All it takes is a few minutes in the supermarket checkout line for a woman’s self-esteem to take a hit—especially if that woman is over the age of 40. Youthful faces peer out from glossy covers of magazines filled with photoshopped ads and articles on ways to “fight the aging process.”
Females over 40 are tabloid fodder if they dare to bare an imperfect, aging “beach body,” or embrace their graying hair. These messages leave no doubt about society’s views on how women should age. In short? They shouldn’t! But former fashion editor and stylist Elisa Goodkind and her daughter Lily Mandelbaum are changing the conversation around age and beauty through their digital storytelling platform, StyleLikeU.
With a mission aimed at “inspiring acceptance through revealing what is underneath personal style,” StyleLikeU creates radically honest, authentic, vulnerable, and powerful docu-style videos that promote self-love, diversity, and inclusion. “The What’s Underneath Project,” garnered national attention when it featured individuals of all ages, shapes, genders, races, and abilities, removing layers of clothing as they shared their personal journeys of style, self-image, and identity.
Now, this mother/daughter duo is focusing the lens on "Defying Ageism,” a project that unpacks fears and breaks down taboos around aging, menopause, and more. Featuring women ages 50-100, including well-known icons like Paulina Porizcova, the series is meant to empower women and remind them that not only are they not alone, but they are also still fabulous at 50+. We couldn’t agree more. We sat down to talk to StyleLikeU’s cofounders about their work.
StyleLikeU might be best known for “The What’s Underneath Project,” that literally has stripped-down society’s views of beauty and style. What was the impetus for that project?
Elisa: After 25 years of working as a stylist with celebrities and major magazines, I took a break to have children. When I came back, the industry had completely changed from a place that celebrated individualism and creativity to a place that celebrated capitalism. It became about exploiting people’s insecurities in order to sell things. I didn’t want to be part of that messaging because that’s what keeps people small. We want society to believe that beauty is a feeling and a spirit. You are beautiful exactly as you are, so own it.
Lily: We had these incredible frustrations, a mom within her industry, and me as a consumer who had body image issues because I was curvier than what the media was showing as "ideal." We both knew people of all ages and body types who had incredible personal styles that reflected how strong they were as individuals. We decided to pick up a video camera, go into their homes, and find out why they dress the way they do and what inspires them. A few years into it, they started removing their clothes during the interviews to illustrate that style is so much more than what you wear, it's a reflection of who you are. That's when StyleLikeU took off.
StyleLikeU is all about body positivity and giving a voice to those people who are made to feel left out of the "beauty" conversation. How does your "Defying Ageism" series relate to that?
Lily: The body positivity movement has been getting a lot of traction over the last few years, but agism hasn’t really made it there yet. Women still don’t really talk about the changes associated with aging and menopause so there is a fear that exists around the whole process. Fear of aging is a toxic way to live, and we think the world would be a better place if we all owned our power rather than diminished it.
Elisa: I started StyleLikeU in my early 50s. In my personal experience, these were the best years of my life as well as my biggest growth period. But when it came to the changes associated with menopause, I had no one to talk to about them. I went through it alone with symptoms I didn't understand.
Through "Defying Ageism," I have learned that there are many women who have had the same experiences I did. They were launched from a dark, transformational moment into the best time of their lives. They began to fully know themselves and become more whole than they have ever been. There is an incredible amount of brainwashing that makes society reinforce the idea that women are invisible after a certain age, and that menopause is something to keep quiet. I want women to understand that they are just getting started.
How does partnering with Bonafide support your efforts?
Lily: We partner with like-minded companies that we feel are doing important work or disrupting. We feel like Bonafide is on the same page that we are when it comes to destigmatizing menopause and encouraging and embracing conversations surrounding aging.
What does beauty mean to you?
Elisa: It means that you stop resisting the changes that come with growing older and allow yourself to accept the invitation rather than deny or be embarrassed by it. That’s where your power is, and our end goal is to free people to be as powerful as they are meant to be. There’s this whole beautiful, amazing, middle section of life, and it’s a lot longer than people think. Self-acceptance is key to enjoying it, and people who accept themselves radiate energy and beauty that cannot be denied.
Why do you think it’s important to get more women talking about aging?
Elisa: There is strength and power in numbers. When women share their stories with authenticity and vulnerability, it facilitates connection and removes the feelings of isolation that can surround aging and menopause.