Maybe I never would have stumbled upon Dame Helen Mirren’s Instagram organically. I shudder at the thought. When I typed her name into the search bar yesterday, I did so in pursuit of a specific image: Mirren, in Paris, on a catwalk, in extremely large pants. I confess I hoped merely for a fruitful hashtag; a verified account of her own didn’t cross my ageist mind. But there it was, blue checkmark and all, goading me with the possibility that she’d posted it herself.
Had I been familiar with her social media presence, however, I’d have known she’d never engage is such hubris. A high-quality, front-lit photo of her strutting down a runway? Please. So polished, so curated, so not Helen. Had I followed her before yesterday, I’d have known she sticks to that which is captured and captioned by her own hand: gritty, quick POV shots, as Instagram probably intended when they built the app in the dark ages.
“kerfuffle” is one of 12 images she posted about the beauty runway show she walked in Monday for L’Oreal (for whom she is a brand ambassador). Just like this one, none of the 12 are filtered, level or cropped with any intentionality, nor do they offer the faintest idea of what the event even was. Her own face appears in three, but seemingly almost by accident, as if she forgot the front-facing camera was on. As a collection, they carry the air of an Instagram Story, but made permanent, piece by piece, on her official account.
As I journeyed through her other posts, I found more of the same, random little snippets of her life, earnestly captioned as if to genuinely keep us abreast of goings-on, without a whiff of ulterior motive, nor irony. Her posts are completely devoid of hashtags or celebrity throat-clearing. They’re the kinds of photos and messages you might get from your parents in a family group chat, sent with utmost love and just to keep you updated! (Mom, I still think about that un-captioned beach photo you posted years ago that was rotated 90-degrees for no apparent reason. It was abstract and thought-provoking.)
That Helen posts these objectively unspectacular images, sometimes several similar-looking ones from a single event, strikes me as really kind of fun. A coup of sorts. Just last week I was dunking on my own tendency to post all my jokes and random photos to my Story, while only posting mirror selfies of my outfits to my actual account. I love the consequence-free lifestyle my Story provides, but my resulting permanent online presence is one of a woman who never leaves her basement. Less than ideal, but a sacrifice I’ve accepted in exchange for not always posting vaguely-braggy proof of What I Am Doing.
Helen’s IG has me shook, though. It’s very pure. It has me wondering if all our most authentic stuff is getting lost to a Story blackhole, leaving our most vapid, overwrought offerings in its ephemeral wake. Maybe the stupid little thoughts we only deem Story-worthy are the things we should be posting in perpetuity. Maybe Helen Mirren’s approach to Instagram is the antidote to over-curation our world so desperately needs.
Could it be so?
Consider her approach to skincare: “I’m an eternal optimist,” she reportedly said on a recent L’Oreal panel, “I know that when I put my moisturizer on it probably does fuck all, but it just makes me feel better.” Now that’s a bold move as a brand ambassador. Perhaps we ought to take a cue from the Dame herself and give our innocuous thoughts the same TLC she gives her skin.
In the meantime, peep the photo and big pants below, which I found via The Telegraph’s account, and let me know where I should frame a blown-up version in my basement.
Feature photo by Kristy Sparow/Getty Images for L’Oreal.