The new issue of People magazine features a beaming Julia Roberts on the cover, as she celebrates winning the “World’s Most Beautiful Woman” title for a record fifth time at the age of 49.
Roberts is the second-oldest woman to receive the honor—Sandra Bullock was 50 when she was named World’s Most Beautiful Woman in 2015, and last year, Jennifer Aniston was selected at 47. No doubt the three actresses have a few things in common: Aside from obviously being attractive women of a similar age, they’ve proven they have mass appeal, with enduring careers that have granted them near-unparalleled levels of fame. More importantly, they’ve all been lauded, for better or worse, “America’s sweetheart” over the years.
While an element of commercial appeal likely played into the magazine’s recent choices for the top spot, People can’t deny this move is a nostalgia play, simultaneously pointing out the fact that Roberts remains sexy while appealing to our sentementality for days past. It also remains undeniably refreshing to see women over 40 dubbed “most beautiful” in an industry where ageism, at least when it comes to females, continues to be a major problem.
Last year, California passed a bill requiring IMDB and other casting websites to remove age information if requested to do so by actors and actresses, but so far, IMDB has refused to obey the new law, claiming it violates freedom of speech rules. While legislation that keeps their ages private may be of some help, it seems likely that positive media coverage of older celebrities in magazines like People and Sports Illustrated, which recently featured Christie Brinkley in a bikini at 63, will have an even bigger impact.
In a new interview, Roberts told People who she finds beautiful: “People, to me, that seem truly happy. That’s the thing that attracts us to one another… that joy and how we wear it on our face.” She describes her “radiant” 92-year-old neighbor as an example.
Roberts has been named the World’s Most Beautiful Woman every few years since the magazine first launched its Most Beautiful People list in 1990. She received the title for the first time in 1991, the year after Pretty Woman made her a household name, and reclaimed it in 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2017. In People’s current issue, Roberts says, “I think I’m currently peaking,” but the odds are high that we’ll see her top the annual list again in another five or ten years. Like her neighbor, Roberts will no doubt continue to be radiant.