With her enviable slim figure and glowing complexion, Norma Williams boasts youthful looks that arguably defy her 70 years of age. So, in line with the modern-day obsession with looking young, people were keen to know where her secret lies. And now Williams has shared her anti-aging tips with the world.
In our modern era, the quest to look younger seems more pronounced than ever before. In fact, according to Orbis Research, the worldwide anti-aging industry is estimated to be worth a whopping $331 billion in the next few years. But where did our obsession with appearing youthful begin?
Well, in many ways our desire to maintain our youthful looks is nothing new. Some historians claim, for instance, that in ancient Egypt, queen Cleopatra bathed in donkey’s milk every day. And the liquid – which contains alpha hydroxy acids – might have actually worked to soften her skin and keep wrinkles at bay.
Fast-forward around seven centuries, and Wu Zetian, Empress of the Tang dynasty, became revered for her good looks even as she grew older. Her secret was said to be the plant Chinese motherwort, which she reportedly mixed with water and applied to her face every day. Indeed, it seems that the empress was so sure of her serum that it was known as her “fairy powder.”
But, moving closer to the present day, while people relied on homemade remedies in ages past, it wasn’t until the 1800s that anti-aging became big business. You see, it was around this time that Western scientists began to associate old age with the decaying of the body. And so, many concluded, aging should be avoided at all costs.
At the same time, the advertising campaigns for anti-aging products started using scare tactics to sell beauty potions. In 1948, for example, one hormone cream – seemingly designed to restore youthfulness – asked potential customers, “How long since he said ‘I love you’?” The ad continued by promising that the use of its product would ignite romance well into consumers’ “advancing years.”
As the decades passed, this kind of advertising spiel became commonplace in the beauty industry. More often than not, ads for anti-aging products targeted women. And usually cosmetics were sold as a way to improve the appearance of women or make them more attractive to the opposite sex.
With this in mind, by the 1970s many feminists had grown tired of the beauty industry appearing to use promises of eternal youth to manipulate women. And the feminists’ criticism led to the use of more empowered and independent representations of women in advertising. On the whole, though, anti-aging products still predominantly targeted the female market.
Some change did come about in the 1990s, however, when anti-aging ads adopted a softer tone towards older women. Now ads positioned them as attractive. And all of a sudden, beauty brands employed more mature celebrities such as Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton as spokespeople – albeit in a bid to keep women spending their money on products well into their twilight years.
However, despite the millions of dollars that consumers spend on looking young each year, many women do have doubts about the products that they’re buying. For example, a study carried out in 2010 found that the majority of females surveyed questioned the effectiveness of anti-aging products; but even so, many were still willing to give them a try.
In 2017, however, there was something of a change. Products that promise youthfulness were facing a fresh backlash. And this time, criticism was coming from within the beauty industry itself. It all began when American makeup magazine Allure took aim at the term “anti-aging.”
In a bold move, the publication decided to ban the phrase “anti-aging” from its pages once and for all. In a statement posted to the Allure website in 2017, magazine editor-in-chief Michelle Lee explained, “Changing the way we think about aging starts with changing the way we talk about aging.”
Lee continued, “With that in mind, and starting with this issue, we are making a resolution to stop using the term ‘anti-aging.’ Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that aging is a condition we need to battle – think anti-anxiety meds, antivirus software or anti-fungal spray.”
But despite renewed efforts to banish the beauty business’ “anti-aging” promises to the history books, remaining fresh-faced is still important to many people. And so when it appeared as though one woman had somehow found the fountain of youth, it came as little surprise when she hit the headlines.
The woman in question is British-born Norma Williams. By summer 2018, the then-70-year-old had relocated to the picturesque region of Umbria in Italy. There, you see, she lives with her husband, Laurie – who, at 80 years old, is a decade her senior.
Williams, though, seems set on defying the expectations associated with her age. Despite being a senior citizen, for example, the septuagenarian has decided not to take her retirement. Instead, she runs a holiday-home rental company. And with that in mind, she advertises properties in and around the ancient city of Spoleto.
In spite of her advancing years, Williams has also embraced social media. She uses both Instagram and Twitter to help advertise her business, Umbria Holiday Rentals. And, plugging the company on her Twitter bio, Williams wrote, “Holiday in Umbria, Italy! See apartments, mountain villas and pool properties, all in spectacular locations, in and around Spoleto historic center.”
However, it isn’t just Williams’ profession and adoption of social media that have set her apart from other people her age. That’s right: when the 70-year-old began posting images of herself on Instagram, one can only imagine that her followers noticed that she looks much younger than her seven decades might have you believe.
In April 2017 Williams used her Umbria_Holiday_Rentals Instagram feed to declare that she doesn’t subscribe to certain prevailing ideas when it comes to growing old. “Age is a state of mind. I don’t live in that state,” the rental agent defiantly announced.
And Williams has further explained her youthful outlook on her Instagram page, writing, “I live in Italy, the land of beauty, fashion, sun, great food and wines! Age is of no concern for the Italian. We all mix together freely, young and old. My Zumba class consists of eight-year-olds, teenagers, 20s, 30s… All the way to me, the nonna of them all.”
The sassy statement was accompanied by a picture of Williams looking as confident as can be. In the image, she shows off her svelte figure in a curve-hugging little black dress, which likewise emphasizes her long legs. She also wears her hair in a stylish black bob, while a wide smile stretches across her youthful face.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, people celebrated Williams’ self-assured post online. It received more than 200 likes as well as some praise from her followers. Apparently buoyed by this response, then, Williams soon began posting selfies, alongside her opinions about aging, on social media.
In many of the posts, which continually featured photographs of Williams looking fabulous, the holiday-rental agent also posted motivational messages promising others her age that they, too, could look just as good. The caveat? They’d have to be willing to put in the hours.
Alongside one image, posted to Instagram in June 2018, Williams wrote, “At 70, I continually strive to improve my body shape and health. Takes just a few hours a week! Luck is a factor. Effort is essential. And lapses are the norm!”
Yet while Williams had alluded to her self-described efforts on social media, the secret behind her radiant looks remained a mystery. Indeed, it wasn’t until the 70-year-old’s story appeared on the MailOnline website in August 2018 that her beauty regime was revealed to the masses.
The article took quotes directly from Williams’ Quora account, where she revealed that she hadn’t always taken care of herself as she does now. In fact, it apparently wasn’t until she was 30 years old that she started to focus on her health. And after that, Williams added, she “gradually improved everything about [her] physical self.”
For instance, while Williams admits that her body type is naturally “straight up and down,” she still reportedly works hard to maintain her shape. Five times a week, the rental agent takes two rigorous walks: one seven-and-a-half-mile jaunt earlier in the morning and then a shorter stroll taken a bit later with her husband, Laurie.
But this isn’t the only exercise that Williams undertakes. Twice a week, you see, the septuagenarian hits the gym for a 50-minute session with her personal trainer. The rental agent also mixes up her fitness regime “every few months,” and it once included bi-weekly Zumba classes.
What’s more, alongside Williams’ strict exercise regimen, she also seems to have a lot of discipline when it comes to her diet. The self-confessed “fitness freak” ensures that she consumes at least three pieces of fruit per day and eats a healthy dinner at night.
Williams also apparently refrains from snacking between meals, although she does sometimes indulge herself with “naughty snacks” following her evening meal. Typical treats include nuts and dried fruits, low-fat Greek yogurt and chocolate-coated rice biscuits. However, she tries to enjoy these nibbles in moderation, she says.
Writing on Quora, Williams explained, “I have achieved the way I look through sheer discipline. For instance, I will NEVER eat a giant box of [the British chocolate candy] Maltesers ever again. Up until my late 50s, I would take TWO giant boxes of them into the cinema.”
Williams added, “Now, the most daring things I overindulge in are savory biscuits and lots of them, doorstep toast with lashings of butter, panettone, walnuts with cranberries, roasted cashews, dark chocolate rice biscuits (yum!), jacket potatoes with salad swimming in olive oil and gelato fondente.”
Yet while Williams appears to exercise unwavering discipline to maintain her optimum weight of 131 pounds, there is one vice that she seemingly can’t quit. Each and every night, the rental agent kicks back with some red wine. And she doesn’t limit herself to just one glass either.
Even at the age of 70, Williams was enjoying half a bottle of wine each evening. That said, this was down from more than a bottle of vino every day in the recent past. And that itself marked a 50 percent reduction from two bottles daily in her younger years. All the same, though, she has vowed to reduce her alcohol consumption even further.
As Williams perhaps seems to have proven, then, looking good at 70 doesn’t have to mean giving up little daily treats. And while the rental agent is herself naturally slim, she doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to having a youthful appearance in later life.
Speaking to MailOnline in August 2018, Williams explained, “An excellent shape is not to be defined by height nor figure type. You can be small or tall. You can be curvy or straight up and down. (My husband’s nickname for me when I’m tanned is ‘liqorice stick.’) Or you can be anything in between.”
It therefore seems as though Williams has rejected certain contemporary beauty standards as they’re set out in popular culture. “I am not talking fashion or glamour model stereotypes here,” she said. “I am talking about the body we all know to be great when we see it.”
But while Williams seems to have eschewed some of the norms of the beauty industry, growing old has nevertheless managed to irk her. “By far the biggest niggle of being in one’s 70th year is that PROBABLY I don’t have as many years in front of me as the average 20-year-old. I find this fact the MOST niggling of all,” she wrote on Quora.
And yet in spite of Williams’ concerns over her own mortality, she is also able to maintain a sense of perspective. “I am much prouder of myself in every way than [I was] when I was younger – despite the niggles of age. In life, there are ALWAYS niggles. No one is exempt from niggles. Life is niggly!”
Finishing with a word of encouragement to others who are her age, Williams concluded, “So despite all of the above, I could not be happier! If this is what it is to be 70, bring it on! So, to all of you, like me, who suffer ONLY from niggles, aging well is to be celebrated… Big time!”