“Oh, when did you stop modeling?”
This is the question that I often receive right after people ask me what I do for a living -- after being eyed up and down for a brief moment, and offered a tight, polite smile. They look as if they’re on the verge of a stroke when I reply proudly that modeling is my current beloved career of choice.
At 50 years old, I am all of the things society would say that I shouldn’t be. I’m a model, I am single and have never birthed any children. People usually frown and furrow their brows at all of these facts, but quite frankly I couldn’t be happier!
As a teen girl I dabbled, uncommitted, in modeling; it was something I did for fun here and there as I was finding myself. The thing is that when the gigs did not roll in as expected, eventually a girl needed to eat. That’s when I pursued a degree and decided on the career path of becoming a pharmacist in my hometown in the UK.
Instead of settling down and starting a family I happily danced along the balancing beam of society's standards and threw myself into my work. I found myself shrugging off one thankless job after another and was less than content with my life. That aching feeling hit me…it hit at 27, then again at 34. It would go away right? Then one day at 47 years old, HOLY CRAP, it was back and stronger than ever before! I needed to recreate myself, to find the real, the happy…me.
At 48 years old, I quit my pharmacist’s career without a solid plan in mind. I had the thoughts, the doubts. “What am I doing? What are you thinking?” Then I took some time to think about the last time I was truly happy and it hit me much harder than I could have ever expected. I was exceptionally and carelessly happy during those days that I had been in front of the camera when I was younger. But there were slews of teenagers topless and skimpy all in the name of legendary fashion houses, so where did I fit in?
Where would I go -- and how would I be treated and received?
Through a little bit of Googling I found that there was a demand for models in an older age group to appeal to the baby boom generation -- YES!
I even found an agency that specialized in representing older models. However, when I called, my path to a happier life was quickly and abrasively deterred. I was told that I didn't have the “right accent,” and it was made clear that I did not have a fashionable Chelsea address. The owner dismissed me without taking a single look at my photographs. My aunt’s voice rang in my ears, “You're 48! Do you really think you're going to make it?!'' Her comment was rude and discouraging, but I only let it fuel my success.
My failed attempt to get back in the game only meant I needed to think of a new strategy. If I was to be my own business I needed to begin taking myself seriously. My first step was to create my website.
I spoke to Brent Green of BG Associates, a specialist in baby boomer marketing issues. When I sent him the link to my website portfolio he remarked, ''You don't look old enough, you look 20.'' At this point it hit me that I wasn’t a silver-haired feline these “older” campaigns and agencies were looking for. I was "too old" for the ageist mainstream modeling industry and "not old-looking enough" to be an "older model."
Trying to find my place in the industry, I took my portfolio in a more artistic direction. After my change in direction, my photographs were accepted for editorial by the Australian Women's Fashion Art Magazine. I also appeared on LA Global Talk Radio, a BBC interview and TV. Often times my dating life slipped into these interviews. I stopped being offended by prying questions like “Why aren’t you married?” or “Don’t you like children?” I decided I needed to change everyone’s views on what 50-year-old women should be doing, or should have done by now.
Most think I should be welcoming a second grandchild by now, or have a child in college or with a wonderful career. That’s just not me, and that’s okay. I enjoy my personal freedom, and believe it or not at 50, I very much enjoy dating as well. I’ve actually been single for most of my life, and that doesn’t mean I’m in any way unhappy or feel incomplete.
Family and friends will try and fool you into thinking that everyone’s biological clock is the same, that a life path should be decided at 30, and that all should classically fall into place. My take on it is: If this is the case, then why are depression rates so high? An unconventional life path can be scary. Being 50 years old and happily sitting on a rock naked while photographers take photos is also scary…but nothing scared me more than living my life bored and unhappy. Life is not made for that.
Women of all ages should stop allowing themselves to be single-shamed for wanting more in life than what the world's standards expect of us. We live in such a freethinking time, why should we follow rules that we don’t believe in?
I love to model underwear and hoisery. That’s right! I’m 50 years old and I still like a little bit of lace and to show a lot of leg. Fifty-year-olds can be sexy; we can exude an alluring appeal. Ageism covers these facts and I will never let them be buried. I work five days a week, and I refuse to hide the figure I work so hard for under frumpy layers and muted colors.
Will you see me modeling for Harley Davidson or Aspire Magazine? Maybe not right now…but I have got some news for you -- I still feel sexy at 50 and can convey it for the camera. If I’m up for a gig, I’m going to give those 18-year-olds a run for their money. Nothing is impossible and that’s the truth. I believe that change in the industry begins with me.
Despite the nasty murmurs and harsh criticisms, I refused to let anyone talk me into walking away from my dream. Why should I be shamed for stepping out of the box?
I am proud as a 50-year-old model that I have managed to throw that box away.