Belfast Telegraph

Older women like Lulu put a spring in all our steps

By Jane Graham

Is it just me (or, put more simply, is it the birthday I've just had) or are older women having a moment? An impressive 7.6 million viewers tuned in for Saturday's Strictly launch (nearly a million more than last year) to revel in a line-up in which women over 50 outnumber girls under the age of 30 two-to one.

(In fact, three of the female contestants - Lulu, Edwina Currie and Anita Dobson - are over 60, while Sven's ex Nancy Dell'Olio has finally admitted she won't see her forties again).

Last week, PJ Harvey, a 41-year-old woman, whose latest album is a culmination of years of reflection and mature wisdom, scooped the Mercury Music Prize - which has long prided itself on its cool, cutting edge persona - from under the nose of 23-year-old pop sensation Adele.

And cool contemporary clothes brand Uniglo revealed its new poster girl - 64-year-old stunner Susan Sarandon.

What's been the highest rating show on the BBC over the last few months?

Not a soap opera, not a reality show, not a talent showcase - but New Tricks, a drama about a bunch of retired cops who are led dominatrix-style by the formidable fiftysomething Amanda Redman.

Whose album recently became the fastest-selling debut in UK history?

International superstar Susan Boyle.

Boyle, at 50 years of age, looks positively girlish next to the UK's newest Top 10 star, 87-year-old Doris Day.

It's not just telly viewers and music buyers who are succumbing to the charms of the more mature female artiste.

Even when it comes to simple old-fashioned lust, men seem increasingly keen on smart, experienced, self-possessed (and admittedly beautiful) older women.

I have interviewed many spectacularly lovely young girls, including Jennifer Lawrence, the 21-year-old blonde nubile from X-Men whom I met just months after her stint modelling bikinis for Esquire magazine.

But I have never seen as many male friends drool with envy as when I mentioned the two women I've spoken to this week; Mistresses star and outspoken Dubliner Orla Brady (50!), and 42-year-old Truman Show/Californication actress Natasha McElhone.

The BBC 5Live presenter Richard Bacon said he had never been struck dumb by beauty until he met the latter.

I don't write this from the perspective of a vengeful ageing female taking a gleeful delight in the successes of women who are much older than me (yes, I cherish that 'much' - come on, who's immune?).

In fact it troubles me that the rise of the Sagababes has occurred in tandem with the media's obsession with skinny, big-haired, big busted featherheads.

This, of course, is no coincidence.

The more the public are bombarded with images of Abbey Clancy and Amy Childs bouncing around in transparent mini-dresses without a remotely diverting thought cluttering up their little brains, the more curious they become about the inner-workings of real women of substance.

This isn't because intelligent, thoughtful, funny young starlets don't exist.

It's just that the lazy, photo-driven popular Press don't seem half as interested in the Emma Watsons, Karen Gillens or even the Adeles as they are in glamour models, Essex girls and the plethora of Simon Cowell-endorsed popettes.

No big surprises there, afterall.

It's much easier to exploit and manipulate vulnerable young things like Cheryl Cole than the redoubtable Nancy Dell'Olio.

But as Strictly seems to have finally understood, eventually your audience will tire of pretty birdbrains, even if they come without an inch of fat on them and a belly which has yet to be stretched by babies.

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