today’s icons – who inspires you?

by Sharon Santoni


I received an email today with pictures of the French actress Vanessa Paradis.  She has had her hair cut short, and she is looking gorgeous and triumphant, with the figure of a twenty year old although she is twice that age.

Of course we all know that the photos are corrected and any imperfections airbrushed away but who cares?!  Seeing women looking this good as they move through life is simply inspirational.

I find inspiration in women nearer my age, and the one that has my attention at present is  Robin Wright.    I’m watching her in House of Cards and I love her poise, her elegance, her self confidence and of course her faultless figure and beautiful bone  structure.

It is probably the role she plays too.   For the series she is impeccably dressed, each outfit completed with killer heels no matter the occasion.    She looks the way I wish I did, but know I never will ….

So I wondered who inspires you?   Is there someone  who  makes you aim a little higher, or are you happy to do your own thing.  Tell me please, I’d love to know


Pamela April 4, 2014 - 12:15 am

As an actress, she probably needs to look like this to maintain her career.

But otherwise this is worshipping at the Hollywood shrine of eternal youth. I don’t share a wish to look similar to this at 60. At the extreme edges it can lead to women feeling they need to have botox, face lifts, and live on vitamins tablets, green juice, egg white omelettes and lettuce leaves. Also to having a personal trainer or running for an hour a day. Most of these things are not particularly good for you. Women of such extreme thinness often develop osteoporosis as they age and too much running damages joints and leads to hip and knee replacements in later life.

Perhaps women need to focus more on health and happiness rather than on trying to look like a Hollywood icon. I can admire their looks sometimes in movies and on the red carpet but even if I could look like them as I age, I wouldn’t want to. If you watched the fashion and celebrity takes at the Oscars, you might have seen Kim Novak flash on. She was stunningly beautiful in Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” but now her face has had too much bad plastic surgery and she sadly looks like a gargoyle. Much better to age gracefully. We can still look after our appearance, but don’t have to drive ourselves to extremes. I’d rather enjoy life, travel, my grandchildren, books, fine food and wine – and nice clothes and accessories – and not worry too much about extra kilos or the inevitable wrinkles as one ages. I’m happy too look like a woman of a certain age – and not like a teenager. Cheers, Pamela

Libbie April 4, 2014 - 12:56 am

Oh how right you are! And so well written!

Mumbai April 5, 2014 - 1:44 pm

Pamela, I agree. We are worried about the
young women who want to look like the famous movie stars or models , but most of the elderly want to achieve the same…how absurd.

Sharon Santoni April 4, 2014 - 7:53 am

Hi Pamela, of course I agree with all that you say which is full of good sense. I don’t really know much about robin wright or whether she exercises a lot or has enlisted the help of a cosmetic surgeon. I simply admire someone of her age for looking so poised and fit. Xx

Mikki April 4, 2014 - 2:04 pm

So true about poor Kim, but Naomi Watts was my idea of Hollywood aging well without plastic surgery and the like. When she was interviewed on the red carpet, up close, she obviously had not had any “work done.” She had natural lines and some wrinkles which made her look like a normal woman in her 40’s and she looked gorgeous that way, very natural and quite beautiful. I hope she doesn’t succumb the the pressures of Hollywood and trying to stay young like Kim has.

Debbie Watton April 5, 2014 - 6:31 am

I agree with Pamela, I find the obsession with thinness and looking years younger than you are rather shallow. At my local greyhound welfare shelter there’s a woman who works every day, no matter how cold, wet and windy and. She has a strong personality and a great sense of humour, she isn’t always easy to get on with but her dedication to the meaningful and so worthwhile task in hand is unswerving and I admire this enormously. She makes a real difference to the lives of so many dogs and people.

Valerie April 4, 2014 - 12:19 am

Qui m’inspire? Inès de la Fressange, Loulou de la Falaise, Helen Mirren, Emma Thompson, Christine Lagarde, Michelle Obama…and Maggie Smith.

Libbie April 4, 2014 - 12:57 am

And don’t forget Judy Dench!

Pamela April 4, 2014 - 1:46 am

Absolutely! No botox or facelifts there, she’s aged naturally and gracefully. A fantastic woman and actress! Pamela

Sharon santoni April 4, 2014 - 11:06 am

And I would add Gena Rowlands 🙂

Oscar April 4, 2014 - 8:59 pm

Dear Sharon,

I would like you to get a gentleman’s opinion: please be Just Yourself!
Every woman in the world has something beautiful.
Need some cosmetics? Yes. Some perfume? Yes. Nice clothing? Yes, but nothing expensive or extravagant.
Just be yourself.
I’m a combined media artist and designer from Mexico. Love your pictures. Blessings to all women in the world.

Mumbai April 5, 2014 - 1:49 pm

when you agree Sharon, why do you admire
these women and write about in your blog?
My comment might sound a bit envious but isn’t I just find it under your niveau because you always write about interesting issues.

Sharon santoni April 5, 2014 - 6:56 pm

Thank you Oscar , I really appreciate your input!


Isabel April 5, 2014 - 10:03 am

Absolutely agree! All fantastic women who are truly inspiring and uplifting 🙂

Katherine leighty April 4, 2014 - 12:20 am

I am afraid I am at an age where there aren’t any to inspire! Now things are about enjoying whatever I do! living out the end of my life hopefully inspiring others or at least teaching others that life is short! love one another and learn to love life…it is the only one you get…enjoy it! So when it comes to my sense of fashion I have faith in my own intuition, my home I make beautiful for us to enjoy, I take care of my body for my health to keep the pain at bay as long as possible and focus on my family…today my sister, mother and I went shopping…got my (79 year old) mother some new glasses, had a hearty lunch then finished the grocery shopping…tiring yes…seeing the joy in my housebound mother fantastic…simple pleasures…I hope the ladies you are inspired by are inspired by those simple pleasures because ultimately they mean the most!

Leslie in Portland, Oregon April 5, 2014 - 7:19 am

Here, here, Katherine!

Angela Muller April 6, 2014 - 12:57 pm

Katherine… beautifully expressed! Ultimately, most of us know this is the only worthwhile journey through life…..though it may just take some of us a little longer to locate the map.

Debbie April 4, 2014 - 12:31 am

Judy Dench, classy and talented lady.

Jean April 4, 2014 - 1:21 am

I am inspired by older women (younger too), but the ones I know who strive no more. Therefore, they aren’t celebrities. I find them among my neighbors, my church and some (not all) relatives. But for the celebrities who try to hold onto some dignity as they age, like Robin Wright, here here!

monique April 4, 2014 - 1:53 am

Oh my gosh Sharon..I used to love Robin W.
Since House Of Cards..not so much.
And I really only find women who are not going for artificial fillers ..enhancers etc..truly beautiful.
I find a face that has a history..far more interesting.
Make up moderation..lovely..but I am tired and actually annoyed at seeing 60 yr olds look like 40.
Where are we headed?
My most attractive friend is the least vain..least made up..most humble..and is the oldest.

Dale Ballard April 4, 2014 - 2:31 am

My favorite these days (actually from Annie Hall forward I guess) is Diane Keaton – I don’t know if she’s had any work done but if so, it is not obvious, she and my other favorite Katherine Hepburn do that classic menswear thing – I think it’s wonderful!

Sharon santoni April 4, 2014 - 12:12 pm

Diane Keaton and Katherine Hepburn are certainly both totally inspiring!

Mikki April 4, 2014 - 2:08 pm

Oh, my but Diane Keaton lets them air brush the heck out of her for ads! There’s hardly a line on her face in magazines but if you see her live on TV, she has lots of lines and should. I’d like to say Diane Sawyer, but she has them, or the TV people chose to, filter her and when you watch her on the news, she looks “fuzzy,” because they have so many filters on her!

Sue Malizia April 4, 2014 - 3:00 am

I have so many women that I admire or they inspire me one way or another…so here goes my list in no particular order:
Emma Thompson
Julie Andrews
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Julia Childs
Ina Garten
Meryl Streep
Vicki Archer
Frances Mayes
Rebecca Eaton
Jenna Rolands
Lauren Bacall
Helen Mirren
Judy Dench
Tish Jett

mai April 4, 2014 - 3:45 am

It is the qualities and values that inspire me in a person more than what they look like. My example is Betty Churcher. Her name may not mean a lot to those outside Australia, but she is best known as the director of the National Gallery of Australia from 1990- 1997, the first woman in that role and a great role model in many ways. Now 83, her eyesight, sadly diminishing, she is inspirational because of her positive attitude on art and life. Her gift for arousing curiosity about art through her books and short documentaries and her public talks, is legendry. She recognizes now her time is short and is planning another book of drawings of her best loved artworks as a final gift. She is a gracious, generous and a very beautiful woman in an understated way.

Pamela April 4, 2014 - 11:53 pm

As an Aussie, it’s lovely to see all our wonderful women named as icons. So interesting too that they’re not all actresses, like Betty Churcher above.
Another icon for me is Therese Rein. Her father was badly injured in WWII. Inspired by his determination to make the most of his life and overcome his disabilities, after finishing university she set up from scratch an employment agency for people with disabilities. In helping others she created a v successful business, even branching offshore. At the same time she was a loving and supportive mother to three children and a loyal and supportive wife to a man with great political ambitions. When he became Prime Minister of Australia, to avoid any perception of conflict of interest, she sold off the Australian arm of her business but kept her overseas operations. She is now one of the richest women in Oz, from her own astute efforts. During her time as First Lady, she didn’t try to be a glamazon but always looked attractive, appropriate and, despite the often negative press directed at her husband, dignified and warm. In addition to all her other achievements she set herself an unusual goal for a woman who was also a housewife and Mum – she decided to climb Mt Kilimanjaro with her adult son. She worked at improving her fitness and endurance, on the way losing quite a bit of weight. She achieved her goal, fighting through the exhaustion and altitude to reach the top. Truly an amazing woman and worth celebrating. Cheers, Pamela

hopflower April 5, 2014 - 2:04 pm

I just looked her up. She is certainly all of those things; and someone I could relate to both in looks and style, and in character.

david terry April 4, 2014 - 10:59 am

Dear Sue,

Since Frances is on your list (she lives up the road from me, so she’s regularly on my furniture), you should avail yourself of her just published (three days ago….on April Fool’s day, the birthday of her daughter, Ashley, to whom the book is dedicated) memoir…”Under Magnolia”. She brought a copy by here last week (she’s now off on some grueling book-tour) and caught me doing a prologed silly-dance with the dogs (my kitchen is a terrarium-like glass addition, unfortunately)

It’s wonderful and evocative in all sorts of genuinely surprising ways. I’ve read more than plenty of cookie-cutter “Southern Memoirs”……and this is definitively NOT one of those. I’d particularly recommend it for many of today’s young women……all too many of whom don’t seem to realize how damned HARD/near-impossible it was, even as late as the 1960’s and 70’s, to pursue an independent life & career as a woman. AsI read “Under Magnolia”, I (and I’m only about fifteen years younger than Frances) kept thinking “Good Lord….it was that bad….just thirty years ago???”. How soon we all forget.

In any case, you’re right….Frances is a wonder and an inspiration to a LOT of folks (and not just women, of course). I was delighted to discover, when I first visited her and Ed, that they have matching (or at least complementary) chainsaws.

I think that’s a good sign in a marriage.

—-David Terry

Sue Malizia April 5, 2014 - 1:15 am

What a lucky person you are to live near such a talented author. I saw her years back while she was on a speaking tour at UOP ( University of the Pacific). I couldn’t believe at what a great sense of humor she has…she is down right funny! Thanks for sharing that she has a new book out….off to check out Amazon. 🙂

Sharon santoni April 4, 2014 - 12:13 pm

Great choices and How nice that you include two of my blogging friends! I’ll tell them they are on your list:)

Mikki April 4, 2014 - 2:09 pm

Great list, but Jackie had plastic surgery, maybe one or two facelifts.

Julia April 4, 2014 - 4:06 am

Lovely pictures of beautiful women 🙂

Who inspires me?
A former colleague who was focused and driven to achieve much
A blogger friend who manages to find the wonderful in every day moments
A friend who has so much energy she exhausts me
Another friend who has a Can-Do attitude
and you, my dear, with your stylish home and lovely lifestyle


Sharon santoni April 4, 2014 - 12:17 pm

Julia, I love your down to earth list and thank you for the last line 🙂


Connie April 4, 2014 - 4:10 am

I loved all of the thoughtful comments and I am so impressed and comforted to know that there are so many honest and thoughtful people out there. Way to be beautiful, ladies!

Colleen Taylor April 4, 2014 - 4:14 am

I never really think about actresses or famous people very much. To truly know these people personally might reveal entirely too much that would not be desired. I really do believe the majority of women or men in that field are textbook narcissists.

The only woman actress that could inspire me is without a doubt, Meryl Streep. It’s not her beauty so much but her talent & grace.

I have always marched to the beat of my own drummer. I’m happier that way. X

Sharon santoni April 4, 2014 - 12:16 pm

I’m not much of a celeb watcher either Coleen , but I do love cinema, so it is inevitable to have favourites 🙂

Mikki April 4, 2014 - 2:10 pm

Meryl admitted to having “things done,” to her face for her career.

Amanda Rush April 4, 2014 - 6:57 am

Hi Sharon, I admire fellow Aussie Cate Blanchett, who in addition to being a very stylish, intelligent woman who is professionally successful in film and theatre around the world, she is also a wife and Mum to three boys. She is an active environmentalist and participates in public discussions regarding the future. Although, as other readers have mentioned, little is truly known about a public figure’s private life, I like that Ms Blanchett seems to be so down to earth. Interesting post to chat about, thanks Sharon. Best wishes from Amanda

Esther George April 4, 2014 - 10:36 am

Hi Sharon the ladies I admire most are Julie Andrews for her Grace, Angela Lansbury for her Charm and Judith Dench for her quiet Dignity. I have been thinking about this all day, well between cooking and ironing. Have a lovely weekend. Regards Esther from Sydney.

Sally April 4, 2014 - 10:50 am

This is a very thoughtful conversation Sharon…and many inspirations come to mind
Beautiful women in the world Sophia Loren, Catherine Deneuve, Nati Abascal, Penelope Cruz
Beautiful and talented women in the world , Julia Roberts, Elizabeth Taylor, Darcey Bussell, Helen Mirren

Queen Elizabeth II

…but todays true iconic women.. are beautiful, talented, creative and inspirational beyond words….
Sharon, Vicki, Tina, Carolyne, Anita, Tish, Kathy Romero.

Sharon santoni April 4, 2014 - 12:15 pm

Thank you Sally, you put a smile on my face with your kind compliment


emilia April 4, 2014 - 12:59 pm

Hi Sharon, I am thinking about your question … Well, I always try to be myself and accept my limits… but a woman that let me dream and I would like to follow is Monica Bellucci. Well I’m Italian and I’m fifty like her… I think to share enough…

Katherine April 4, 2014 - 1:06 pm

Do I wish I presented myself more elegantly as some of the women I see in the public eye – you bet. But watching an actress who floats down the red carpet dressed and pressed into place by professional makeup artists and stylists, isn’t a realistic goal to try and achieve. This is what goes awry with women – and not just young … our daughter/granddaughter, but so many women thinking there is something wrong that they do not achieve a camera ready look.
So when I drag my stressed face up to the makeup mirror every day {to perform a miracle} – I look over my shoulder at the super woman cape I always wear. It may not be as pretty and perfect as I’d like, but somehow just by wearing the cape I feel younger and fresher.

Jennifer Clark April 4, 2014 - 4:11 pm

Who inspires me? In the famous department, Helen Mirren is a lovely lady, and always looks smashing on the red carpet. Queen Maxima of the Netherlands is another lady who inspires me with her amazing smile and grace. In the non-famous category, my dear friend Caitlin, who is absolutely indefatigable; she has such energy and is so comfortable in her skin. She started her own business a couple of years ago, is beginning the process of becoming a foster parent, and does “Godparent Camp” every year for the 5 little girls she & her husband are godparents to. The girls stay with Auntie Caitlin and Uncle Chris for a week every summer; they hike, bake, do amazing art projects, pick berries and make jam, etc. Would that I had her patience, and energy!

Mumbai April 4, 2014 - 4:36 pm

I really wonder why women in an mature age need other women to
admire. Airbrushed pics, super make up artists make these women
adorable? but it is not the reality. There are much more adorable women around the world who deserve our respect and admiration outside of the Hollywood industry. Can’t hear that anymore…sorry.

Connie April 4, 2014 - 11:36 pm

I completely agree. Everyone has chosen to admire women who live in a ” made for the media” world of manufactured physical beauty. We tell ourselves we admire the inner qualities of people but then fall back into the brainwashing that makes us choose this unreal ideal to pursue. We say one thing but do another and our children learn from what they see us do!

hopflower April 5, 2014 - 2:08 pm

I think what it is is is that these people are in the public eye a lot and most people would be able to recognise them.

I don’t think necessarily that they are admired because they are film stars.

Peggy Braswell April 4, 2014 - 5:47 pm

I can’t admire”Hollywood types” -think the majority look like Madam Alexander dolls! I admire all the women I see who are doing things with their life + the ones who are just taking life as it comes. If I have to pick one Judy Dench is a great one.

Penelope April 5, 2014 - 12:22 pm

I am inspired by the real people around me. Fortunately, I have four daughters in their 20 and 30 years and they inspire me to stay fit and sometimes we exercise together when they are near. I live near the ocean so daily, I exercise outdoors and have learned this not only helps my body but my mind and well being. The friends I exercise with are in their 30 to 50’s and they work hard to be fit, much harder than me, but inspire me to do more. No matter how we look at it, there are no real short cuts to keeping our bodies in good condition. It is work! 🙂 I bought a stand up paddle board a year ago and my son told me recently, “Mom, you have been given another life!” For a Mom of five and grandmother of 6, I loved his perception! Sharing the JOY of life keeps us youthful! The number is just relative!

Kathy April 5, 2014 - 3:29 pm

I’m never inspired by famous people…that’s all PR and I doubt seriously they’re people I would find worthy of respect. I’m inspired by people I meet that where born with the cards stacked against them but have wonderful souls. I find vanity rather vulgar. I love the old American Sign Language sign for a person that’s pretty…..face-lucky. That about sums it up. Let’s see what we do with the life we have, that’s what matters.

Mary in Oregon April 5, 2014 - 7:04 pm

As many others have noted: Judy Dench, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren probably are utmost in my mind as they do not appear to be doing anything artificial and as the great actresses that they are — they must have decided they will “age” into newer roles if they let themselves age! I try to remember to keep smiling (to inhibit those frown lines and to make myself happy!), always have good posture and try not to eat too many sweets (my downfall!). Loving life is what I believe is the best antidote to plastic surgery!!!

Mary in Oregon

Angela Muller April 6, 2014 - 1:13 pm

Sharon, while I, too, have my favorites among the famous faces I’ve seen over the years, the two people I admire the most are my mother, whose grace and compassion I will never be able to match, and my daughter, whose elegance and honesty are attributes I would like to emulate when I grow up!

Marian from UK April 8, 2014 - 8:42 am

Wow! Now THAT was a cat amongst the pigeons!!! Well done Sharon for starting the debate (which is what your blog aims to do). It good that we all have such a lot of differing opinions on the subject of how we look. I wonder, is it from within ourselves that this need comes, to continue looking young? Or is it fuelled by media, family, friends, etc? I’m just over 60 and I don’t like the thought of becoming wrinkly, saggy, or in pain. But it’s already started!! The actresses that go to extremes are bowing to the pressure – or perceived pressure? – of their industry I suspect. It is such a shame, because they will all get old, no matter what they do to their bodies. My profession is in health care and I see many elderly people and have a good idea of what could lie ahead – so, my take is that beauty lies within our everyday lives and in the way we live them. Remember to have balance in absolutely everything, look after your health, but not to the exclusion of all else. Look after your looks, but only as far as you feel is necessary for your own confidence. Look after your humour! Remember to laugh and to see the funny side in things – including wrinkles!! A woman who smiles is beautiful. And Sharon’s blog is full of beauty and her aim to note the beauty in everyday things is uplifting. As a lovely person (she must be) – she shares it all with us!! Remember – Wrinkles are where the smiles have been!

Marian from UK April 8, 2014 - 8:47 am

By the way – Dame Judi Dench is truly amazing. Not only does she look naturally lovely, but she is suffering from Macular Degeneration and is going blind. She says it won’t stop her working and in her house, the words ‘Old’ and ‘Vintage’ are forbidden!! Regarding looks, if any of you have seen Philomena (you must), you can see how she COULD look if she dressed and had her hair in a more conventional ‘older’ fashion, but that same person, as herself, with her short trendy, lovely white hair, looks entirely different. But no knives were used to achieve the look!!

Elsie October 27, 2017 - 8:36 pm

I’m sure there are hundreds of women I could be inspired by but they are not public figures.
My most inspiration was my dear mother.
I can’t bare anyone from Hollywood or the American cinema! Too much narcissism and plastic. No inspiration there..

Elsie October 28, 2017 - 8:44 am

That is bear not “bare”.


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