I love Janet Street-Porter. I’m well aware that she’s probably like Marmite – you either love her or hate her, but I personally think she’s a breath of fresh air, mainly because she just tells it as it is. Not to please or impress anyone, just because that’s her opinion and she has no qualms about airing it. That’s obviously why she’s been so successful in securing high-powered jobs in her time; her strength of character and intelligence shone through, even though she didn’t fit the mould of the ‘power dresser’ or ‘femme fatale’ in the office.
I remember several years ago, me and my daughters were mindlessly leafing through books at the airport, killing time before we caught our flight, and had one of those laugh-out-loud moments as we came across one of her books, which basically said if you’re feeling really depressed because you’ve just been dumped, fear not…there are another 2 billion or so men on the planet to choose from. Just what I needed to hear at the time!
The thing about Janet is that she always appears as if she doesn’t give a damn about what other people think, so I was surprised that she recently revealed that it took her until her 40s to feel happy in her own skin. In her teens she was nicknamed Olive Oyl because she was gangly, with straight ‘beige’ hair and prominent teeth, and as she moved into the spotlight her confidence wasn’t helped by the ‘endless nasty cartoons and impersonations I’ve faced throughout my adult life.’
But, now 70, Janet is on a mission to fly the flag for older women and embrace their bodies, warts and all! Alleluia! She suddenly sounds like one of us; a normal, everyday woman with insecurities, who admits that she avoids communal changing rooms, has cellulite, a non-existent waist and small, slightly droopy boobs and her legs are ‘a bit of a disaster zone, covered in scars from falls, bruises from playing tennis and banging into things.’ She is sick and tired of adverts aimed at the over 50s which use rake-thin former models to promote their products when ‘real women have hysterectomy scars, bingo wings, slightly saggy chins.’ Absolutely!
She worked hard to get noticed for her brain, not her bust and although people’s comments about her looks hurt, she didn’t let them stop her, but realises that others might not be so thick-skinned. Apparently one recent report found that only 20% of women in the UK feel body-confident and 85% stay at home rather going to important events when they are not feeling their best. What a crying shame! And I have to admit I know plenty of people who are going to start living ‘once I’ve lost half a stone’.
So Janet persuaded her colleagues on Loose Women, who are all different ages, shapes and sizes, to bare all in swimsuits and bikinis and appear on billboards nationwide, with no airbrushing allowed, to ‘shout from the rooftops that normal is perfectly fine, in fact it’s gorgeous.’ Janet says she doesn’t bother with body brushing or sit-ups, takes 10 minutes to get ready, drinks wine every day, shuns ‘clean eating’, and believes we shouldn’t be brainwashed by fake images of women. ‘Real women look like we do – we all just need to enjoy it more,’ she says.
And so say all of us! What an absolute godsend she is! What a goddamn inspiration! I have to say I’m sick and tired of being bombarded with articles about people like Christie Brinkley, Jane Fonda and Raquel Welsh who all look absolutely fabulous for their age, but have obviously had quite a few nips and tucks along the way. And please do not even get me started on all the different diets that monopolise our newspapers and magazines relentlessly. Cut out sugar, fats, carbohydrates, red meat. Eat only vegetables. You might look a bit pasty, have no energy and need to go to bed at 7pm because you’re so knackered and hungry, but, oh, it’s soooo good for you! What a load of codswallop! The real message behind all of these diets is this: you’re far from perfect, but this will go some way to solving your problem. Says who?
Some of the most beautiful women in the world are people like Janet, who have personalities and charisma in buckets, rather than the token pretty face and toned body. Whilst some people spend their lives on a treadmill (pardon the pun) in a gym or splash hundreds of pounds on face creams, others actually LIVE! They do good deeds, they care for and about other people, they work with children, they look after old people, they make you laugh when you’re feeling low, they are a good friend, a good neighbour, a good egg!
And when we all reach those Pearly Gates, believe me, we won’t be counting how many wrinkles we have, how wonderfully manicured our nails are or how pert our behinds are. We’ll be thinking did we laugh enough, love enough, do everything on our bucket lists? And last, but not least, do we have any regrets? Not about the things we did do, but about the things we didn’t! Please note, I will not be thinking, ooh, I regret not eating that pasta, drinking that wine or having that fling with a toy boy? Why? Because, hopefully, I’ll have made damn sure I enjoyed them all. After all, you only live once, don’t you?