What Can We All Learn From J-Lo Turning 50?

As Jennifer Lopez celebrates her milestone birthday this month, Laura Craik looks at the women owning their age...


by Laura Craik |
Updated on

What does 50 look like? When you were a child, maybe you imagined it as some twilight state, possibly involving an armchair, probably involving Horlicks and definitely involving cats. Bedtime would be 9.30pm, Zara would be a stranger and alcohol would be off-menu because it would interfere with your meds. Maybe a sherry at Christmas. Just the one.

That’s what I thought, anyway, until I hit 40 and realised how dumb I’d been. It’s one of the privileges of childhood that you can be hilariously wrong about things, and besides, no kid should be able to grasp what it means to be 50. Although these days, can anyone? You don’t need the anthropological aptitude of David Attenborough to deduce that 50 really doesn’t look like it used to. Thanks to a slew of apparently age-defying humans, 50 is less ‘the new 40’ than ‘the new 35’. Or even ‘the new 25’, if you consider Jennifer Lopez, who turns 50 this month looking as gorgeous now as she did a quarter of a century ago. Just as genetically blessed is Gwen Stefani, who will turn 50 in October, no doubt rocking a crop top just as magnificently as she always has. And then there’s Jennifer Aniston, whose ‘complete social media ban’ enforced on her 50th birthday celebrations in February didn’t preclude the odd leaked pic of her looking smokin’ in a tight black dress.

Which isn’t to suggest that ‘looking good at 50’ has to mean ‘looking good in the same body-conscious clothes that you wore 30 years ago’. (Although I don’t blame Elizabeth Hurley, 54, for plastering her Instagram account with pics of herself in a bikini: for one thing, she owns a beachwear range, and for another, if you had a bod like that at any age, you’d probably want to show it off.) Likewise, have work done if it makes you feel good (no judgement: judgement is sooo ageing) but the goal is to look like the best version of yourself, rather than one desperate to turn back the clock.

However, the real reason the new slew of ‘middle-aged’ women are so compelling is that they seem so comfortable with ageing and – crucially – are doing so on their own terms, as J-Lo shows. Ever since she rose from the Bronx to the A-list, Lopez has been unapologetic in the best kind of way. And while the road hasn’t always been smooth – one arrest (with her boyfriend P Diddy in 1999), one doomed engagement (to Ben Affleck in 2004 – mainly tragic because it killed stone dead the best portmanteau ever, Bennifer), two divorces (from Cris Judd in 2002 and Mare Anthony in 2014) and a cheating scandal (her current beau, Alex Rodriguez, was accused of infidelity earlier this year) – she has always lived life on her own terms. I mean, you’ve got to respect a woman whose 2000 appearance in a plunge-fronted Versace gown basically spawned the invention of Google Images. Currently happier and fitter-looking than she’s ever been (even P Diddy was moved to comment on one of her gym selfies), J-Lo makes 50 look fun.

Part of my fear of growing old, when I was a kid, was born out of the total and utter paucity of positive older female role models. Granted, there are still unsettling incidences of older women being shooed out of jobs on primetime TV – when Arlene Phillips left Strictly Come Dancing, some people cited ageism – but the situation isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be. Fiona Bruce, Kirsty Wark, Mariella Frostrup and Carol Vorderman are just some of the 50-plus women fronting TV shows, and it’s impossible to imagine that Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis or Good Morning Britain’s Susanna Reid, both 48, will be put out to pasture on their 50th birthdays.

Things may still be very far from perfect in Hollywood, but it has never been a better time to be an older actor. As Nicole Kidman, 51, said when she won a SAG award for Big Little Lies in 2018: ‘Twenty years ago, we were pretty washed up by this stage in our lives. That’s not the case now. We have proven [that] these actresses and so many more... are potent, powerful and viable. I just beg that the industry stays behind us, because our stories are finally being told.’ Slowly but surely, they are: witness films like Gloria Bell, the story of a divorcee who finds new love on the dance floor, starring Julianne Moore, 58. Or Late Night, a comedy about the comeback of a veteran TV talk-show host, in which Emma Thompson, 60, plays the lead role. And let’s not forget Second Act, which unpacked the notions of being judged too old and too uneducated through the story of a late 40-something woman reinventing herself. The star? The inimitable J-Lo.

Still, the fact that we still feel compelled to give a shout-out to any woman turning 50 who hasn’t degenerated into a dried-up, unemployable crone proves we have a way to go in achieving socio-economic parity. But as J-Lo illustrates, women 50 – and upwards – are working , dating , loving and living their best lives with a verve and aplomb that makes growing old seem the privilege it should be. What does 50 look like? The best answer is: anything you want it to

Check out some of Jennifer Lopez's best moments...


The Debrief Jennifer Lopez

Second Chances, 19931 of 37

Second Chances, 1993

Meet Jennifer Lopez in a TV series about

Money Train, 19952 of 37

Money Train, 1995

Anaconda, 19973 of 37

Anaconda, 1997

U-Turn, 19974 of 37

U-Turn, 1997

Out of Sight, 19985 of 37

Out of Sight, 1998

Waiting For Tonight, 19996 of 37

Waiting For Tonight, 1999

If You Had My Love, 19997 of 37

If You Had My Love, 1999

MTV Music Awards, 19988 of 37

MTV Music Awards, 1998

Love Don't Cost A Thing, 20009 of 37

Love Don't Cost A Thing, 2000

The Cell, 200010 of 37

The Cell, 2000

MTV Music Awards, 200011 of 37

MTV Music Awards, 2000

Ain't It Funny, 200112 of 37

Ain't It Funny, 2001

Play, 200113 of 37

Play, 2001

The Wedding Planner, 200114 of 37

The Wedding Planner, 2001

I'm Real, 200115 of 37

I'm Real, 2001

Enough, 200216 of 37

Enough, 2002

Jenny From The Block, 200217 of 37

Jenny From The Block, 2002

Maid In Manhatten, 200218 of 37

Maid In Manhatten, 2002

I'm Gonna Be Alright, 200219 of 37

I'm Gonna Be Alright, 2002

All I Have, 200220 of 37

All I Have, 2002

I'm Glad, 200321 of 37

I'm Glad, 2003

Gigilli, 200322 of 37

Gigilli, 2003

Shall We Dance, 200423 of 37

Shall We Dance, 2004

Monster In Law, 200524 of 37

Monster In Law, 2005

NRJ Music Awards, 200525 of 37

NRJ Music Awards, 2005

An Unfinished Life, 200526 of 37

An Unfinished Life, 2005

Get Right, 200527 of 37

Get Right, 2005

El Cantante, 200528 of 37

El Cantante, 2005

The Back Up Plan, 200929 of 37

The Back Up Plan, 2009

I'm Into You, 201130 of 37

I'm Into You, 2011

On The Floor, 201131 of 37

On The Floor, 2011

Parker, 201332 of 37

Parker, 2013

Human Rights National Dinner, 201333 of 37

Human Rights National Dinner, 2013

American Idol, 201434 of 37

American Idol, 2014

Booty, 201435 of 37

Booty, 2014

The Boy Next Door, 201536 of 37

The Boy Next Door, 2015

Shades Of Blue, 201637 of 37

Shades Of Blue, 2016

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