I’m Lyn Slater AKA as Accidental Icon, reformed social media influencer, writer, activist, social worker, former professor and someone who’s just an ordinary woman with an interesting life. I’ve written a book called, “How To Be Old”, coming Fall 2023 from Dutton/Plume.
1. Why this, why now
In 2014, after increasing feelings of dissatisfaction with the corporate turn of academia and the constraints placed on how one may write, I started a blog named Accidental Icon. I wrote about fashion although I was a professor of social welfare. My life partner Calvin, a street photographer/scientist, agreed to take my photos. Much to my surprise, the images we created caused me to become, for a time, an influencer of popular culture. I explored the use of fashion as a window into society and a vehicle to make personal and social change. My rejection of age as a variable to be considered in how one dresses, lives and represents oneself seemed to hit a chord. The following year Joan Didion and I appeared (wrinkles and all) in fashion magazines wearing sunglasses (hers were Celine, mine Valentino) and somehow being old suddenly became cool. I worked with independent magazines, emerging designers, was featured in music videos, travelled the world, had a feature in every major fashion magazine and international campaigns. My Instagram exploded to 757K followers of all ages, from all over the world. Vogue Japan named me one of the four most inspiring women over 60 in the world.
After retiring officially from academia in 2019, when I started doing Accidental Icon full time, I somehow lost myself, and in doing so, got commodified and became a brand. Traveling at 120 MPH through life and social media left me no time to reflect or think critically about what I was doing. Writing on my blog, which was why I started it in the first place, became sporadic and littered with sponsored posts. Rather than being known as a creative older woman who reinvented herself into a completely new career, I became known as a social media influencer, the kind that influences you to buy; no longer the kind that inspires a cultural shift. I was miserable and felt guilty about it because I had a life on social media, many people would envy.
Like many others, the pandemic gave me an opportunity to slow down, reflect and take stock of how I was living my life. I gratefully call the pandemic “The Great Interrupter” because it interrupted a life trajectory that needed to be more critically examined and was making me unhappy. In the long hours no longer filled with content creation, sponsored Instagram posts and travel, I wrote and in doing so, found myself again. I no longer do sponsored posts on Instagram, preferring short pieces of writing with an invitation to think and respond meaningfully and a longer essay on the blog. I am blessed with followers whose comments are mini-essays of their own.
Calvin and I moved from the city to be closer to the family we weren’t able to hug and touch during the pandemic, bought a transitional 1912 Victorian we are trying to restore and provide day care and emergency back-up for my two grandchildren, one 4 months old, the other eight.
I wrote a book about “How To Be Old” for all ages because regardless of our chronological age, from the moment we are born, we get older than we were the minute before. “How To Be Old” is about living each age we are in ways that make us happy, allow us to live creatively, take advantage of serendipity as I did, and increase our chances of being healthy and engaged in our older life. So now I often write about that, my new/old house, family matters and offer my perspective on other things that capture my attention.
2. What kind of community I’m looking to build
I am looking to migrate the brilliant community I already have, known as “The Woman Who” as well as invite others to join. I will always extend an invitation for you to think and comment as my relationship with my subscribers is a collaborative one. I prefer writing as a collaborative rather than solitary practice. I see us as co-creators in the project of “How To Be Old”.
She is the woman who…
Does not consume garments, she lives her life in them and dresses honestly.
Chooses garments and experiences that allow her to be the self she is and the self that is always becoming.
Has the strength not to be part of a group even while she is delightedly part of a group(s).
Is able to express uncertainties, fears and contradictions
Has a life that is lived in neighborhoods, workplaces and with families and friends.
Walks the fine line between rebellion and convention because she has to
Has integrity in that she can embrace opposing tension
Is becoming increasingly experimental.
Relishes the fully lived life
Is interested in meaning and memory.
Occupies cultural space with confidence.
Has unfinished business
Open to serendipity, she can let go and follow where chance leads her. A huge fan of accidental occurrences’ and making something of them, she believes in fate (like a professor becoming a fashion icon)
Right now I’ll be posting a short essay once a week and the content will be free. At some future date I may contemplate a paid subscription for additional content. There will always be a free essay and scholarships or sliding scale for those on fixed incomes or are unable to pay.
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I love everything you are planning for this new year Lyn. The book can’t come soon enough for me (God willing, this is the year l become an octogenarian - rather scary!). I bought a new tuxedo and shoes with glittery heels for my Christmas present - I’m ready to dance - if my back doesn’t give out, and to start some serious traveling again. Why a tux? I refuse to cruise with ball gowns in my luggage - I mean come on those trips are holidays! If a tux is good enough for hubby it’s good enough for me.
Happy New Year to you and Calvin.
An auspicious occasion to reframe, recommit to intention and increase joy. Thanks for the inspiration and community!