Christa Ackroyd: Why Helen Mirren and Greta Thunberg have more in common than you think

Helen Mirren is the woman she wants to be and as a result she is the woman we all want to be, says Christa Ackroyd. (Picture: PA).
Helen Mirren is the woman she wants to be and as a result she is the woman we all want to be, says Christa Ackroyd. (Picture: PA).
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If ever there was a photograph to inspire we women of a certain age it is that of Helen Mirren bounding barefoot down the catwalk in Paris this past week, twirling and swirling with more than her fair share of joie de vie.

She made Cheryl Cole, Tweedy, or whatever her name is, look dour. Eva Longoria seemed almost awkward. Why? Because Helen Mirren is the woman she wants to be.

And as a result she is the woman we all want to be. And we can. If we dare. Helen Mirren is and always has been beautiful. She is a Dame, a Hollywood superstar and an actress who for decades has had the world at her dainty feet.

She is 74 and looks 20 years younger. She has talent in abundance and let’s face it, a figure to die for. And she looks pretty damn good whatever her choice of hair colour whether it be bright pink or silver grey. But it is not her beauty, nor even her talent, we should aspire to emulate.

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Helen Mirren is a woman with attitude. Forget the fact she lives her life in the spotlight. I suspect she would be the same in it or out of it. No, it is her love of life and her confidence in who she is that shines through in those photos. That and the fact that Helen Mirren couldn’t give a damn about what anyone thinks of her. Forget her age. She is a woman truly happy in her own skin and it shows. Her post catwalk ethos is typically Mirren. “ It is much better to age disgracefully,” she says. “Take it on the chin and roll with it “

What a way to live life and it’s nothing to do with the confidence of being an actress. Helen Mirren knows who she is and what she wants. She also knows her own talent and her own worth.

She always has done. Ask Michael Parkinson, a man I both like and admire. He is without doubt the best television interviewer to grace our screens.

But it was a young Helen Mirren that put him, quite rightly, in his place way back in 1975, when he asked her if her “equipment” undermined her credibility. Helen Mirren was an unknown Shakespearean actress at the time.

She was quietly spoken and slightly gauche. But that didn’t stop her firing back with the retort; “Serious actresses can’t have big bosoms, is that what you mean?”

It was excruciatingly embarrassing to watch. But it was embarrassing for Parkie not for a young actress in her first television interview. She later branded him as sexist. He still says he has nothing to apologise for. I’ll let you be the judge as to which one was the victor. And it wasn’t the one from Yorkshire.

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Helen Mirren was not born with confidence. She admits she was terrified of doing that interview. What she was obviously born with was what the French call ‘amour propre’ which she showed she still has in bucket loads as she tripped lightly down the catwalk in Paris a few days ago.

It is a concept much discussed by philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and it’s literal translation means self love, not be confused with the negative connotations of the phrase my granny used to use “ Ooh she loves herself, doesn’t she?” It simply means embracing a sense of self esteem or self worth. And I love the concept.

I tell you who also has it spades.. Greta Thunberg. Ironically seeing as though we are discussing Dame Helen being feted in Paris, the teenage climate campaigner was subjected to a barrage of abuse by so called French male intellectuals who this week in turn described her as a “furious Swede” a “cyborg” or a “silicon doll”.

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What is even more creepy is the comparison made by the man who chairs France’s prestigious literary prize who bleated on about boys in his youth running after English or Swiss girls because they were less “stuck up” than French girls. Greta, he said, would have made him feel “scared stiff.” Well done Greta . You have got them rattled. Because you are right. And far from depressing a generation as President Macron claimed, you are mobilising one and making us all think about our responsibilities

This week there was a rather sad survey which suggested almost two thirds of women are now too embarrassed to accept a compliment with younger women in particular finding it awkward.

Well accept them you should. But most of all give them to each other and to yourselves. This week Helen Mirren caused a sensation when she walked down the catwalk for L’Oreal.

If we can’t live her life or change the world like Greta, the least we can do is live by the shampoo manufacturer’s mantra. Why? Because we’re worth it.