100 years, age of beauty

During her meetings with 10 centenarians from the Montérégie region, Québec, Arianne Clement became interested in the efforts that these women put into (or don’t), looking good and the many challenges that they face. She asked  them about youth, old age, feminism, sexuality, charm, appearance, love, etc. Through these portraits, Arianne questions society’s obsession with youth and beauty standards. She also seeks to give a voice to these women whose beauty is rarely acknowledged.

“I personally find myself beautiful, and when I don’t, I do my best anyways!! I like to have my hair neatly styled and wear dresses, jewellery and other accessories. I’ve always paid attention to my appearance. In fact, I’m known as ‘la fraîche’ (the trendy lady)”. Marie-Berthe Paquette, 102 years old, Montreal, 2016.

“When I was young I had long hair, nice legs and curves. Young ladies today all strive to be skinny, but I think that real beauty is natural beauty. We are who we are, and that’s all that matters.” Anne-Marie Pronovost, 100 years old, Sutton, 2016.

“I’m a very rational and level-headed person, and I’m not very sensitive to beauty or art. I come from a very poor family. Spending money at the hairdresser’s or on unnecessary beauty accessories was completely out of the question. I only sewed by necessity. For instance, I made dresses for my sisters using cotton pouches that had been used for storing sugar.” Alida Provost passed away in 2016 at 101 years old, Granby, 2016.

“I definitely find myself as ugly. Beauty fades as we get older. Our noses and ears get bigger, our gait changes, we get hunched backs. Some are worse off than me, but I’m not beautiful at all. Still, I enjoy life and I look forward to the future, even if it’s a short one when you’re 100 years old.” Jeannette Ballard, 100 years old, Granby, 2016.

“I actually care more about beauty today than when I was young. I like to dress rather well, in pretty, simple, and practical dresses. I put on foundation and perfume in the morning, lipstick after each meal, and I go to the hairdresser’s every week. I’m also careful not to eat foods that are either too rich or too sweet. It’s important to not let oneself go. I used to enjoy wearing necklaces, but I can no longer attach them, so I gave up.” Solange Racine, 101 years old, Granby, 2016.

“Rather than maintaining physical beauty, which is vain, I advise young women to cultivate the beauty that surrounds them. You can tend a garden, draw, play music, etc. It’s important to be kind, independent, and constantly educate yourself.” Madeleine Beaugrand Champagne, 101 years old, St-Bruno de Montarville, 2016.

“Even though we constantly told her that she was beautiful, my mom had always found herself ugly. She often said that she had a monkey face and that she didn’t like her plumpness. My mother regularly dieted. There were stretches where we went without potatoes, bread, or desserts. She also tried different weight loss pills. I think her weight had always been her biggest fixation.” Lise Provost (right) about her mother, Laure Saucier (left) passed away in 2016 at 101 years old, Acton Vale, 2016.

“My father was a painter and craftsman and he shared his love of art with me. I believe that everything that is artistic is beautiful: theater, picture frames, poems, paintings, flowers, songs. In a person, it’s the character, the silhouette, the smile and the eyes that count. That said, my biggest regret is not getting an education. Doors open for you when you’re educated. Otherwise you feel shame.” Marie-Berthe Paquette, 102 years old, Montreal, 2016.

“As a young lady, I could not afford to be frivolous. We were poor and had to work all the time. We had to takepart in day-to-day chores, pick the raspberries, take care of the babies, cook, help with the harvest, do housework and bathe the children… and all of that without electricity. We didn’t have time to think about beauty.” Solange Racine, 101 years old, Granby, 2016.

“When I was young, like all women, I wanted to be attractive. I curled my hair, wore the beautiful outfits my mom made for me and suffered in high heels. Still, I never wore makeup; I felt like it was fake. I married my husband because he was handsome, which I ended up regretting. He wasn’t a very good partner and I ended up kicking him out.” Madeleine Beaugrand Champagne, 101 years old, St-Bruno de Montarville, 2016.

My husband was a very good-looking man. He had beautiful curly hair, and was nicknamed ‘Willy la coche’, (Willy the good-looker). It was very important for him to be always well-dressed. When he went out to work at the lumber camp, he’d sell his suit and buy and brand-new one when he returned. On the other hand, he was a flirt and a bit fickle: he loved all women and drank too much. But it’s important to be able to forgive. Anne-Marie Pronovost, 100 years old, Sutton, 2016

Of course I’d rather be good-looking rather than ugly! But back when I was young, I couldn’t be bothered with beauty. It was vanity. It was a sin. What really mattered was the family, putting food on the table, and making sure that the children were bathed and clothed. I am blessed because my daughter is the one now taking care of me. She welcomed me in her home 20 years ago and I am still there. Family is all that really matters. Isabelle Gagné, 103 years old, Clermont, 2016

Lise Provost talking about her mother: she was very stylish and competitive. She was in love with my father and I think she worried about not being good enough. She always wore lipstick, blush, high heels, earrings, perfume, and curled her hair. In the evening she went to bed with cotton strips wrapped under her chin and fastened on the top of her head, hoping to lift and tauten her chin and cheeks. Laure Saucier passed away in 2016 at 101 years old, Acton Vale, 2016

The word beauty invokes great classic French authors, and music. When I was young, I always had my nose in a book and I wrote. I don’t mean to brag, but people envied my writing skills. I like Mozart a lot, but it's Beethoven who really makes my heart sing. Madeleine Beaugrand Champagne, 101 years old, St-Bruno de Montarville, 2016

Rémi Beaugrand talks about his mother: I think that my mother had hang ups about her body since she wore steel-boned corsets. She also liked wearing clip earrings because she didn’t have pierced ears. She paid special attention to her hair, which she curled and fastened with bobby pins. She once forced a doctor to give her hormones because without them she would have lost her hair. Alida Provost passed away in 2016 at 101 years old, Granby, 2016