Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis show how game has changed in Hollywood

Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis' wins at the Oscars give hope to many that Hollywood is putting more value in the acting skills of older women.
Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Yeoh at the Oscars
Posted at 4:26 PM, Mar 13, 2023

Watching the Academy Awards at her home in Dallas Sunday night, Diane DeNigris Hardgrove hoped that Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Yeoh would prevail, showing that older women still have chops in Hollywood.

Indeed, the two actresses took Hollywood’s biggest acting honors for females, signaling a change in an industry that traditionally eschews aging, especially for women.

On Hollywood’s biggest stage, best actress winner Michelle Yeoh appeared to call out CNN anchor Don Lemon, who previously said 51-year-old presidential candidate Nikki Haley is no longer in her prime. 

“Ladies, don’t let anyone tell you, you are past your prime,” Yeoh said while accepting her award. 

That comment drew cheers at the Los Angeles awards show and around the world. 

Older women have traditionally played supporting parts in Hollywood as youth and beauty are currency in the film industry. The two top actress awards going to Michelle Yeoh, 60, and Jamie Lee Curtis, 64, illustrates that media is embracing older women in lead roles.

Hardgrove was beaming with pride when Curtis and Yeoh claimed their trophies.

“I was crying watching the ladies,” said Hardgrove, 45. “I love how they’re empowering women of all ages.”

Diane DeNigris Hardgrove / Photo by Steve Ellinger

Not Past Their Prime

Pop culture has long indicated that women past 50 are past their prime. The female stars of the 1980s sitcom “The Golden Girls” were in their mid-50s, sharing a home in Florida.

Now, there’s a movement to portray older women as more than retired, one-dimensional characters. Consider the reboot of the 1990s cast of “Sex and the City.” Now in their mid-50s, the 2022 series, “And Just Like That,” show that Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte are still strutting around New York City with Manolo Blahnik stilettos and designer purses. They’re the same age as women in the “Golden Girls.” But 30 years after that sitcom ended, the women of “Sex and the City” are portrayed as being on the go, talking about parenting, menopause and relationships.

Super model Paulina Porizkova and actress Brooke Shields, in their mid-50s, have publicly addressed the issue of ageism for women, especially in a visual field like media. It’s a narrative they are hoping to change.

In a 2021 AARP survey, 78% of older workers said they had seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, the highest level since the group began the survey in 2003. Sixty-four percent of women said they faced age discrimination compared with 59% of men.

Times Are Changing

Change takes time and Hardgrove said she is finding work as a model in her mid-40s, working through Dallas-based Dragon Fly Agency. 

The agency represents all ages, genders and races, Hardgrove said, noting the modeling industry is now more inclusive.

Hardgrove is the director of the Mrs. New York pageant that draws contestants mostly in their 40s. It is now including a Ms. New York pageant for divorced women or women who never married, she said.

Modeling, like Hollywood, is now aware of diversity, in race, age and sizes. 

Things were different 20 years ago, said Hardgrove, who began modeling at age 30. The industry wanted younger women. Hardgrove worked in the mortgage industry before trying her hand at modeling, which she says takes practice and discipline.

“I love how far we’ve come and where we are now, “ she said.


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