Topless at 50: Curtis Breaks the Mold

To celebrate her 50th birthday, Jamie Lee Curtis doffed her swim suit in favor of her birthday suit — at least partially.

The cover of the new issue of AARP The Magazine shows Curtis topless in a swimming pool.

"If I can challenge the old ideas about aging, I will feel more and more invigorated," Curtis said in an interview for the magazine's May/June issue.

This isn't the first time Curtis has "dared to bare" to challenge Hollywood's definition of beauty. In 2002, Curtis posed for More magazine in her underwear and bra, sans makeup, stylists and flattering camera angles or lenses.

The resulting photos showed Curtis as more middle-aged mom than glamour queen — complete with a sagging belly and chunky thighs.

This from the woman known for her bodacious body and starring roles in high-profile movies like "Trading Places," "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Halloween."

"Much of the shoot was Jamie's idea — she was very involved in the creative concept," AARP The Magazine deputy editor Nancy Graham said. "It is certainly groundbreaking for us, and for women of this age. We're thrilled to have such a Hollywood icon embrace her age and show everyone it's OK to be comfortable in your own skin."

Whether everyone will get the message is another story.

Kathy Kater, a body image specialist with a private practice in St. Paul, Minn., said that from what she sees in her clients, women of all ages from grade school girls to 50-ish moms still compare themselves to the unrealistic ideals they see in the media.

"It's become less PC to talk about it, but when these women are in my office they're all saying the same thing. 'I feel so fat, my thighs are gross. I want to lose weight,'" she said. "I had an eighth grade girl say to me, 'If I don't lose 10 pounds I may as well not even go to high school.'"

Although there has been a lot of publicity and media attention about body image issues over the last few years, Kater said it has actually made it harder for women to come to grips with their own issues.

"Even though women are more educated about it, they don't want to be thought of as having some disorder," she said. "They know these are just images they see in magazines, not real people, because they're all made up. Nonetheless, women continue to hold themselves to that same standard, that ideal of beauty in general."

That ideal of beauty is reinforced on the pages of fashion magazines, on entertainment shows and even on celebrity gossip sites.

But experts point out that most of those images are highly stylized, created with the help of an army of personnel whose sole objective is to make the model or celebrity look good.

Take, for instance, the case of 21-year-old Lindsey Lohan and her recent nude photo shoot for New York magazine. Photographer Bert Stern wanted to recreate his last series of photographs with Marilyn Monroe and chose Lohan as his model.

New York magazine released a list of people who were involved in the photo shoot and helped Stern and Lohan achieve the final product. That list included Lohan's manager, her security guard, her younger sister, Ali, a makeup artist and assistant, a hairstylist and assistant, a stylist, a manicurist, Stern, his manager and two photo assistants.

Judging from that long list, even though Lohan posed nude, the look was not exactly au naturel.

The shoot made a splash in the media and on the Web. Blogs picked up the story and commenters gushed. So many people tried to view the photos online that the magazine's Web site crashed.

It's hard to say how much impact the Curtis photos will have.

Kater said she thinks it's unfortunate but "I don't think the piece is going to have much of an impact on younger women." As she pointed out, the photos are being published in a magazine that bills itself as the "definitive voice for 50+ Americans."

Curtis said she wanted to pose topless to bring some attention to her desire that everyone should try to "age wisely and well."

"I feel way better now than I did when I was 20. I'm stronger, I'm smarter in every way, I'm so much less crazy than I was then," Curtis said. . And perhaps her photos will show some people that gray hair and bare skin is just as eye-catching as blonde hair and a young bod.