Georgia O' Keeffe
Georgia O' Keeffe

Why are we interested in models? Because it is through images of models that brand messaging is manifest. If we are interested in how people our age are portrayed, then the question we should look at is, are these portrayals changing? It is something more important than just noticing genetically gifted people our age. It was youth marketing efforts of the 60s that radically changed the thousand-year precedent that being older was desirable. Recall that when young Grace Kelly was in a film, she was dressing as if she were much older, then the culture changed, partially caused by advertising. Yes, none of us look like these people, but that is true for normal 20 year olds and 20-year old models.

The interesting bit is two-fold for us: First, there is an increasing number of working models this age, which 20 years ago was unheard of. Secondly, visual representations are moving towards one of strength and confidence, and away from infantilized patients in need, or the somewhat comical older people portrayed as if they are getting ready for a circus. These are indications the culture is shifting to an understanding that people our age are self confident and highly competent. We know some will disagree and say we should get real, only show people less genetically gifted, but the fact is that brands move the culture, and that seeing who they chose to be their faces is important.

Georgia O' Keef
Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946). Georgia O’ Keeffe, circa 1920-22. Gelatin silver print, 4½ x 3½ in. (11.4 x 9 cm). Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, N.M.; Gift of The Georgia O’ Keeffe Foundation, 2003.01.006. © Georgia O’ Keeffe Museum

Tom Ford has chosen to have portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe placed in his house so that he is able to move his internal aesthetic clock. It has been written that what we see as normal is what we will internalize as being normal. Brands and marketing are savvy, they lead the culture, but only when they feel there is a tribe to be led. So when we see people like Amelia thriving as a working model at 59, it tells us that perhaps the sleeping giant of our group of consumers is being noticed.