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frances anderton, 53, radio host

ageist EDITORS | october 2, 2016

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When David Bowie died earlier this year, obituaries reminded us not only of the impact of his artistry, but of what he represented for an entire generation. In his many transformations, the through line was clear enough to anyone bothering to pay attention: a refusal to be pinned down. 

There is an immense pride in that idea, and it’s a message that has and will continue to resonate for people like Frances Anderton. 

“I kind of like saying how old I am, because I don’t feel like the 50 years old that I thought 50-year-olds were when I was a child,” she told me. “I’m part of the Bowie punk years. I think those 50-somethings are really anti-establishment, in a kind of fundamental way.” 

The native of Bath studied architecture in London before a magazine assignment in Los Angeles in 1987 forever changed her life plans. Covering the emerging Los Angeles school of architects (including Thom Mayne and Frank Gehry), Anderton resolved to return for good.  She eventually did in 1991, first editing a local architectural newsletter before joining the team at beloved Santa Monica public radio station KCRW which launched her show DnA: Design and Architecture, now evolved from a monthly to weekly show, tackling questions of design and architecture. 

I met Frances a few months ago on a panel discussion on The Future of Luxury, and we resolved to mutually interview each other.  What I found really interesting during our chat was how age-agnostic the station is. Shows or ideas for stories aren’t demographically tested before being greenlit. A good story is a good story—that’s all that matters. 

That sets her off on the theme of targeted marketing and assumptions about people based on demographics such as the middle-age lady health or clunky style ads that now pop up on her Facebook page. 

"I feel so angry at being demographically targeted and that there is no consideration, it seems, about how the recipient might view that.” “I’m okay with going into menopause, says Anderton who became a first-time mother at 41. I’ve had certain affirming experiences for a woman. I can deal with it. I do get that it’s the cycle of life. Even with that said, I don’t need to be reminded of menopause.”

It’s limiting to us all—that somehow we are only our skin color, or our age—that we’re not bigger than that, that we’re not more complex individuals than that.” 

“I’m getting ads about fine wines: They signal : ‘You’re getting older, you’re getting established, you want fine wines,’ ” she continued. “But I find that problematic as well, because it’s making assumptions. Yes, I like fine wines but, guess what, I also like Two-Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s. We’re much more complicated!”