We asked one of the film’s stars, Bridget Sojourner, 76, why she got involved.
From left: Bridget Sojourner, director Sue Bourne, John Sergeant and fellow fashionista Sue Kreitzman. Photography by Kois Miah.
A few years ago when I started to recognise that many older female newscasters and TV presenters were being removed from their posts, ageism in this society became more apparent to me.
As I have campaigned against discrimination in most areas – certainly racism and sexism - throughout my life, I decided it was time for me to try to take on ageism.
I have always been interested in clothes and style so I thought I would try to enter the modelling industry. You won’t find many older women there, after all!
It was soon apparent that this is impossible - only a handful of token older models are ever going make it. Although I produced an interesting portfolio, all the modelling agencies I approached were dismissive (although I did manage to model in a few collections for the ‘old ladies’ rebellion’ range!).
What was exciting, though, was that through my efforts to get the industry’s attention, a well-known photographer of striking, older New York women, Ari Seth Cohen, took some photographs of me. One of these made an appearance in his book, Advanced Style.
This resulted in documentary film director, Sue Bourne, picking me, along with five other women, with an average age of 80 between us, for Channel 4 documentary, Fabulous Fashionistas, about women who are redefining old age. The film has since become a global phenomenon.
After the documentary was televised, I experienced at least three people a day approach me on public transport, in shops and on the street, to tell me how inspiring the film is. The other five women have experienced the same. In fact, we’ve had everyone from journalists in Mexico to TV company moguls in Japan contacting us, saying the film has been a huge success.
Why? Because it’s about older women feeling good about their age. And, sadly, this is virtually unheard of. Older women are generally discounted, dismissed or completely obliterated in the media. But, the truth is, women can age with panache, dignity and curiosity, and can remain visible, exciting and excited about life.
Our society has lost all respect for the aged and perhaps this comes from the lack of open discussion about death and dying – and, therefore, the process of ageing. We blot out all mention of it from our lives. As the population ages exponentially, it’s so important that this age group becomes more visible.
What Fabulous Fashionistas showed - and hopefully a wider audience is now reflecting on - is that it’s completely possible to age in a positive way.
So, while I’ve very much enjoyed my brief ‘celebrity’ status, I’m now revisiting my old profession as educator, but this time round facilitating workshops on ageing, working with a whole variety of groups - students, care and health workers, nurses and, of course, older people. This is yet another great learning experience which will keep me growing. And it’s this that makes me feel enthusiastic about life.
You can still watch Fabulous Fashionistas on the Channel 4 website. I do hope you enjoy it!
Find out who else won our Older People in the Media Awards.