Happy Birthday Helen Mirren! The British actress, best known for her Oscar-winning performance in The Queen and her iconic platinum hair, turns 77 today. You and I know 77 is just a number, but in Hollywood — where 40-year-old actresses play mothers to 30-year-old starlets — saying you’re 77 is like saying you just arrived here from the moon. ‘Nanu, Nanu!’ (That’s a Mork from Ork reference for readers under 50, by the way.) More like ‘No no, no no’ — as in, “aging in Hollywood is a no no, no no.”
Perhaps that’s why Helen Mirren, who’s starred in more popular films and TV series than you can count on your teeth and toes, is such a revelation. She speaks in plain truths, holds fast to her values, champions women, and pays no mind to age — hers or anyone else’s. If you know, you know — IYKYK, as the kids say. All of these reasons are why we’re celebrating her 77th birthday here at First for Women with a list of six times Helen Mirren made women everywhere cheer. Happy Birthday, Queen!
#1 She told the truth about beauty and anti-aging.
As a card-carrying “woman of a certain age,” I often find the way we talk about and portray older women annoying. Mrs. Mirren agrees. In a 2019 interview with Grazia, Mirren addressed the term anti-aging: “How can a product be ‘anti-aging’? That’s like saying, ‘I’m anti-sun.’ Well, the sun will always rise.”
Two years later, she told the writers at The Cut, “It’s extremely annoying to women of my generation and others following mine to have beauty products sold on a 15-year-old face.”
#2 She acknowledged that being an actress isn’t saving lives – and showed respect to those who do.
In 2021, Mirren took to Instagram on International Nurses Day (May 6) to thank nurses for the tireless work they do. “Today of all days, we can say with our hands on our hearts truthfully and sincerely, to the nurses, you are worth it,” she said. “Thank you so much for everything you’ve done, for your courage, for everything you will be doing in the future.” Hear, hear, Helen!
#3 She tripped — and recovered — without missing a beat.
Jennifer Lawrence may be the reigning queen of tripping on award show stairs, but at the 2015 Berlin Film Festival, Mirren experienced her own footfall, and her reaction was both dignified and commanding. While attending the premiere of Woman in Gold, she took a step toward the festival stage and tripped on her gorgeous floor-length green gown. But rather than bury her head in her hands, she took the arm of a passing gentleman to stand up, donned her mega-watt smile, and jokingly wagged her finger at the photographer snapping her photo as she fell. (Because she knew, of course, that this image would be in the papers within the hour.) If that isn’t unflappable, we don’t know what is. And speaking of unflappable….
#4 She stood up for herself when a TV host was being very inappropriate.
Sexual harassment has been a hot topic in recent years, but those of us over 40 remember when it wasn’t just widespread, it was right out in the open. Mirren experienced this to a cringe-worthy degree on a British talk show in the 1970’s — and put the host in his place with a few simple words. (Forward to 1:30 for the exact moment Mirren turned the tables.)
#5 (and #6 and #7) She made us laugh again and again.
In February, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG, for short) honored Mirren with its annual Lifetime Achievement Award. Though she was honored to receive the prize, she told Live From E! host Yvette Nicole Brown that she found one aspect of it concerning. “I’m very excited to be here… I just wish my guild wasn’t called SAG. At my age, it’s kind of, you know…”
Seven years before winning the SAG Award, she poked fun at her “posh” accent by speaking it after sucking helium from a balloon (and nearly made Fallon wee in his britches).
And just one year before the helium incident, Mirren did something typically reserved for the young and racy. Granted, she tried everything in her power to avoid it, but for the sake of the game, gave in. (And still, she manages to be elegant!) Watch the below video to see what we mean.
For all these reasons, and so many more, we applaud you, Helen Mirren. Happy 77th Birthday!
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Woman’s World.