She has more Oscar nominations than any other actor, and she’s done it while staying true to herself. Now, Meryl Streep (71 today) is the perfect candidate to become an icon of our times proving that it’s not only possible for mature women to enjoy life to the fullest but also for older actresses to continue playing nuanced, complex characters.
The secret of her neverending success? Keep pushing the boundaries in challenging herself while embracing growing older as an opportunity.
The good thing about getting older is that you find your own way – she said-. You have your own rules. You have your own understanding of yourself, and that’s what you’re going to count on. In the end, it’s what feels right to you. Not what your mother told you. Not what some actress told you. Not what anybody else told you but the still, small voice.
Ageing doesn’t scare her anymore and she’s certainly not ready to sit back or slow down. Her advice is to embrace life without being too worried about growing older or becoming invisible.
Don’t waste so much time worrying about your skin or your weight. I think the most liberating thing I did early on was to free myself from any concern with my looks as they pertained to my work. Develop what you do, what you put your hands on in the world. You have to embrace getting older. Life is precious, and when you’ve lost a lot of people, you realize each day is a gift.
From Sophie’s Choice to The Iron Lady, Meryl Streep has enthralled us for 40 years in many roles. And despite her huge fame, she has managed to keep her feet on the ground and her family-life private (she is married to sculptor Donald Gummer for more than 40 years, mum of four grown-up children). As well as many other women in the film industry, she also experienced Hollywood’s double standards when it comes to casting women. In more than one occasion, she recalled how, when she hit the age of 40, she was promptly offered not one but three parts playing a witch. “Our culture is pretty youth-obsessed. I wasn’t offered any female adventurers, or love interests, or heroes or demons– she said-. I was offered witches because I was considered old at 40. I thought I was washed up.”
Timeless actress and intelligent, strong woman, she now paving the way for other older professionals, in an industry which is famously youth dominated. How? She has used her own money to help fund a screenwriting lab for women writers over 40, to be run by New York Women in Film and Television and IRIS, a collective of women filmmakers. She believes that “improvements for underrepresented groups on camera will only truly change when Hollywood shifts away from the straight, white-male-dominated scene behind that camera“.
Meryl also believes the biggest life lesson she feels women need to embrace is to learn to speak up.
Sometimes women get mixed up and think that if they’re more beautiful, they’ll be more loved; if they look better on the outside, that’s what will make them important or loveable – she said-. The idea that their beauty will give them meaning in the world is wrong. We have to be very vigilant. Younger generations of women may not be aware of how hard it was just to get to where we are today. In the 1970s, there were very few women doctors, lawyers, and virtually no CEOs. And even today we still have a long way to go to achieve pay equality not just in Hollywood but in all professions. We should be careful not to overestimate the actual freedom of women today. Just because we have more say and we walk around in pants more than we did before, that doesn’t mean that we have left the repressive and discriminatory aspects of the 20th century behind.
Happy birthday, Meryl. Your incomparable charm and personality teach us that in order to be good enough for others, we first have to believe we are good enough for ourselves.