Penelope Wilson
Penelope Wilson
November 10, 2020 ·  4 min read

Dame Judi Dench becomes British Vogue’s oldest cover star at 85

In May this year, Oscar-award-winning actress and author, Dame Judi Dench became the oldest person to be featured on the cover of British Vogue at 85. [1] The last person to hold the title was 83-year-old American actress, Jane Fonda, photographed by Vogue when she was 81.

Best known for her iconic roles in “Shakespeare in Love” and “Skyfall”, the famous actress was photographed in March for the magazine’s June issue. She looked as classy as ever in her floral Dolce and Gabbana coat, and according to Edward Enninful, Vogue’s editor-in-chief, it was a true honor to work with “one of the nation’s most beloved citizens”.

He wrote on Instagram in May: “I can’t tell you how pleased I am to see Dame Judi Dench, the unassailable queen of stage and screen, starring on her first Vogue cover at the age of 85.”

Featuring elderly people of Dench’s age bracket is a massive stride towards repelling the trend of ageism in modern society. The older generation is a solid part of the entertainment industry and the narrative of “hay days are over, so move over” can actively contribute to social isolation and depression.

Spreading positivity in a time of despair

When she was interviewed by Giles Hattersley for the magazine, Dench spoke about her marriage, her father’s unwavering support for her career, her family, and her staunch dislike for her character in the Cats movie, where she says she looked like a “battered, mangy old cat”. [2]

Dench noted that she was self-isolating at her Surrey home during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, and she hopes that  “a great deal of kindness” will come out of the crisis.

I am sure I feel like everyone else, such unprecedented times are quite hard to comprehend,” she told the magazine. “What is a good thing is that it has made people aware of the predicament of others who are completely alone. If a great deal of kindness comes out of this, then that will be a plus.”

When asked about how she was coping with retirement, Dench hilariously exclaimed, “No, no, no, no. Don’t use that word, Giles. Not in this house. Not here. Wash your mouth out!” She believes retirement is synonymous with saying that a person’s talents and passions are dead, and up until 2020, she’s still actively taking roles in the industry. 

Dench is regarded as one of the most ‘Shakespearean actors’ in the industry today, having starred in several of Shakespeare’s plays throughout her career. She played Ophelia in Hamlet, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. Dench is also a prolific author and some of her most remarkable books include And Furthermore, As Time Goes By, and Scenes from My Life.

During the coronavirus quarantine period, the mom-of-one became something of an internet sensation for the younger generation with a viral Twitter video. Her daughter and only child, actress Finty Williams, posted an adorable video of Dench passing a sweet-hearted message onto her millions of fans.

She was captured wearing a plush white doggy hat over her head as she said, “Oh! There you are! Just keep laughing. That’s all we can do.” The video was shared hundreds of thousands of times across several platforms as people couldn’t get enough of how much of a warm soul Dame Dench is.

Breaking the Barriers with Vogue

Since its inception in 1892, 128 years ago, Vogue has remained one of the top magazines progressively making significant efforts to redefine beauty standards and break all forms of societal stereotypes. The magazine’s flair for diversity has remarkably boomed since Enninful’s takeover in August 2017. 

The Ghanaian-born, London-raised ex-model said to Time in September this year, “I was always ‘othered’. You know, gay, working-class, black. So for me, it was very important with Vogue to normalize the marginalized, because if you don’t see it, you don’t think it’s normal. I wanted to reflect on what I saw here growing up, to show the world as this incredibly rich, cultured place. I wanted every woman to be able to find themselves in the magazine.”

On the cover of his very first issue in December 2017, Enninful featured black British Model, Adowa Aboah. In June 2018, he unveiled Kenyan-born American model, Halima Aden, as the first Hijab-wearing woman to grace the cover of Vogue.


  1. Dame Judi Dench becomes British Vogue’s oldest cover star at 85.” BBC. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  2. The Judi Dench Interview: “Retirement? Wash Your Mouth Out”. Vogue. Giles Hattersley. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  3. ‘This Is Not the Time for Tiptoeing.’ How British Vogue’s Edward Enninful Is Shaking Up the Fashion World.” Time. Diana Evans. Retrieved November 2, 2020.