"At 54, I Am Enough" — Malaysians Share How Their Perspective Of "Beauty" Changed With Age

Age is just a number.

Cover image via Nashua Volquez-Young/Pexels & Peter Kalonji/Unsplash

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From different races, skin tones, heights, and even genders, the diversity in representation of beauty in the media is vast.

However, a group of people not often represented when it comes to beauty are those who are more senior in age.

Though some may categorise it as rather cliché, ageing with grace is more than just recognising how our bodies and faces may not be the same as they were 20 years ago, but instead, noticing how the biology of our system evolved to mature with our spirits.

While the world as it exists may have changed over the past few years to expand our horizons on what we categorise as "beautiful", an ever existing yet underrepresented community of individuals continue to remain in the shadows for such a conversation.

Whether you're 40, 50, 60, 70, or even 80, every person wants to be beautiful — and they are!

But is there a key takeaway message that older Malaysians may have learnt when it comes to beauty ideals over the years?

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Image via Lifestylememory/Freepik

We spoke to a few of them, who shared with us just how their take on what is considered beautiful has shifted with age

1. "It's something that radiates, it's an inner peace, a confidence, and joy"

"When I was young, beauty was just something of a physical thing to me. If you're young, tall, slim, fair, and have what commercially was considered as 'good features', you were considered everything that should be desired.

"But as I've gotten older, I realised what it's not what you see, necessarily. It's something that shows in the way you care and love, with passion. It is in a smile that lights up your face, that reaches your eyes.

"It's how you care for yourself, taking the time to put yourself together when going out — light makeup, tidy hair, your favourite earrings, or even wearing something nice. There's so much more to beauty; sometimes, being the most beautiful version of yourself is the best thing there is."

— Carmen, 61 (she/her)

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2. "What is beautiful is no longer bound by what the world tells you it is"

"I was a big fan of America's Next Top Model back in the early 2000s, and I used to strive for everything the show stood for and projected; fair skin, a skinny waist, small hips, and a dainty bust. But over time, and with age, I truly realised that none of those things actually make you beautiful.

"That was to fit a vision of what the world stood for at the time, and as I've gotten older, I now know that you can be beautiful in your own way, not in a way that someone says you are.

"As long as you walk out of the house every day and are happy with what you've got on, there's nothing that should shake your confidence. At 54 years of age, I know that I am enough. I am beautiful."

— Martina, 54 (she/her)

3. "I see beauty as someone's confidence"

"I see beauty as someone's confidence, which can be built through where they find their strengths — for example, physical workouts, cooking, playing host to family and friends, public speaking, and more.

"Running and cycling are now my thing, I get a different perspective to life when I'm in the pain cave! My priorities have also evolved over the years and I value simplicity over sophistication. I find a plain Muji or UNIQLO T-shirt to be stunning! (Laughs).

"I attribute this change in me to my personal relationship (life partner) which has brought stability and happiness to my routine."

— Rob, 47 (he/him)

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4. "A signature red lipstick is everything I need now — sometimes, the only thing I need!"

"Getting divorced in your 40s really puts a damper on your spirit and who you are as a person — Am I good enough? Am I worthy enough? Am I deserving of love, just like the person next to me?

"I didn't think I'd need to ask myself those questions at (what I considered) a later portion of my life. My kids and my husband were all I thought I needed. But I think this instance had to happen for me to realise that, no matter where you are in life, you can still be the best version of yourself if you put your mind to it.

"I know it may not be everyone's cup of tea, but there's something so special and refreshing in putting your pair of heels on and having an amazing night out on the town with your closest friends. That's the beauty I was looking my whole life for, it was always just in myself — and I'm really happy to have discovered it now."

— Amina, 52 (she/her)

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5. "That life-threatening instance ended up changing me for the rest of my days"

"I never had confidence in my body as a young man. I always thought that because I didn't have a six-pack, it made me lesser than. But eating my sorrows away wasn't the right decision, as a heart attack at 37 proved to me. 

"Taking control of my life after that, I made it a point to take at least an hour a day to exercise, every day, no matter rain or shine. I would be lying if I didn't say that the vanity aspects of it were not something I was secretly thrilled about, or getting attention from other men in public, too. 

"Yet, years and years later, I work out five days a week and eat healthy for me — not for anyone else. I see the beauty in myself because I am happy with the person that I am, no matter what my 'age' through statistics may tell me. I've never felt fitter in my whole life, and to me, simply, that is what being beautiful is."

— Logesh, 56 (he/him)

6. "They always say children change you, but in no way did I think this would be how they'd shift my world view"

"I used to be a model in my late teens and early 20s, so vanity was something that just existed inside of me. As a tall, fair, buxom, yet slim girl, the world was my oyster. But time came and went, and I decided on my own accord to leave the industry to start a family of my own. 

"It was not until I had my daughters that my whole world turned upside down. One incident, in particular, where my child was told by a naughty friend at school that she must have been adopted because there was no way I was her mother, calling us as different as night and day.

"Mama bear was ignited. From that day on, there was nothing anybody could say or do that would let me even come close to accepting such a destructive narrative. It's not until now, when my kids are older, and so am I, that I realised how that moment really shifted my view of 'what is beautiful'.

"It's not the colour of your skin, or the clothes you wear, or knowledge you have in your head. A beautiful soul will shine inside and out — no questions asked. If you are beautiful, the world will see it, no matter what physical attributes you have as a person."

— Lala, 60 (she/her).

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7. "There's actually nothing sexier than the wrinkles on one's forehead when they laugh uncontrollably or raise their eyebrows"

"Admittedly, I've always had a thing for older people, even when I was younger. But after marrying my partner, who is 20 years older than me, all the comments from aunties and uncles came pouring in — very intrusive ones even.

"The biggest conundrum I had was people asking me how I found my husband attractive. 'How? Don't you have eyes?' I'd feel like asking them. Ignorant me didn't realise that their questions essentially posed how I could be attracted to such an older person, pretty much them saying that if you're older, you're not considered attractive.

"It was the projection of their emotions onto my relationship for me — despicable, really. I still don't have a problem with him being much older than me, especially now cause I have aged, too. But it's still a moment that sticks out in my mind, 'cause, ageing is one of the most beautiful things in life. I think he's beautiful, and so am I, no matter our age."

— Jenny, 47 (she/her).

8. "So many other things are so much more important, looks are so secondary"

"My perspective is probably more unique than the rest, for the simple reason that I haven't been married, nor have I had a lot of relationship experiences in my life. Despite that — boy, has my taste changed over the years.

"Of course when you're young, a hot body and cute face is enough to satisfy you. But it's almost radical how that is not any of my concern today. There's so much more I am preoccupied with, and so many other priorities I have in my life.

"A person who would care for me when I'm sick, visit my family even when I'm not around, feed my pets when I'm away for work, come to my house and literally sit beside me for hours doing absolutely nothing — that's beauty. The beauty in just existing together, the beauty in seeing who you are to your core, nothing else.

"Society puts way too much emphasis on how you look, but let me say this, when you get to my age, none of that matters. So, don't waste time trying to beautify yourself externally. That probably sounds like the old man in me, but hey, it's still true!" 

— Chris, 50 (he/him)

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Age is just a number! To all Malaysians out there, beauty is more than just your age.

What is inclusive beauty? Be part of the conversation here:

Image via SAYS

This 67-year-old model was turning heads at KLFW last year when she walked for Rizman Ruzaini:

Physical beauty makes up such a small portion of who we really are.

Here are other Malaysians who are proving that beauty is only skin-deep:

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