The Business of Rebranding Aging panel discussion at The Wing
On September 9, Erica and I joined creative director Maryjane Fahey, Essence beauty director Julee Wilson, Cirkel founder Charlotte Japp, and the new haircare brand Better Not Younger founder Sonsoles Gonzales on a panel moderated and curated by creative director Robyn Dutra to talk about ageism, its impact on women creatives, advertising to female consumers, beauty and mentoring.
What was clear to everyone present was that the way women of any age are portrayed in advertising, and whether they are included at all, affects the conversation we have with each other. When Sonsoles Gonzalez let us in on how the biology of hair changes as we age, none of us had ever heard it before. (Including those of us who have worked in beauty for ages!). Because haircare is sold to women 18-44, with the concerns of women 18-44, those of us who are 45+ have no idea what’s happening on our own heads, and when our products suddenly “stop working” we think we’re losing our minds! We don’t talk to each other about this subject because we’ve never even been given the information. It’s one more conversation to add to the list of taboos we’re not supposed to talk about.
Maryjane Fahey told us about how she paid dearly for not hiding her age when she turned 50 in the industry. Erica admitted that she never told anyone it was her birthday after a producer told her she was never turning 40 in advertising. Julee Wilson, a hugely successful beauty director, wondered if she could be an influencer at 35. “Old” seems like it’s only getting younger.
One of the most inspiring aspects of the evening was the discussion on cross-generational mentoring at Cirkel. Traditional mentorships are one-directional, with the younger person receiving advice from the older one, but really, both generations can learn a lot from each other, and a two-way mentorship really lets people connect as peers. In advertising, it’s particularly important to understand people outside your own demographic and Cirkel is doing a lot to make that possible.
Erica wrapped up the event with some advice on how to handle getting older no matter who you are or where you work. “Make sure the wrinkles you get are happy ones. You’re not going to avoid them forever so you might as well create them from smiling, laughing, and having fun. That’s always beautiful!”