Lady Watego Byron Bay posted this photo of Irene, 90, on their Facebook Page.Photo Contributed
Lady Watego Byron Bay posted this photo of Irene, 90, on their Facebook Page.Photo Contributed Contributed

OPINION: Why this grandma’s bikini body is not my inspiration

WHEN I first came across the photo of 90-year-old Ballina woman Irene Kearney 'rockin' a polka dot bikini, I got a bit excited.

Firstly, because the picture demonstrated that beauty and boldness were not limited by age. She is an inspiration.

Secondly, because we knew it would go off online.

Indeed, the photo went viral. Initially posted by Lady Wategos boutique, the image was harnessed by major media outlets worldwide. It got likes, clicks, and I'm sure sold a bevy of bikinis for French-owned swimwear label Seafolly.

But when Irene's daughter Helen Kearney knocked on our Ballina office door, with the bittersweet true story behind the nonagenarian in a bikini, the inspiration-baited clicks started sounding hollow.

It turns out that Irene is inspirational not because of her bikini body, but because of her commitment to living a vital and beautiful life despite being beset by a cascade of tragic life events, which include losing three children.

Despite what it looks like on social media, female empowerment is more than seemingly not giving a rats if your arse looks big in those $99 bikini briefs.

The fact that we use words like 'brave' when an average-sized woman dons a two-piece only feeds the idea that only the young and trim women should wear a bikini.

Inspirational women are everywhere. And some of them wear tracksuit pants, and that's okay by me. My own mother, just like Irene's, was abandoned by her mother at a young age. But like Irene, she made the best fist she could at mothering despite never being mothered herself.

My mother doesn't have to rock a bikini to be an inspiration. Nor do I for my own girls.

You can take your #fitspo hashtag and shove it. Despite my cellulite, I'd rather go cycling on rusty bikes past saleyards and disused train tracks at sunrise with my daughters in Lismore, than spend my time at a Bondi gym, curating an unattainable Instagram account.

Inspiration is more than filling out a cossie.

Inspirational is Irene. Inspirational is despite burying three children, finding strength in daily walks on the Ballina coastline. It's proudly crocheting your children's bikinis when you didn't have the budget for French swimwear brands. It's about being industrious. It's about not blaming all your sh*t on your mum's failings. It's about being able to touch your toes at 90 years old.

Yeah, Irene rocks a bikini. But, mostly she rocks life.

And that is inspirational.



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