Novelist Jennifer Weiner defended Madonna’s much-scrutinized appearance at the recent Grammy Awards by comparing her looks to past efforts by iconic women like Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth I.
The 64-year-old pop singer garnered attention after the ceremony Sunday night for her appearance before introducing singer Sam Smith. In a guest essay for The New York Times, Weiner acknowledged that, in a close-up shot, Madonna “looked exaggerated, pushed and polished to an extreme” in a way that unsettled people.
However, she also noted that many famous women throughout history have gone to unusual lengths to appear beautiful.
“Throughout history, many aesthetic interventions were meant to be subtle, invisible, private, whether it was Cleopatra slipping off to bathe in donkey milk, Queen Elizabeth I patting a toxic mixture of vinegar and lead on her face, or a 1950s housewife discreetly touching up her grays. Does she or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure!” Weiner wrote.
“Is it possible that Madonna has been so blinkered by her fame and wealth that she’s lost the ability to see herself objectively, like Michael Jackson pursuing an ever-thinner nose or Jocelyn Wildenstein doing … whatever it was she was doing? Yes, but whatever her intentions, the superstar has gotten us talking about how good looks are subjective and how ageism is pervasive,” Weiner wrote. “In the end, whether she meant to make a statement or just to look younger, better, ‘refreshed,’ almost doesn’t matter. If beauty is a construct, Madonna’s the one who put its scaffolding on display.”
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