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The other reason Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover is a milestone

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Tanya Pai heads the standards team at Vox, focusing on copy editing, fact-checking, inclusive language and sourcing, and newsroom standards and ethics issues. She’s also a founder of Language, Please, a free resource for journalists and storytellers focused on thoughtful language use.

It’s only been a day since Caitlyn Jenner was officially introduced to the world, and she has already made quite a splash. After her debut on the cover of Vanity Fair, Jenner joined Twitter — where she garnered a million followers in a record four and a half hours, beating even Barack Obama’s @POTUS handle (and outstripping stepdaughter Kim Kardashian’s efforts to "break the internet"). She will also be presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this year’s ESPYs.

Plus, Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover is significant for another reason: according to the Daily Beast's Lizzie Crocker, at 65, Caitlyn Jenner is the oldest woman ever to appear solo on the magazine’s cover.

Jenner joins a handful of 60-something actresses who have been pictured solo on the cover, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Audrey Hepburn, Martha Stewart, and Elizabeth Taylor. (Hillary Clinton also appeared on Vanity Fair France’s cover last August, when she was 66.)

The past year has seen several magazine milestones for older women and transgender women alike. In May 2014, Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox became the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine. Last month, 77-year-old Jane Fonda made headlines for being W magazine’s oldest cover model. And not long before that, in April, Sandra Bullock became People’s oldest Most Beautiful Person ever — at the advanced age of 50.

It’s no secret that older women are severely underrepresented in magazines and in Hollywood. Last month, for instance, Maggie Gyllenhaal told reporters she had, at 37, been deemed "too old" to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man. And she’s hardly alone. As Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan noted:

As leading men age, their love interests stay the same, and even the oldest men on our list have had few romantic pairings with a woman their own age (or even one out of her mid-thirties).

The chart below, from Vulture, is a good visual representation of this.

Chart showing Denzel Washington's age relative to that of his love interests.


Here’s hoping Jenner’s debut — and the many conversations it’s generating — will be a step toward seeing more mature women, and LGBTQ women, represented in pop culture outlets of all kinds.

Read more: 4 common mistakes about Caitlyn Jenner and transgender people