NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) – When the September issues of fashion magazines -- typically their biggest of the year, ad-wise -- hit newsstands this month, the three most prestigious ones will feature actresses in their 40s on the cover.
Vogue has booked Halle Berry, who turns 44 on Saturday; Harper's Bazaar will have 41-year-old Jennifer Aniston, promoting "The Switch"; and Elle has landed 42-year-old Julia Roberts, promoting her new film, "Eat Pray Love."
Putting these actresses on the cover of arguably the most important issue of the year sends a message that though we live in a youth-obsessed culture, there's still something to be said for the enduring appeal of women who have been in the public eye for nearly 20 years.
Laura Brown, projects/features director at Harper's Bazaar, pointed out that the average reader of the magazine is in their late 30s -- and that the readers view women like Aniston as "aspirational."
"They're cool, fashionable, interesting, compelling -- they have something to say," Brown said. "I love that they've grown into their style. One of the things about getting older is you do grow into your sense of self. You don't look victim-y anymore."
Lesley Jane Seymour, editor of More magazine, which is targeted to women in their 40s and older, echoed that sentiment.
"They're the ones with real style, real staying power, real beauty," said Seymour, who previously edited Marie Claire. "As the American population continues to grow older, everyone can relate better to a woman with a little wear on her tires."
Plus, she added, "Who is there with any kind of real style or longevity in their 30s or 20s right now? Britney Spears? Kim Kardashian? These are flashes in the pan. Many are shallow reality stars like Snooki. Style icon? Um, talk to me in a year. Frankly, it's here today, gone tomorrow. Lindsay Lohan? What's to look up to?"
The statistics for several magazines bear her out. The average age of Vogue cover models in the past year is 34.5; Harper's Bazaar, 32.5; Elle, 31.6; InStyle, 34.2; and W, 34.9. Harper's had the biggest range, putting 17-year-old Miley Cyrus on its February cover and 47-year-old Demi Moore out front in April. (Moore also graced the cover of the December issue of W; she is the oldest cover model for those five magazines.)
Data released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations showed that single-copy sales of magazines dropped by 5.6% in the most recent six-month period measured. So it's ever more important for editors to select cover models who will appeal to people buying mags at newsstands, grocery stores and airports, where, of course, they pay full price. And in that context, older women can seem a safer bet, appealing to a wider audience -- and a wider magazine-buying audience -- than, say, a younger reality show star, singer or actress.
Indeed, it might seem as if the "Twilight" films have taken over the zeitgeist, but those movies' twentysomething stars don't come close to the star power of older actresses. At 46, Sandra Bullock is now the highest-earning woman in Hollywood, according to Forbes; she made $56 million last year with "The Proposal" and "The Blind Side." Rounding out the top five were two actresse