Older and younger tastemakers disrupt ageist stereotypes by doing what they love — checking the think-outside-the-birth-year box.
Boomers and Gen Xers: Jamming Junior’s Job
Rock of Ages — DJ Misbehaviour, Trish Mann, 54
Last year a video of the hip-hop DJ from across the pond rocking out while skillfully spinning tunes went viral, garnering 26 million hits. Dressed in a pink sundress and straw hat while keeping the flow going on the dance floor earned Mann the title “The Martha Stewart of Hip-Hop” as well as plenty of new fans and gigs. Because the greatest challenge during her 30 years as a DJ has been being a woman in a male-dominated field, she’s not about to let ageism hold her back. “I plan to keep traveling and doing what I love, rocking parties and making people happy.”
Baby Driver (Not) — Debbie Evans, 59
“I’ve been doing this 40 years, and my reaction time is probably faster than the average teenager,” says professional stunt driver Debbie Evans. As one of Hollywood’s top stunt drivers, Evans has ridden her motorcycle through fiery crashes in dozens of TV shows, videos and films, from all eight Fast and Furious films to The Matrix Reloaded, where she came inches from being crushed by an ill-timed 18-wheeler. With the rise of more female action roles, Evans shows no signs of slowing down — literally!
Bring It On — The Golden Oldies
“I can remember the first time I saw them, I couldn’t wait to be 60,” says Sybil Wilson, 62, a member of the Miami Heat’s over-60 hip-hop dance team, the Golden Oldies. Around since 2004, the team performs a few times a season at Heat home games and other events in the Miami area. The 17 performers are chosen out of an audition field of 50 and include several professional performers, including a former backup dancer for Cher. “We may be seasoned in age, but we have a youthful vibe,” Wilson says. “There’s nothing like hearing 19,000 people scream as soon as our names are called. The adrenaline is out of this world.”
Flying the Friendly Skies — Bette Nash, 81
Bette Nash has been a flight attendant for 60 years, since the days of white gloves and pill box hats. “I love being here,” she says, as she helps her customers to their seats. “We used to joke about being 65 and still on the job and walking down the aisle with a crutch,” says Bette, who not only doesn’t use a crutch, but still works the heels. And the octogenarian has no plans to retire. “I love making people happy,” she says, as she merrily rolls her suitcase through the terminal.
Millennials and Gen Z: Grabbing Grandma’s Gig
Little Miss Activist — Mari Copeny, 10
In the years since the Flint, Mich., water crisis, one of the strongest voices for action has come from 10-year-old activist and former Little Miss Flint pageant winner Mari Copeny. At age 8, the outspoken youngster traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet President Barack Obama, who pledged $100 million to improve Flint’s water system. In the three years since the crisis started, Flint residents are still suffering, and Mari is still speaking out. “It’s not better. And there are other places around the country with bad water, too.” As a Young Ambassador for the Women’s March, Ambassador for Climate Change, one of Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 and an anti-bullying crusader, Copeny has become a full-time fighter for social justice. As for her plans for the future, the preteen has it all mapped out: “I’m going to run for president in 2044.”
Rock the Vote! Mayor Brandon Paulin, 21
While most teenagers are playing videos games or saving for their first car, 19-year-old Brandon Paulin was running for mayor of his hometown, Indian Head, Md. — an election he easily won.
Paulin went to his first town meeting at age 11 to ask for a crosswalk, which he got after his third appearance. Now 21, Mayor Paulin is passionately dedicated to fighting his town’s blight, bringing in new businesses and getting a grocery store to open locally.
Working with the Youth Advisory Team he’s formed to get young people involved in local politics, he says, “This is how stuff gets done. You talk to people, you write letters, you scream at the top of your lungs.”
Get Out the Hook! Crochet Artist London Kaye, 29
“I like the idea of the world being a more happy and joyful place,” says crochet artist London Kaye, who first picked up the hook at 13. Now a street artist living in Brooklyn, Kaye has become the Banksy of yarn, adorning fences, walls and trees from Rome to L.A. with giant crocheted butterflies, rainbows, mermaids and other colorful creations.
“Everything I make is going to have some form of light-hearted, whimsical fun,” she says. “I truly believe that the more you put joy into world, the more joy will be brought out.”
Bookworm— Priya Charry
Gone is the stereotype of the bespectacled spinster librarian played by Donna Reed in It’s a Wonderful Life. “More and more millennials are interested in becoming librarians,” according to Priya Charry, a librarian who often sports purple nails and a nose ring. She’s currently doing a fellowship in India before returning to American Libraryland. Despite the prevalence of e-readers and Google, libraries remain an important part of local communities for the young and old. “The stereotypical librarian persona is rapidly shifting to accommodate people of all ages, races, genders and sexual identities, abilities and backgrounds. It's an exciting time to be a librarian!” This seems to be happening, as the average applicant age for library science programs has fallen to 27 in recent years. Take that, Donna!