By Brandi Fowler
Oct 16, 2018 @ 8:30 am
Stuart Ramson/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Ageism in Hollywood is nothing new. Actresses are defined by their ages — often being deemed too young to be taken seriously, too old to be seen as sex pots, and powerless just the same in either camp.

 

For example in 2015, Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose career-making turn in the Secretary was probably one of the sexiest ever onscreen, said she had been told, at 37, that she was too old to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man. She told The Wrap at the time, “It made me feel bad, and then it made feel angry, and then it made me laugh.” And Gyllenhaal’s laughing all the way to the bank now — she’s 40 and playing the extremely alluring lead role on HBO’s the Deuce, while producing the dream projects she wants to see in the world — not waiting to be cast in them.

 

And she’s not the only one rewriting the rules around aging in Hollywood. Just take a look at InStyle’s last three cover stars: September’s Jennifer Aniston is 49; October is Janet Jackson, who is 52; and Tracee Ellis Ross, 45, our November star, all represent women at the top of their game. Which means reflecting on an iconic television and film career with only more to come (Aniston), reaching leading-lady status for the first time (Ross), or embarking on new motherhood (Jackson), and they're all doing it with a wink and, yes, a laugh for anyone who thought they’d be done by now. Sandra Oh finds it funny, too — she's 47 now, and owning her power like never before. And, for the record, her power center is part abs, and part positive outlook. 

 

We chatted up the Killing Eve star at the Emmys about the age she felt the most confident and sexy, and she said with a big smile, “It’s like, it starts at 47 ... if you work on your core.” Oh, who swears by Pilates, circuit training, and acupuncture to feel her best, says working on her fitness is part of what keeps her at the top of her game right now, but the life lessons she's learned along the way are just as crucial. 

 

“Forties are great,” she said. “Things start making sense. You start to really actually understand power — like, actually really understand it.” And now that she gets it, and she's hot on the heels of her history-making Emmy nomination, she’s ready to start making the most of that power. “Honestly, I can’t wait for 50,” she said, adding with another laugh that, “at 50 — I’m going to be still working on my core. But I just really think, knowing a lot of women who I know in my life who are in their 50s, it’s going to be great. That’s it.”

 

We’ve caught up with a few other women in Hollywood lately, and — surprise, surprise — many say they feel the sexiest, and the most powerful, right now. And that represents women aged 26 to 72. Read on to see what they have to say.

 

On getting better all the time...
 

Photo Illustration: Getty Images

Madeline Brewer, 26: "[I feel sexiest] now. I’m 26, I feel amazing. I think it’s only going to get better. Truly. I’m the hottest I’ve ever been. Anybody who says they peaked in high school is wrong. Right? I’ve heard people say that, and I’m like, you have to reconsider your life. ... I’m doing my best now — I’m doing my best, living my best life."

Nicole Richie, 37: "I feel like for my parents’ generation, it was very hush-hush. And not even just how old you are, but your self-care plan. I actually find it really inspiring that women now are so open about different stages of their age and what that means. Every year brings something different, especially from the time you’re in your early-20s to your late-20s, your early-30s, your late-30s — it all brings something different. Every stage is really important to talk about and enjoy and have fun with."

Nathalie Emmanuel, 29: "Do you know what? With each year, I think I grow more into my confidence, because you always have moments where you feel slightly insecure or slightly off balance. I think with each year, as I’m getting older, and having more experiences, and more struggles that you have to overcome, that is what gives me confidence … With each year, I just think I’m becoming more and more the woman that I am and want to be."

Betty Gilpin, 32: "[I feel my] most confident and most sexy. I think that a lot of ladies deal with a lot of shame, and I think that that can be sort of a prison for when you are at your sort of magazine-standard most pretty. I look back at pictures of me when I’m 17. I’m like, wow, she’s so pretty — she felt so ugly at that time — and now I’m 32, and I feel so much better than that. So hopefully it just gets better and better."

Photo Illustration: Getty Images

Sarah Drew, 38: "I’ve got to say, I’m feeling the most confident right now. It’s weird. And I have started to see lines on my face, and I have my expression lines are coming out, and my eye lines are coming out, but I feel like I’m in a moment of my life where I’m like fully inside of my body, and fully so confident and so excited about my abilities, and also about my future, and about the things that I want to do, and the things that I’m passionate about, and I think that it feels better now than it did when I was 22. I was awkward, gangly — I didn’t know what to do with myself when I was 22 — and now I feel like a grownup. It’s good, and I’ve got my kids, and I married the love of my life. Yeah, I feel the best right now."

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Tatiana Maslany, 33: "I don’t know. It’s growing and changing. Every year is different for me. I think the beauty of being a woman is that we get to go through so many different amazing changes throughout our lives, and I’m very happy to grow. I’m very happy to change and experience a new body, and experience hormonal changes, and all that beautiful stuff."

Hilary Duff, 31: “Some pretty big stuff happened to me really early on in my life — obviously career, but then getting married, having a baby, and getting divorced. A lot happened for me before 27. So when I turned 27 or 28, I was like, ‘Cool, here I am again!’ I feel like I had my shit together … I feel so much more comfortable in my skin now.”
 

On feeling the most powerful…

Photo Illustration: Getty Images

Tiffany Haddish, 38: "I feel the most powerful every day that I wake up. I was pretty weak 10 years ago, but I was still powerful because I got up. I got up to get here. I’m not at my maximum power level yet. I have a lot more growing to do. To stay confident, I tell myself I love myself, and I give myself the things that I need. The best lesson I’ve learned came from my grandma. She taught me, ‘Don't let everybody in your house. When I say house, I mean vagina!’"

Alyssa Milano, 45: "I think the most powerful would probably be now — I'm just having no fear to use my voice or to use my platform; not worrying about, like, if I was going to alienate fans for being politically active or vocal. That's been super empowering. I think as far as advice along the way, I think, you know, my mom always instilled in us that great things happen when women support each other."

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On acknowledging aging — and owning it…
 

Sarah Drew: "Actually, it was a picture, a selfie that I took with my daughter when she was about eight months old. I just saw these little tiny lines in the picture, and it was the first time I really had noticed them, and my first reaction actually was, ‘I love those lines.’ And the thing is, I go back and forth because it’s difficult in this industry for women. Let’s just leave it at that. But in terms of living life, I was like, those lines tell a story. They really do, and that’s my baby, that’s my second child. I’ve lived, and I’ve loved, and I’ve become a mother, and I love that it shows on my face."

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Photo Illustration: Getty Images

Nicole Richie: "There’s nothing you can do about it! You cannot stop aging, so you might as well just enjoy the ride."

Nathalie Emmanuel: "It’s just things like, when you tell people your age, and they go, ‘oh, I didn’t realize you were that old.’ You’re like, what? Old. Don’t use that word around me. First of all, people say old like it’s a bad word, and it’s not. But that was probably the first thing. Also, you just start to notice things don’t sit as high as they used to, even as little as like a few years ago. You’re like, wow, when did that happen? But it’s like, it happens to everyone. You just have to look in the mirror and tell yourself how fierce you are every day. That’s sort of how I get by."

Candice Bergen, 72: "I think it's important for younger women to know that it's not over until it's over. Your life can be infinitely rich and engaging and sexy."