Alexandra Grant rekindles Hollywood ageism debate with natural gray locks

By Carlee Berkenkemper

Elm Staff Writer

American visual artist Alexandra Grant appeared with actor Keanu Reeves on the red carpet of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) annual film and art festival and gala, this year hosted by Gucci, on Nov. 2. 

The pair are now rumored to be dating. They have been friends for a number of years and collaborated professionally. In 2011 they released “Ode to Happiness” and in 2016 “Shadows,” both of which are books written by Reeves and illustrated by Grant. In 2017, they co-founded X Artists’ Books publishing house.

However, it was neither their individual nor combined successes that sparked interest following the LACMA red carpet. Grant’s hair was braided and gathered in a bun for the event, but most notably, it was naturally grey with no effort made to alter the color.

Many fans have since taken to the internet to hail the artist for rebelling against modern Hollywood beauty standards. The New York Times released an opinion essay entitled, “If Keanu Reeves’s Date Can Embrace Looking Her Age I Can Too.”

But from beauty products aimed at defying the aging process to widespread use of photoshop in advertisements and social media, our perceptions of what a certain age should look like has been altered.

Twitter erupted following the red carpet as users confused Alexandra Grant with Oscar and Tony award winning British Actress Helen Mirren. The most notable difference between the women is that while they both sport naturally greying hair, Mirren is 74 and Grant is 46.

Mirren was complimented by the comparison, telling Entertainment Tonight, “That was very flattering on me, you know, because she’s obviously lovely.”

Others saw the misunderstanding as the problematic influence of Hollywood’s beauty standards.

American comedian Whitney Cummings called out this case of mistaken identity in a tweet, writing, “In Hollywood, if you’re not 24, you might as well be 70.”

Reeves has now been applauded for his seemingly age-appropriate relationship in an industry known for multi-decade age gaps between partners. However, it begs the question of whether people actually know Reeves, 55, and Grant’s respective ages or if they saw her grey locks and assumed she was older.

NBC News released the article, “What Keanu Reeves dating ‘age-appropriate’ Alexandra Grant reveals about sexism and ageism in Hollywood”, questioning why a man dating someone almost a decade younger than him was trending for being a “good man.”

Author and English professor Sharon Marcus from Colombia University spoke to NBC about the debate as a gender equity issue. She said, “If the ages were switched and Grant was 55 instead of 46, people would view the situation differently. But now Keanu Reeves is getting treated as a king and prince for dating a woman older than 25, because men get graded on a curve and are praised for being moderately decent.”

Similarly, American journalist Yashar Ali tweeted, “It also says a lot about how women are treated that so many people are stunned that a woman over 40 wouldn’t dye her hair.”

So what does this say about hair coloring as a trend?

Sarah Marshall’s article for Elle makes an excellent point, “It’s no surprise that artificially gray hair has emerged as a recent trend, with women from Rihanna to Kylie Jenner opting for a silver standard. But what happens when gray hair isn’t something you choose for yourself, but something time chooses for you?”

There is something to be said for the women who leave their appearance in Mother Nature’s hands.

“If you’ve come of age learning to express yourself by altering your appearance, nothing feels more radical than seeing what your body does when left to its own devices, and learning to see the beauty in your natural state,” said Marshall.

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