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Tess Daly is sick and tired of having to defend her right to work past 50

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Kayleigh Dray
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LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Tess Daly attends the red carpet launch for 'Strictly Come Dancing 2018' at Old Broadcasting House on August 27, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)

“It’s sad that in this day and age women are still judged on their age,” says Strictly’s Tess Daly

Tess Daly is one of the best-known presenters on British television, having worked on shows such as Home On Their Own, Children In Need, A Night of Heroes, The One Show, This Time Tomorrow, Singled Out, Being Mum, Smash Hits TV, SMTV Live, Back To Reality, the Royal Variety Performance, and the first series of Make Me a Supermodel with Dave Berry.

Daly is, though, perhaps most famous for her work on BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing, a show which she has co-presented since 2004. “It’s been such a big part of my life, I’ve grown up on Strictly,” she said recently. “It’s a feel-good show to watch and it’s a feel-good show to work on. It’s a gift of a job and I’ll never take it for granted.”

While we all may feel as if we know Daly incredibly well, though, the presenter recently revealed that everyone has been wrongly congratulating her on turning 50.

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Oh yes: Daly has been absolutely inundated with birthday messages this week. However, she has now revealed that, while her Wikipedia page says she turned 50 on 27 April, her actual birthday is on the 27 March.

“I just wanted to say thanks so much for all your lovely birthday messages,” she wrote, before revealing she’s already been 50 for a whole month. 

“I got to celebrate my (biiiig!) birthday soaking up the sunshine in the beautiful Maldives; which felt like the perfect place to also celebrate feeling another year older, wiser and more grateful.”

Of course, while Daly seems intent on working and remaining in the public eye for many more years, there are undoubtedly those that might think she ought to hang up her dancing shoes in the not-so-distant future.

Why? Because she recently turned 50 – and thus usually marks the end of a woman’s career on screen.

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Research compiled from figures taken from the main UK broadcasters found that just 18% of presenters over 50 are women (look at this damning list of news anchors who were replaced by younger women, if you don’t believe us).

As The Guardian explains: “BBC television and radio, Sky, ITN and Channel 5 combined have just 26 women over 50 working as regular on-air presenters out of a total of 481 presenters.

“Overall, women over 50 make up just 5% of on-screen presenters of all ages and both sexes and 7% of the workforce, both on and off screen.”

During a recent interview, though, Daly was asked about her “big birthday” – and she made it abundantly clear that she refuses to bow to sexist ageism.

Speaking to The Mirror, Daly explained: “I’m just grateful to be alive, frankly. 

“I’ve had friends who’ve died in their 30s and 40s from cancer, so who am I to complain about getting older? It’s a luxury. I hope I keep getting older.”

Then, turning the conversation around in a bid to discuss the sexist ageism that’s rampant in the TV and film industry, Daly continued: “It’s sad that in this day and age women are still judged on their age.

“Men don’t have to defend their right to still be working in their 40s or 50s.

“It’s ridiculous because I feel I’m just coming into my stride. It’s the point where you’re more worldly wise, you’ve got more life experiences and you’re peaking as a woman.”

The Strictly Come Dancing host added: “‘I don’t define myself by others’ opinions of me. My life is defined by how I feel. I honestly really couldn’t care less about my age as long as I can jump out of bed with enthusiasm… that’s what really matters.”

Jennifer Lopez (aka Jenny from the Block) has a similarly refreshing approach to ageing in the spotlight, saying: “It’s not about perfection”.

Insisting that it’s actually men who have far more to worry about as they grow older because they are ‘less emotionally equipped to deal with the ageing process’, J-Lo says: “Men in their 20s are very confident and cocky, and women are super insecure. And then it flips – men get super insecure, and women get comfortable in their own skin, in a way that makes them more beautiful.”

Lopez continues: “I never appreciated my body or my looks when I was in my 20s. Now I’m like, ‘Look at me! Look at you!’ Not in a conceited or arrogant way – I just appreciate myself in a way I didn’t when I was that age.

“And it’s not about perfection. I like the scars that I have.”

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It does seem as if things are slowly changing – and for the better, too. Indeed, earlier this year, Nicole Kidman had tears in her eyes as she accepted her first ever Screen Actors Guild Award for her role in HBO’s Big Little Lies.

“How wonderful it is that our careers today can go beyond 40 years old,” she said, before turning her attention to her fellow nominees – Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, Reese Witherspoon, and Laura Dern – as well as the other women who have inspired her over the years.

“Twenty years ago we were pretty washed up by this stage in our lives.

“That’s not the case anymore. We’ve proven… that we are potent and powerful and viable. I just beg that the industry stays behind us as our stories are finally being told.”

She added: “It’s only the beginning.”

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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