Helen Mirren’s Instagram Has Me RATTLED

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.


A post shared by @ helenmirren on

“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.)

in the magical Castel del monte a miracle of art in architecture

A post shared by @helenmirren on

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.

A post shared by The Telegraph (@telegraph) on

Feature photo by Kristy Sparow/Getty Images for L’Oreal.

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  • Adrianna

    With all this talk among millennials about authenticity and curated social media lives, the people I know who are in their late 30s and older continue to post blurry, poorly composed snap shots. There is little recognition that younger generations developed a skill set in photography and art direction.

    (I say this as someone who works in photography/retouching).

    • LM

      plenty people i know in their teens/early twenties also post blurry/shitty pictures. many of the best photographers i follow on instagram are in their late 30s/40s/older. way to generalize and demonstrate once again the millenial “snowflakeism” – “no, because *WE* developed a skill set in photography…” puh-lease. 😀

      • Adrianna

        oh god, don’t take things so literally. lighten up

      • Adrianna

        Put your phone down and go outside.

        • LM

          lol i was simply poking fun at a silly comment (now deleted or else, since i can no longer see it). are you mad? oh dear. why don’t you “put your phone down and go outside”, then? you’re welcome. ♥

  • Hilary


  • I sooo want her trousers 🙂

    My favorite thing is posting pictures of my daily meals on IG: I often fry or cook vegetables and in the end most of my food totally lacks instagrammability. The hashtag “uglyfood” was all I needed … and yes, I eat it like it is, it mostly tastes good and is not chosen/changed to fit the tag. It does represent a blunt, awkward kind of irony, I’ll admit that.

  • CMT


  • Lola

    Yes! I follow chef Margot Henderson (of Rochelle Canteen in London, and author of the best cookbook ever) on instagram and it’s so pure and devoid of ego, just silly things she likes the look of, sometimes the sameness picture a couple of times, often of random people she sees and likes, and it makes me feel like a total idiot for thinking so much about my own posts. Is it older women in particular who view Instagram purely as a way to communicate fun things they’ve seen with no eye to brand/consistency/coolness. It’s a good philosophy in general!

  • Lizzy

    Highly recommend Mia Farrow’s instagram account. A goddamn national treasure.

  • ooo dint know she had instagram, thanks!

  • I love this lady so much, if I have the chance I’d love to age with as much grace as her. I also think she’s undervalued, we need more posts about Helen (and inspiring women like her) and fewer articles about the Kardashians and all their wannabe clones.

  • frannypaul

    Where are those pants in the world for me? Huh?

  • perfumeriver

    You literally make a living writing about the things going on in my head…maybe thousands of heads across the country. You’re good enough at it too that I keep reading. And yes, instagram stories defeats the purpose of the whole darn thing.

  • Jul Mara

    Haley, you have a basement? In this city??

    • Haley Nahman

      Correction: I LIVE in a basement

      • Jul Mara

        😂 ah yes this makes more sense

  • Caroline Fallon

    “Maybe Helen Mirren’s approach to Instagram is the antidote to over-curation our world so desperately needs.” – Such a great sentence and so true. Our generation obsessively perfects and curates every photo, every post to social media. Posting humble or goofy snippets of our lives might just be a more authentic way to present ourselves. The great thing about older generations having social media is that they DGAF and still know how to do that. – One of the many things we can learn from our moms. 🙂

  • Paola

    following her NOW. Thank you

  • Julia

    “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.” Literally laughed out loud

  • Bek

    Living for this

  • Hudson Berry

    This is awesome.

  • Nishboyflynn

    OMG – I love this – I agree so much. I think often back to the early days of Facebook when every night out offered the opportunity to create a gallery of photos with no shame attached – and I’m not talking about the perfectly lit selfie but genuine drunk moments. I am sometimes reminded of these less than perfect shots when I occasionally check in to FB and it presents my “memories” – these provide me with so much pleasure and lately I have been feeling a little sad that in our now super curated world I have self-censored these in order to be more on brand….which makes me want to vomit as when did we all become a brand – I mean what do I have to protect? I have yet to fully dive into stories but when I do use them from time to time it is to post, as you say, the things I would have made more public years ago but now feel ashamed to keep in my permanent feed. BRAVO HELEN!

    • Kiks

      I was JUST thinking the same thing about Facebook. I remember when the fun of it was posting photos in groups like “Putting Out the Vibe” which was dedicated to random pics in which you happened to be leaning on something with your butt sticking out and was inspired by a scene in Dumb and Dumber. And when every night out was catalogued in an entire album of candid and mostly unflattering photos taken on a low-quality digital camera. I don’t know exactly when or why we all decided to take ourselves so seriously.

  • Vyd

    And the fact that she only follows 2 people: Natasha Mirren and Will Smith 😃

  • Liza K

    Scene: the massive Women’s March in NYC. Tens of thousands of us squeezed in, chanting, marching, protesting.
    Me: turns to my right. Sees Dame Helen Mirren. Marching, chanting. Alone. Just… quietly marching alongside the rest of us.
    Adoration: permanent. ❤️❤️❤️

  • Sarah Mcgrew

    Love your post and Helen Mirren!!