When we refer to people finding success in ‘later life’, what is really meant by this? It seems that when we talk about men and women there is a certain divide. In terms of the fairer sex, we are very quick to dismiss women over a certain cut off point. Whereas men are often given more time to be ‘successful’. Women are defined as successful ‘later in life’, in common parlance, when they are over 30 years old; whereas men get to be over 50, before their success is referred to as ‘later life’. Coming of age.
As for ‘fresh’ talent and ‘new’ faces – these are our obsessions. All eyes are on the younger generation to see what they will do, what they will come up with. But where does that leave a creative over ‘a certain age’?
Sadly, often older female film stars seem to have a rough sell-by date that isn’t openly spoken about. Of course, we look up to national treasures like Judi Dench, but women that earned their accolades ‘later’ in life like her, are often encouraged to start winding down and accept that their career is coming to a close soon.
Here are a few women who have not necessarily received public accolades until much later in life or are vital creative and still kicking it. Ladies, we salute you!
The opening woman for our exploration is the very Chic, French, hugely successful lady called Chantal Roos. The interesting thing is that after a superbly thriving career in perfumery it was only in her 70’s that she did something for her own love. Her own creativity. Using her power for herself and with her daughter.
Chantal Roos has worked in the perfume industry since the 1970s. Starting out at Coty where she worked as a marketing manager at YSL, she ended up having a 15-year stint with the company. Her key role was relating ideas from designers alongside the DNA of a brand into perfume notes and ideas in order to make a successful fragrance for a company. Think of such fragrances as Korres, Jazz, Paris, and the hugely renowned and loved Opium, a fragrance she worked on with Yves Saint Laurent himself. He had wanted to explore his beloved ‘Orient’; a huge inspiration for his work, and hence the perfume was born and named by him.
She was also the woman behind “L’Eau d’Issey”. Brought to life in 1992, with the nose Jacques Cavallier, they created the first-ever water-inspired fragrance. An important scent as the culture Issey grew up in was not one where people wore ‘room-filling’ perfumes. As it would have been conceived in Japan as bad manners to wear something that could invade someone else’s space. Also, incense was thought of as a ceremonial smell to be burned in temples. So, a history of saying floral or incense style fragrances would never have at that point worked for the brand. Cavallier wanted a scent that smelt of water, water in the movement going across moss and rocks, fresh and vibrant. Hence the birth of L’eau, which was a huge success and still a signature fragrance for many today.
And Chantal did not stop there with her success. She discovered a very young exciting perfumer called Francis Kurkdjian who she gave a brief to. It was the Jean Paul Gaultier perfume, which he worked on without a real commission, but created such an outstanding perfume at the tender age of 26. We all know Le Male; a huge success.
After a stint at Shiseido, she went back to YSL (asked by Tom Ford). She worked there until she created her own company Crea, doing the same as above. The most interesting thing about her is that she has in her 70’s started a whole new career. This time with her daughter. Again, in perfume, a true love for her, but this time with a totally different approach.
The brand Roos and Roos started in 2014, is really about Chantal and her own creativity. Instead of doing it for others, she is doing it for herself. How wonderful to see a woman in her 70’s come out from behind the curtain. Shine her own light brightly and publicly.
The brand is also very much a meeting of the two. Alexandra Roos, Chantal’s daughter, who has written and recorded her own music, talks of scent being like music; having energy, a life. Together the mother and daughter created their niche fragrance brand. They talk of it as having
“freedom and hedonism, stylish yet casual universe, pleasure and escape up to the most exclusive perfumes.”
Roos and Roos has the heritage of the Grasse behind it, utilising noble and raw ingredients and true know-how. The collections include names such as Bloody Rose, Sympathy for the Sun, A Capella, Song for a Queen, and more…
Most of all, the collections are super sexy, super alluring. A very clever group of exceedingly great perfumes for women who also have something to say for themselves. Roos and Roos is the realised dream of a mother and daughter duo. Creative ambition and a drastic career change with success.
Like them, we all have dreams and goals. And some of us have specific dreams from a young age.
Judi Dench, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Lubaina Himid, Toni Morrison, and Vera Wang. These are five other incredible and influential women whose successes in fashion, literature, and acting have allowed them to achieve high status and worldwide respect. The age at which they made their defining career choice, a minor detail but which meant their renowned success was not achieved early in life. Will never overshadow how they are celebrated along with the value of their creative contributions. These women and their work are simply timeless. Nothing can stand in their way, and thankfully they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!
2. Judi Dench
Dame Judi Dench, a name well-loved by all in Britain, and around the world. A true national treasure. Her name immediately enters the minds of James Bond lovers, as Dench starred as the head of MI6, as ‘M’. Some, and perhaps yourself also, will have thought that her role in the Bond films was her rise to international recognition – this is mostly true – but Dench has been in the acting business long before starring in Bond. Having made her debut with the Old Vic Company in 1957, her acting career has spanned decades.
She starred in Shakespearean titles such as Ophelia in Hamlet (1957), Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (1960), and Macbeth (1979) as Lady Macbeth. And who could forget her role as Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown (1997)? Fame would eventually catch up with her in the early 1990′s with an earlier Bond film, and for winning an Academy Award in 1999 for starring in Shakespeare in Love. Now age 84, and her role as ‘M’ in the Bond films at an end. Her name on any film screen is always a delight to see, often taking up big roles that show her magnificent grasp of acting that has been unaffected in par excellence for decades.
This London born, Ghanaian artist and writer is known for her powerful figurative paintings depicting fictional men and women, that represent the human figure.
Her artwork certainly draws attention, and really engages the viewer, as the figures she paints are vivid and life-like:
-“It’s hard not to feel implicated as a viewer -I can’t help thinking that her imagined characters are engaging with me.”
This cast of black characters she has created within her paintings attracts significant attention to the idea of race, an idea which she is happy to manipulate:
–“Race is something that I can completely manipulate, or reinvent or use as I want to. Also, they’re all black because… I’m not white. People are tempted to politicize the fact that I paint black figures, and the complexity of this is an essential part of the work.”
Serpentine Gallery in London. At 39, she has never been married. She swims to keep fit. Creates a painting a day, and teaches every other week at the Ruskin School of Art. This artist lives life for herself. She is aware of the time she has, the potential of every day to create something new. She has achieved a lot. Her biggest achievement provoking people to think, and think for themselves when they look at her paintings.
Another acclaimed artist is Lubaina Himid whose work focuses on themes of identity and cultural history. She achieved recognition for her work after officially becoming the oldest winner of the Turner Prize at age 63. Himid is known for celebrating ‘black creativity’ drawing on the legacies that surround the African continent such as slavery and identity, producing works since the 1980′s to the present. She has also widened the recognition of several black women artists through exhibitions such as Five Black Women (1983) at the Africa Centre in London.
She told one journalist that “I think to myself what I could have done if I’d won it at 40”, with respect to winning the prize so late in her life. Perhaps a better way to describe her recognition is that it is better late than never. The opportunity to succeed is always there and has no time limit, and this is certainly proved by the likes of women such as Himid. Her works over the years are now collectively recognised and her recognition will now continue to grow even more.
She told one journalist that “I think to myself what I could have done if I’d won it at 40”, with respect to winning the prize so late in her life. Perhaps a better way to describe her recognition is that it is better late than never. The opportunity to succeed is always there and has no time limit. This is certainly proved by the likes of women such as Himid. Her works over the years are now collectively recognised and her recognition will now continue to grow even more.
At 81, Toni Morrison has certainly lived a full life. She is a Nobel Prize-winning American novelist, essayist, teacher, editor, and professor at Princeton University. Morrison certainly earned her stripes in the world of English before earning her first notable accolade: She taught English at a university in Huston for two years and then at Howard for seven years. In 1967, she became the first black woman senior editor in the fiction department of Random House in New York City. She played a huge role in bringing black literature into the mainstream, bringing out the autobiography of boxer Muhammed Ali, The Greatest, and encouraging the rise of a new generation of African-American writers including Angela Davis and Gayl Jones.
Morrison’s first book, The Bluest Eye was published in 1970 when Morrison was 39. This as her first novel, was not a huge success, but her second novel Sula (1973) was nominated for the National Book Award, and her third, The Song of Solomon (1977) bringing national acclaim. Morrison is adamant that her age has not changed the parts of her that matter, and will not define her: ‘There’s anything inside that’s 81. It’s just the changes in the body. And the memory.’
Morrison’s later start in her career has certainly not hindered her ability to create masterpiece after masterpiece. As she would go on to become the first black woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
6. Vera Wang
Whether it’s Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and The City, Mariah Carey, Kim Kardashian, or Victoria Beckham, you are sure to have seen a Wang wedding dress. Vera Wang is an American fashion designer, who is famous for creating beautiful bridal dresses that have been worn by many celebrities and A-listers. Before entering the bridal making business at 30, which would be the defining move of her career, not many are aware that Vera Wang took her hand to figure skating. After failing to make the figure skating Olympics team in her early days, she then held the title of senior fashion editor at Vogue for 15 years before taking over as design director at Ralph Lauren.
It wasn’t until the preparation of her own wedding that she began to sketch her own designs and appointed a dressmaker to create the gown that she envisioned. It was at the age of 40, the following year, that Wang opened her first bridal boutique on Madison Avenue in New York in 1990.
Now at age 71 and 630 million dollars richer. There is no one that hasn’t heard her name or envies the lucky bride that gets to wear one of her dresses. No one is quite as legendary in the business as Vera Wang. Therefore. there isn’t an end in sight for her empire anytime soon.
There is no rule book and no age limit to success. Every person’s journey is different. It is never too late to write that book, paint that painting or win yourself a part in a play. The only way is to create.