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Helen Van Winkle is 87 years old. On some days, she likes to wear floral dresses and drop earrings. On others, she’ll wear a sweatshirt plastered with a hyperrealistic print of Justin Bieber over green-rose-patterned leggings and a clutch of gold chains and tattoo chokers. It’s this second “her” — as “Baddie Winkle” — that has earned this octogenarian 2.9 million Instagram followers, the allegiances of Nicole Richie and Miley Cyrus (the latter of whom befriended Winkle at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards), and a fandom of supporters and gawkers who can’t get enough of the cognitive dissonance of a woman who looks like your grandmother wearing the kinds of things you feel too old to wear.
But for Winkle, the idea that you should dress for your age is completely bunk: “I don’t feel old. I have never felt old. I think you can dress any way you want to.” Baddie Winkle has helped Helen Van Winkle not only get over the loss of her husband and son, but also reclaim her sense of self. “Baddie Winkle has helped me a lot — in spirit, anyway. The lessons that I have learned is live and let live,” she says. “I would love to be a role model for older people. You’re only here once in your lifetime, so have fun.”