you in the hospital," the reporter said. Rihanna's reply: "Oh really? Did I? Did I? Did I? Did I?... OK. In a completely professional environment. And on a complete professional note. I mean, if I went back to him [as a girlfriend], then that’s a whole different discussion... I think a lot of people jumped to an assumption that was incorrect and they ended up looking stupid."
And it didn't end there. "This is turning into a tacky interview," Rihanna said. "What do you really want to talk about? I’m not here to [talk] about messy s**t... It upsets me that you keep asking the same kind of questions about stuff that’s trivial. What’s there to talk about? Are all your questions like that?"
Lauren Conrad — 29
Lauren Conrad is hugely accomplished; she's a fashion designer, author, TV personality, and former reality TV star. And yet she was once asked this silly double entendre of a question in an interview with Sway in the Morning:
Don't feel bad for her, though. Here was her all-too-perfect response:
Taylor Swift — 25
Lest you think male reporters are the ones who ask absurd questions, a female reporter stopped Taylor Swift at the Grammys, asked her cameraman to pan the camera up and down her legs and then remarked, "I just wanted to show the legs because as I was telling you ahead of time, I think you're going to walk home with more than just a trophy tonight. I think lots of men." Um, excuse me? Swift, to her credit, responded with this: "I'm going to go hang out with my friends, and then I go home to the cats. Men get me in trouble."
Jennifer Lawrence — 25
Despite winning an Academy Award for Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook and two Golden Globe awards, Lawrence is frequently asked questions about her weight in interviews. Her answers have ranged from thoughtfully explaining why she'd never want a little girl to look at Katniss and think she had to skip meals to be like her to basically admitting that if you dare whisper the word "diet" to her, you can pretty much go "f**k yourself."
Overall findings: Very young women in Hollywood may be viewed reverently as ingénues and get to play idolized action stars, but they pay for it, big time, in interviews. They're constantly asked about their looks, weight, sex, and dating lives.
Celebs In Their 30s
Keira Knightley — 30
According to journalists, Knightley basically went from ingénue to powerful grown woman with a robust life overnight — as if turning 30 and having a baby in the same year meant that she was now part of a different species, one that could be asked far different questions than their 20-something counterparts.
Liv Tyler — 38
People really want to know how The Leftovers actor, who was a '90s film queen with cult hits like Empire Records, is handling getting older. Age was a frequent topic in her More interview: "38 is a crazy number," Tyler said. "It’s not fun when you see things start to change. When you’re in your teens or 20s, there is an abundance of ingénue parts which are exciting to play. But at [my age], you’re usually the wife or the girlfriend, a sort of second-class citizen. There are more interesting roles for women when they get a bit older.”
Anna Faris — 38
Anna Faris' acting resume is impressive, but her personal life was the main focus during her February 2015 interview with Redbook. In it, the star was asked many questions about both motherhood and her relationship with husband Chris Pratt. She spoke about going into labor with son Jack, bonding with her premature son, and seeing Pratt as father. All sweet stuff, but again, all about her personal life.
Anne Hathaway — 32
I know what you're thinking: all of these 30-something actors have babies, so why wouldn't you ask questions about motherhood? But it happens for women who aren't mothers, too, and while the questions are sometimes good, the fact that they're asked is a bit frustrating. Take Anne Hathaway: The Intern star does not have children, but plays a mother in the film and was asked a question by Marie Claire about the stigma of being a working mother with a stay-at-home husband. Thankfully, her answer was great; said Hathaway, "Even though there's been amazing things that have been done and there are great, individual stories that are exceptional, it still is not the norm for everyone and everyone is not having the same experience."
Overall Findings: Babies, families, and achieving a work-home balance are on the brains of reporters when they speak with celebs in their 30s, even if those stars don't have children. The closer actors get to 40, the more they begin to tackle questions about aging in Hollywood — though in Liv Tyler's case, that may have a lot to do with the fact that she was such a pop culture phenomenon before she was even 17.
Celebs Who Are 40 And Older
Patricia Arquette — 47
Patricia Arquette is an Oscar winner and an absolute legend. If you read through enough interviews with her, you start to get the sense that those writing about her feel the same way too, and are holding themselves back from worshipping at her feet. Arquette is mostly asked questions about her work, which was the focus of her February 2015 interview with The Telegraph, but inquiries about her age are inevitable. In the Telegraph interview, the reporter wrote, "For Arquette, too, seeing herself age on screen was 'gnarly and intense' – but she insists that, as she gets older, she feels 'a little more free. I’m moving away from the male-female story which dominates a lot of film: the falling in love, the ‘are we going to work it out?’ I see a lot of women struggling with that shift, trying to hold on to that earlier story.'"
Connie Britton — 48
All of the focus on the Nashville star should be directed at her ability to turn every character she plays into someone you really want to chat with over cocktails, but, inevitably, folks are also dying to know about her looks. Specifically, how Britton's skin looks so flawless, and her hair that glossy — basically, what the hell gives her the right to be so damn beautiful at her very advanced age (eye roll).
Luckily, Britton herself doesn't buy into the hype. Even while being interviewed by Yahoo! Beauty about, well, beauty, Britton changed the conversation so that she was in control of its direction. When told that she looks better now than ever before, possibly because she isn't "messing with" her face, Britton's response was perfection: "Well, thank you. I think I’m really fortunate because I never thought that my career or my value was based around my looks. I’ve always admired actors and actresses who are real chameleons, with work that is really much more about character and recreating themselves each time. So, I think that has been a huge advantage for me. As I’ve gotten older, other friends of mine who are actresses, who are stunningly gorgeous—I see the toll that it takes if you place your value on [beauty]."
Jennifer Aniston — 46
Hey, guess what? Jennifer Aniston is pretty sick and tired of hearing that she looks good "for her age" and having her age glued beside her name in every publication, as if it is intrinsically linked to her identity. “Your age always has to be mentioned and men don’t really get that for some reason. It’s not like you see Joe Schmo, 37,” Aniston told Women's Wear Daily.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus — 54
Hallelujah! Hear that? That's the sound of a million doves being released into the heavens. After reading 10 interviews with Veep's Julia Louis-Dreyfus, I discovered that, yeah, sure, her age is going to be addressed, as it was in 2013 when she was asked by The Guardian about being "middle-age." She responded: "I actually dig it. It's funny because I don't think of myself as middle-aged. In my mind, I'm, like, mid-30s. However: I also really like being here now and having all these experiences behind me. I like that. I find it very freeing. When you're younger you're putting yourself out there in a way you think you should be seen. Then as you get older you're like: 'Nah, f**k that.'"
But, guess what? So much focus is also placed on her career — I'm talking paragraph after paragraph filled to the brim with interesting revelations from Louis-Dreyfus about her work and her co-stars, There was the time Marie Claire asked her about her longevity in the biz and she replied, "I've followed my instinct. I've tried to be as thoughtful as I could be and pure in my thinking in terms of looking at projects." Or the time Redbook asked her if there is anything men can learn from women and women can learn from men and she responded, "Totally. I mean, I love men. And I like the directness of the male sensibility. And I like the sensitivity of women. So, you know, it's a good mix. I'm hoping that's something I've been able to impart to our children. I'm not the sole imparter of that, of course. My husband is a sensitive guy too. But there is a softness and a sensitivity to other people that I hope my boys are learning. And I think they are."
Overall findings: Appearance seems to become an even bigger priority at 40 and 50 then it was at 30, and no actor in this age bracket is able to escape questions about age. But it's refreshing that some, like Louis-Dreyfus, are asked about their intellect, ambition, and talent, too. If only women of all ages were given the Julia Louis-Dreyfus interview treatment.