If the majority of catwalks and fashion spreads are to be believed, women have an expiry date. Not only are the representations of race, body type and ability definitely off, but it’s rare to see a model over the age of 25 fronting campaigns or covering magazines. This is quietly insidious, and suggests that only the young can fit into society’s perceptions of beauty.
The problem has come to such a head that even Vogue itself is pledging to stop using models that are under 18. This is undoubtedly positive, but we would like the industry to go one step further and start hiring some older women.
There are plenty of gorgeous models out there who would do particularly well working with a famous fashion house, but few are getting hired. Hopefully times will change but for now, let’s take a look at some of the incredible older models that have overcome ageism to establish themselves in the industry – even though they’re not 21 anymore (gasp).
Daphne Selfe has one of the most inspiring stories in fashion. Selfe started modelling in her early 20s, but gave up the career to raise a family. She was rediscovered at the age of 70, and since then has barely stopped working. Since re-entering the industry, she’s modelled for some of the biggest names out there – from Dolce & Gabbana to Nivea.
Now, Selfe is an impressively sprightly 90 years old and her career has never been better. She’s also helping younger women get into the industry and in the last few years has launched an online modelling academy.
For Selfe, the key to staying healthy is exercise and a positive mental attitude. She tells the Express: “I make the best of everything – be curious, be positive, and have a healthy lifestyle. I was lucky to exercise a lot when I was young. I’ve done dancing, and all sorts of things like that – which I think helps when you get older.”
Maye Musk is a glamorous and successful 70-year-old model, but she’s not the only famous person in her family. Recognise the last name? She is in fact the mother of Elon – the tech mogul and founder of Tesla.
She modelled from the age of 15 in South Africa, but it was only when she stopped colouring her hair at 60 years old that Musk’s career really took off. Since then, she’s been known for her silver locks and impeccable style, and works with the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Swarovski and Covergirl.
Musk credits her graceful ageing to being a dietitian and always eating well, telling Vogue: “Feed the body well and your skin will look good. Eating well combines science with common sense.”
Jacky O’Shaughnessy spent most of her working life as an actor, but then got discovered in a way most models do – by being approached on the street. Well, hers isn’t exactly the classic story, as she was discovered whilst eating her lunch in New York City at the age of 61.
This chance meeting kickstarted O’Shaughnessy’s modelling career and she soon fronted a campaign for American Apparel – in her underwear no less, with the tagline, “sexy has no expiration date.” Now 66 years old, she’s since modelled for Diesel and also hit the catwalk at New York Fashion Week.
With sleek silver hair, sharp cheekbones and piercing blue eyes, Jan de Villeneuve is certainly a striking presence. She started modelling in 1966 – in her youth, she walked for the likes of Kenzo and appeared in the pages of Vogue.
She took time out of the industry to raise her two daughters, then came back with a vengeance – modelling for Marks & Spencer, featuring in Harpers Bazaar and walking the catwalk for Simone Rocha and Aganovich.
It’s not even like she has an overly complex beauty regime to keep her looking fab into her 70s – she tells the Telegraph: “I don’t do anything special. I splash my face with water in the mornings 25 times. For years I have rubbed moisturiser into my skin before bed, for about a minute if I can be bothered. I go to the gym maybe two times a week and I like to walk but I don’t buy expensive products.”
Wang Deshun is an anomaly on this list, not only because he’s a man but also because he’s a person of colour. The modelling industry, even though it is slowly changing, is hardly renowned for its diversity, and people like Deshun have had to overcome both the barriers of race and age to succeed.
Deshun has done this with aplomb. The 82-year-old Chinese model became famous in 2015 when he strutted down the catwalk during China Fashion Week, looking remarkably trim without a shirt. Since then, he’s shown off his incredible fitness in a Reebok advert as one of the brand’s ambassadors.
And what an ambassador to have – Deshun has had a remarkable life, from surviving the Cultural Revolution to becoming an actor, artist and then model.
- Press Association