This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org.
Andie MacDowell, 64, may be a grandmother, but she’s no one’s “little old lady.” Not in her life and not in the roles she plays. Not even close.
When we spoke with MacDowell, a 2022 Next Avenue Influencer in Aging, she talked about the pleasure she was having in working on a multigenerational show for Hallmark, where she just happens to play a grandmother. “I’m working with a bunch of young people now, and I think particularly the older you get, there’s a connection and a curiosity about each other because you’re at different ends of the spectrum,” she says. “If you’re talking about people in their 20s, I think they want to connect and understand you and see who you are. I think the more authentic I am with my age, the more interested they are.”
And MacDowell has made headlines worldwide for being her authentic self — specifically in allowing her hair to go gray. When her recognizable long curls began to change, she mentioned to her hair colorist how sad she was that she wasn’t letting her hair stay its natural color. Because of societal pressure — especially as she’s an actor and model — it’s not surprising she was continuing to color her hair.
One concern of hers was that she’s been a spokesmodel for L’Oréal for more than 35 years. She wondered how she would get them on board with letting her hair go gray.
“I sent them a video about it and my feelings about it during COVID. I did have really strong feelings about ‘This is who I want to be.’ This is how I see myself. This is something I’ve always wanted to experience — being authentic at this time period in my life,” explains MacDowell. Her mother died when she was just 53 and MacDowell was 23, so she didn’t see her with silver hair. But she did see her dad. “And it was so gorgeous on him.”
As you can probably guess, L’Oréal was on board, as she’s continued to represent them — gray hair and all. MacDowell is thrilled. “I’ve lived through so many different time periods in my life, and I’ve enjoyed all of them. I’m 64. I just couldn’t pretend like I wasn’t that. I just wanted to be completely who I am,” she says.
MacDowell believes that we all should be able to be who we authentically are, no matter what our age and points out that the only time in our lives we seem to want to look differently is when we’re older.
“I was thinking about this earlier. Can you imagine if 20-year-olds had to struggle with not wanting to look like what they do? Or a 30-year-old? Like what can we do to not look like who and where we are?”
Made for ‘Maid’
In the Netflix
series “Maid,” about a young mother trying to escape an abusive relationship while taking low-paying cleaning jobs to survive, MacDowell not only kept her hair gray, but she played opposite her real-life daughter Margaret Qualley. Her role of Paula, the artist mother with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, garnered her critical acclaim, including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries, or Television Film. She also got to hang out with her kid, who actually suggested her mom for the role.
“We had a beautiful connection because, you know, we know each other, and she’s a great actress. So it was really nice to get to work with her,” MacDowell says. “You’re working really fast in television. It’s a lot of pressure. We worked under some difficult conditions. We worked in an Arctic storm one night. With all these elements, I do think it made it special. I think it was a unique bond between these two characters because we have a unique bond. You could feel that.”
As for playing a character with mental health issues, MacDowell was careful as her mother had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and she saw her struggle. The more we talk about mental health and the brain, she says, the better.
“It’s another way we try to be our best — to be whole and to be well. It’s an important aspect of what it is to be human.”
Read: What neuroscientists have learned about rejuvenating the aging brain—and what you can do too
Be who you are
Ten years from now, MacDowell hopes there are specific changes with respect to aging in America. After all, she’s leading the proverbial march.
“I still think there is this concept that men are handsome as they age, and women are not. I think these outdated terms need to be thought through. I would like to see more acting roles that show women aging. I would like to visually see it in advertising, in films and in television,” she says. “Men get to age, and women need to be able to age as well. That’s it in a nutshell. They are seen as handsome and wanted and desirable, and I would like the same thing for women. I don’t want to have to pretend to be what I’m not.”
While working with younger generations, MacDowell is hopeful, as she says they seem to “get it.”
“I do think that some people would like for us to be invisible…to maintain the patriarchy and what women are ‘supposed to be.’ But that’s changing. There’s a huge shift in the younger generation, and they are supportive of who I am and how I feel. They are moving in a different direction, and I’ve jumped onboard with them.”
“I do think there are certain people who would prefer things be status quo — but, no!” she continues. “I have not bought into this idea [of men being able to age naturally, but women cannot]. I think it’s outdated. It’s used to disempower women, and I won’t fall for it. I’m not playing that game.”
Also see: Women need to save more, earlier and invest more aggressively for retirement – here’s why
Her favorite roles
While MacDowell is known for roles in films such as “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Groundhog Day,” and, of course, “Maid,” she also loves characters she played in lots of independent movies.
“I did a movie called “Unstrung Heroes,” which Diane Keaton directed, and I just loved it. I did another little movie called “Harrison’s Flowers.” I did a lot of independent movies that people didn’t see, where I thought the process was nice. I thought they turned out beautifully,” MacDowell says. “And I loved working with Diane Keaton; she’s a great director.”
As for playing the grandmother in that Hallmark production, “The Way Home,” which premieres on Jan. 15, 2023, now you can see why MacDowell doesn’t play her as a little old lady.
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“They’re letting me add my feelings about what it is to age. I have a unique perspective on how I see myself, and it’s not a little old lady. That’s not who I am,” she says. “I’m extremely active. Young people have a hard time keeping up with me. I challenge them. That’s how I see myself. I feel powerful and strong. I’m much more direct. I’ve been around the block. I know a lot, I have experience, and I stand in that power. I’m not ashamed of it. I still feel very feminine. We can be sexy and powerful.”
Turns out, MacDowell’s favorite role in life seems to be simply being herself.
Michele “Wojo” Wojciechowski is an award-winning writer who lives in Baltimore. She’s the author of the humor book “Next Time I Move, They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box.” Reach her at WojosWorld.com.
This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2022 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.
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