The ’80s and ’90s were an inflection point in the fashion world. Within these decades, “super” became a prefix for “model;” Victoria’s Secret debuted its annual runway show; and models like Cindy Crawford and Iman became celebrities in their own right — launching businesses, appearing in music videos, and starring in movies.
Paulina Porizkova was among this vaunted group of women. Her elegant bone structure and bright blue eyes were fixtures in mid-’80s fashion magazines, and her star only increased when she married Ric Ocasek, the frontman of the popular rock band The Cars, in 1989.
But the fashion industry has always favored the young. As the decades passed, Porizkova, now 57, graced fewer magazine covers and made more commercial media appearances. She has a lot to say — and much of what she has to say is about the challenges of aging in the public eye.
On her Instagram account — which has nearly one million followers — Porizkova often posts unretouched, makeup-free selfies with candid captions and hashtags that encourage community-building among middle-aged women. The most common is #betweenjloandbettywhite, a pithy take on the invisibility of naturally aging women who exist between the extremes of the glamorous Jennifer Lopez (age 53) and the elderly Betty White (who passed last year at the age of 99). While there’s no denying the privilege that Porizkova’s fame and beauty afford her, it’s refreshing to hear a woman of her stature speak about the difficulties around aging that all women face. In her new book, fittingly titled No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful (Buy from Amazon, $23.19), Porizkova takes a deeper look at some of the ideas put forth in her Instagram posts.
So, why should you check out Porizkova’s memoir? Perhaps you grew up seeing her iconic photo spreads, or you’re interested in the details of her model/rockstar marriage; maybe you became a fan of her more recently, thanks to her no-holds-barred Instagram presence. In a blurb for the book, the actress Selma Blair (who is no stranger to sharing life’s difficulties), wrote: “I remained contentedly awake all through the night reading this book. Totally absorbed, sighing appreciatively… You will be heartened to be living and aging in the time of Paulina Porizkova.”
Detailing personal and professional challenges.
In the book’s preface, Porizkova describes No Filter as a “collection of essays [that] contains things I want to share, things I have thought about, things that hold me back, and things that propel me forward.” These essays cover topics from both her long career and her personal life, including her former marriage. For almost 30 years, Porizkova was married to Ocasek; the couple separated in 2018, and he unexpectedly passed away a year later from cardiovascular disease. While Porizkova and Ocasek remained in each other’s lives following their split, things were made complicated by messy will disputes after his death, and Porizkova doesn’t shy away from the nuances of grieving an ex-spouse in her book — a specific but rarely-acknowledged kind of sorrow. A New York Times review proclaims that “the memoir truly comes alive — in style and substance — when Porizkova smashes the facade of her glamorous marriage to Ocasek … Porizkova walks a delicate line, capturing their complicated marriage and its many conflicting truths.”
Tackling aging and beauty standards.
Porizkova also writes vividly about her challenging childhood amidst political unrest in Czechoslovakia — she moved to the US in the ’80s, when she was still early in her modeling career — as well as her struggles with panic disorder and the nearly impossible beauty standards she has faced working in the fashion industry. She highlights the media’s preference for depicting “right” and “wrong” ways for women to age and present themselves publicly. “All models were and still are called girls. Regardless of age. Why are there no women in modeling?” she writes.
In an interview with The New York Times, Porizkova called aging “so much fun,” enthusiastically specifying how much she enjoys the benefits of wisdom: “The insights we get with age! It’s like getting a present every day!” This affirmative view of the getting-older process was hard-won, and in the same interview, Porizkova admits, “I still buy the stupid cream that says it’s going to plump and firm my skin, even though I know it’s impossible.” It’s something many mature women can relate to, even if they aren’t supermodels; we are each constantly exposed to contradictory messages about how we’re supposed to look as we age — and as Porizkova proves in her book, these standards can mess with your self-perception no matter who you are or what you look like.
Like many celebrity memoirs, No Filter deep-dives into the messiness behind fame’s closed doors, exposing the grimmer, less glamorous side of the beauty and fashion industries. There’s gossip to be had, but the incisive look at what it means to be “between Jennifer Lopez and Betty White” — neither “young” nor “old” — will be relatable for any normal, non-supermodel woman. At the end of the day, we all deal with the same insecurities.
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