Baddie Winkle is the pseudonym of 87-year-old Tennessean Helen Van Winkle, a pop culture icon best known for sporting Justin Bieber printed Ts, gold chains, cut-off shorts, and whatever else rains down from the skies of Tumblr. You probably caught her on MTV’s Video Music Awards last Sunday, and now, the world must know her story. After Winkle’s beloved son and husband died, she was rightfully overcome with grief. Encouraged by her 19-year-old great granddaughter, Kennedy, Winkle sought a total fashion makeover as a tool for healing and reclamation. Her style and web presence has won her 1.1 million Instagram followers, among them admirers Nicole Richie, Gwen Stefani, and Miley Cyrus (SHE was the one who invited Baddie to the VMAs, so thank you, Miley).
Winkle’s boisterous fashion sense demonstrates agency and expression are ageless, but also raises debate about the potentially condescending nature of her internet following. Do we like Baddie Winkle because we are nihilistic millenials who think old people are ridiculous and we are just lamenting the irrelevance of AOL Instant Messenger? I hope not. My theory is: we’re all here for her badassery, plain and simple.
Regardless, Winkle seems to be using her Internet celebrity as a platform for self expression and celebration. “I would love to be a role model for older people. You’re only here once in your lifetime, so have fun,” Winkle said in a recent video interview with Refinery 29. Check out the full video here.
Praying for the basics pic.twitter.com/iJmBBy72vV
— baddiewinkle (@baddiewinkle) April 11, 2014
Nothing puts me at ease like seeing someone savor a moment of hard-earned YOLO. And when they savor that moment with style? Even better.
Images courtesy of Instagram; Dimepiece; Baddie Winkle the BADDEST herself
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