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On the catwalk instead of retired: success stories of 60+ models

Nadja Beschetnikova
April 6, 2018

Just being young and slim has long ceased to be the only recipe for success in the industry. With demographic change, the advertising industry is increasingly focusing on older people. No wonder: the purchasing power of seniors is growing. The youth madness in advertising is over. In recent years, many modeling agencies have appeared that work only with older models.

These ladies don't dream of the leisure society! They steal the show on the world’s runways with their beautiful faces and fit bodies. And they are extremely good at business. However, most of the 60+ models already have previous experience in the fashion or acting industry, have worked as models before and just got older.

Carmen Dell'Orefice, 86, an American model and actress, is a perfect example of how to remain in demand in the profession for life. She was on the cover of Vogue at the age of 15 and has been modeling ever since. Today she is considered the oldest model in the world. She has walked and posed for designers like Isaac Mizrahi, Gianfranco Ferré, and Thierry Mugler.

Last year she closed the show for Guo Pei (the couturier behind Rihanna's iconic 2015 Met Gala look) covered in blood-red crystals and cascading lace. She was escorted down the catwalk by two young men, literally looking like an actual queen. Dell'Orefice has appeared in campaigns for Missoni, shot by Giampaolo Sgura; Sephora, shot by Mikael Jansson; Philipp Plein, shot by Steven Klein and H&M and walked the runway for Anna Sui, Stéphane Rolland, Thierry Mugler and Guo Pei.

Aside from modeling, Dell’Orifice has featured in several television shows and films, including comedy The Guru, documentary Bill Cunningham New York and even an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Although the chances of being discovered by a model scout at the retirement age are significantly lower than when you are a teenager, there’s an exception.

Jacquie 'Tajah' Murdock has landed her first major campaign at the age of 82. The grandmother of 10 was picked by the French fashion label Lanvin for its fall advertising campaign in 2012.

Then Lanvin’s artistic creator, Alber Elbaz, cherry-picked an unlikely cast of 'real' people, including an unknown waiter, milliner, and a recent U.S. immigrant, to be photographed in the brand’s campaign.

With this campaign, Murdock’s dream came true. She always wanted to become a high-profile model, but when she was young “the opportunity was not there for women of colour” she said in an interview.

Maye Musk is famous not only because she is a mother to Elon Musk, the Tesla C.E.O. and one of the most famous inventor-entrepreneur of his generation. Her biography reads like a stylish adventure book. She was born in Canada, grew up in Pretoria, South Africa, was a finalist in the 1969 Miss South Africa contest, earned a Master's degree in dietetics by 21 and left apartheid South Africa, moving back to her native Canada, with her three children.

Musk is at the forefront of breaking down industry barriers. The five-decade model says that she has never worked so much as she does now. She proved to a multifaceted model, doing everything from starring in campaigns for cosmetics giants like Clinique and Revlon to playing the heroine in Beyoncé’s atmospheric video for “Haunted.”

Her nutrition knowledge from her both studies (Musk earned another Master's degree in nutritional science from the University of Toronto) and personal experience is her main beauty secret.
“If you eat well, the whole body and hair will be well fed,” she says.

 With her striking silver hair and neat figure, Musk looks absolutely stunning at age 69. But unlike many models, she is not disingenuous and never stated that she should only thank Mother Nature. There’re plenty of works behind this effortless look.   

“I think the biggest misconception about me is that people think I am naturally lean,” Musk says. “I am not. I have to eat healthfully all the time and be incredibly conscious about what I put into my body. Nutrition-wise, no matter how much knowledge you have, you need strategies to prevent weight gain. Plan ahead and avoid temptation. I still do that on a daily basis.”

Instagram is no longer the territory of the young people too. There’re several huge social media stars and they’re over 60.

Lyn Slater, 64, is a grandmother, professor (she is teaching at Fordham University) and an influencer. She launched her blog four years ago, but a breakthrough happened at a fashion show two years ago. Slater happened to be at the right place at the right time during New York Fashion Week. Dressed in a Yohji Yamamoto suit and carrying a Chanel bag she attracted dozens of photographers.

"All of a sudden I was surrounded by fashion photographers taking my picture, thinking I was some fashion person" she recalls. 

Today, she regularly posts pictures of her stylings and thrills thousands of fans. Her Instagram, ironically called iconaccidental, boasts almost 500k followers.

In 2017 Slater became a part of the Mango’s “A Story of Uniqueness” campaign. 

Sarah Jane Adams, 62, is another older blogger who calls herself an 'accidental Instagram star'.

Within a year she’d bagged herself a modeling contract with international agency IMG, and now her Instagram followers have catapulted to more than 160,000.

The jewelry designer found fame among thousands as she posted a photo to her Instagram where she was sporting a red vintage Adidas jacket in 2014. While she had originally hoped to promote her jewelry line with the Instagram shot, Ms Adams was soon contacted by the sportswear brand.

The 62-year-old has made a name for herself for effortlessly putting together unusual, quirky and gorgeous outfits.

Well, unlike youth, this era of the older models does not seem to pass quickly.

What do you think?  The era of anti-aging is over? 

Photo iStock/Martin Kilarcki