When I told Joan Kron that I thought of her as a poster child for aging boldly, and the woman a lot of us want to be when we grow up, she said: “That’s a terrible responsibility.” But then she smiled, because she had to know how her life looks to others.
Her career has been so long and sweeping that it started with designing costumes for Milton Berle and The Howdy Doody Show. Later, she would work with with Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground, and then at the age of 41 she became a writer, eventually publishing culture stories in New York magazine, when is was famously edited by Clay Felker.
Because of the interior design book she wrote with Suzanne Slesin called High Tech, she is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary for popularizing that term as we use it today. She spent 25 years at Allure magazine on the plastic surgery beat and has written four books.
You might think that would be enough, that Kron could rest on her laurels. But no. In her mid-80s she decided she wanted to become a filmmaker. Her first documentary, Take My Nose…Please!, which was released in 2017, is a wickedly subversive look at plastic surgery through the experience of female comedians. But still there’s more. She’s working on a new documentary about Botox, which we can hope to see in 2022.
Kron doesn’t look like what we’ve come to expect of a 92-year-old (and yes, she admits to having work done). And she doesn’t talk like one either. In our recent virtual event with her, she was always forward-thinking, always well-informed about the latest thing.
“I got a ring light for this interview,” she told me, referring to a gadget that casts a flattering light for Zoom sessions. I had been told I should get a ring light for all the virtual interviews I was doing, but had never gotten around to it. I suspect that staying one step ahead was part of her M.O.
I asked her to share what she thought has contributed to her long and fascinating life. Here are five of her secrets, but I’m sure there’s more we won’t ever know.
“I think curiosity is key [to longevity]. I love journalism because I’m more interested in reading when I’m learning something that I’m curious about. I love doing research.”
Don’t Let Yourself be Cowed by Age
“I don’t pay attention to [ageism]. I just barrel on through. I tell everyone my age. When I went in [for a meeting with potential producers of her next documentary], I was amazed that they didn’t ask me about my age. I dye my hair, but I can’t hide that I’m old. And even though I walked in with a cane, they didn’t care. They liked my ideas. You have to do a little extra when you’re older. You have to try harder. Maybe I tried harder.”
Draw on Your Past Experience
“When I gave up costume design, I thought of all the years I’d wasted, but I didn’t realize the whole drama school experience [she went to Yale Drama School years ago] prepared me to work with all these creative people on the movie. So I really feel I’ve gone back to my roots, even though I didn’t study video. Making a movie is very much like putting on a play.”
“I’m a bit of an ageist because I don’t like to be with old people. Most of them. Because I don’t want them to act old. If they act old, I don’t want to be with them. [Acting old] is talking a lot about what hurts you. There are a lot of pains and aches, a lot of things to complain about, but I try not to focus on them. I don’t even read about them some times. I don’t want to know.”
Surround Yourself with Engaged People
“I only want to hang out with people who are doing things, otherwise it drags me down. I don’t care how old they are as long as they’re engaged. Engaged in life and projects. I love people who have projects.”
Top photo by: Lotta Kilian