Age No Barrier For These Models In Their 60s

SLIDESHOW: Today there is a plethora of vivacious silver-haired models in high-fashion glossies.

The stories of four older catwalk models, who show off a particular allure from a life well lived.

A glance at international catwalks show that they are no longer exclusively populated by leggy teenagers. At Paris Fashion Week, Jane Fonda, Helen Mirren and six supermodels of the 1990s strutted down the runway. The fashion industry has finally woken up, realising that men and women who can afford expensive clothes want to see models their own age wearing them. Whereas in the past the 60-plus model would be relegated to lifestyle adverts in lilac cardigans, today there is a plethora of vivacious silver-haired models in high-fashion glossies. We celebrate four of them.

Maye Musk
Catwalk and music video star Maye Musk is not used to being upstaged. Although she will make an exception for her son Elon, billionaire Tesla CEO and one of the most famous entrepreneurs of his generation.“We always called him ‘the genius boy’, so I knew he would go far,” she says. “But, as my friends always tell me, I was famous before Elon was famous.”

Quite right too. Maye, 69, was gracing the cover of magazines long before the genius was even a sparkle in her eye, with her career taking off in her native South Africa by the time she was 15. Born Maye Haldeman in Saskatchewan, Canada, to explorer parents, she and her family moved to a farm north of Johannesburg when she was just three years old. Once her razor-sharp cheekbones, piercing eyes and long legs were spotted in a South African shopping centre, life changed forever. Barefoot games in the long, yellow grass were quickly replaced by the catwalks of London and Paris, and a youthful marriage to Elon’s father.

In an industry famed for its short attention span, Maye has clocked up more than five decades of experience — and she’s conversely more successful now than ever before, fronting campaigns for Clinique and Revlon, and making a star appearance in Beyoncé’s ‘Haunted’ video.

“My relationship with my appearance hasn’t changed much as I’ve got older,” says Maye. “My mother was never bothered by her ageing. I feel the same. She never mentioned the change in her looks. She passed away at 98, still wise and happy. I’d like to follow her lead.”

Today, Maye is based in Los Angeles, a few blocks away from Elon and her six grandchildren. But her life hasn’t always been this charmed; as a single mother trying to raise her three kids in Apartheid-era Johannesburg, 31-year-old Maye struggled to make ends meet, working at one time as a plus-size model after she gained weight around her divorce.

“I would like to think that there is a work ethic in our family,” she says. “I was a working mum and that never changed. That’s why the kids were also independent.”

Maye is clearly a woman comfortable in her own skin. When she turned 60, she let her natural hair colour replace a lifetime of blonde highlights, and she believes that her impressive ease with the ageing process can be credited for revitalising her career. “Ageing is great,” she says. “I would say all aspects of my life have got better as I have got older. I have been able to cope with losses and bad situations, which would have really devastated me in the past. It takes a few years on earth to realise that.”

Yazemeenah Rossi
“I feel wonderful and much happier than when I was 20, 30, 40 and even 50,” says Yazemeenah Rossi, a photographer and model in her 60s, who instead of hiding her age, flaunts it. Since NYC lingerie brand Land of Women used her to sell swimwear in its stark un-airbrushed ads at an age when most people collect pensions, everyone wants to work with her. She’s become a redefinition of modern ageless beauty, “that a woman is not finished at 40”, a reassuring muse for Gen-Xers and Millennials. “We’re officially no longer young when we think we aren’t anymore.”

Raised by her grandparents amid “the wild bushes and rocks” of Corsica, without running water or electricity, Rossi saw the wonders of nature up close. “My grandparents had a little restaurant by the sea and grew their own fruit and vegetables. We bathed and washed our clothes in the river among the turtles and trout. I had my first silver hair when I was about 12, and just embraced it. I was amazed how my body could produce such beautiful silver threads and heal scratches on my skin as if by magic.”

When she was a 28-year-old single mother with two children living in the suburbs of Paris, a friend who owned a boutique asked her to stand in for another model for one of her clients during Paris Fashion Week. “I said okay because I’ve always been curious and dived into the unknown. I was going through a divorce and this felt like a gift from the universe. It made me realise there’s always a blessing in disguise in difficult situations.”

She went from the decade-long stability of being a fittings model to a swirl of shoots and shows for YSL, Hermès and Jil Sander. But she didn’t get her break until “she arrived in New York, at 45, and found there was a demand for older models that didn’t exist in Europe”. Her unwillingness to dye her hair and hide her wrinkles only boosted her currency. “Going with nature instead of fighting it,” is a rule she lives by.

True to that spirit, the twice-divorced grandmother lives alone on a shining scimitar of southern Californian beach, with no television, creating art, swimming, surfing and going on little adventures.

She attributes her youthfulness to living lightly and authentically, and with plenty of sex. “I’ve eaten well; organic food long before it was trendy. I modify my diet as the years pass. The body doesn’t need the same things and quantities at 20, 40 and at 60. The funny thing is that I started to feel free and love my body when I went through menopause. Having young lovers was very interesting because I had lost my inhibitions about showing my body.”

With so many lazy, unflattering stereotypes of older women, her barrier-breaking ideas are refreshing. Ageing, in her view, is a blessing that brings awareness of the preciousness of life.“Sometimes I feel like a flower who was a seed once and now raises on her stem to give the most beautiful bloom before dying,” she muses.“I’m realistic that now I’m going towards the end of my life and enjoying every moment.”

Bernard Fouquet
Bernard Fouquet makes everything look so easy, even getting old. If his weathered face, sea-blue eyes and perpetually windswept silver hair look familiar, he’s the dad in the long-running Tommy Hilfiger ads, persuasively resembling an elegant archetypal patriarch. In real life, he’s also a family man, entrepreneur, adventurer and silver fox, greying gracefully, and challenging a youth-obsessed fashion industry.

“I’ve never worried about ageing,” says the dapper Frenchman who has long gone grey. “It’s pointless worrying about what we cannot change. Everything in life is about acceptance. Sure, beauty fades but with age you acquire confidence. It’s all in the head and how you view yourself. I have seen people at 25 who already seem old and some at 60 acting like young kids. When men or women desperately try to look young with Botox and clothes, they usually look ridiculous. It’s better to age naturally.”

Fouquet, who is 66 years old and looks it,seems unstoppable, with a career spanning more than 40 years of fronting glossy campaigns from Ralph Lauren to Brooks Brothers and everything in between. “I started in 1976, when I was 25, had left my wife and job at a law firm, and was on my way to California to go surfing. But I ran into a girl I knew who was then working at the biggest agency in Paris and it started from there.”

He has just returned from a shoot in Milan and is about to head off to another in some exotic locale. “I think it’s great to have recognition and to stay visible,”he says, and is convinced his demand is largely down to an ageing population, boomers wanting to see someone they could relate to. “I work in a world of image and, onset, some of the young guys like to tease me, saying: ‘We’re working with grandpa.’ Some people might be offended, but I think it’s sweet and makes me laugh.”

He is actually a grandfather and father of five daughters and a son, Los Angeles-based model and milliner Nick Fouquet (the pair have starred together in several campaigns). “Six children help me stay young,” he jokes. “But I’ve had difficult times like everyone else. I keep going and try to be an example to others. Seriously, it’s all good.”

Maybe it’s his cheery optimism or his French heritage, but he gives the impression of someone who has found peace and fulfilment later in life — having survived a drinking and drugs addiction, messy divorces and ever-shifting career paths: from dabbling in selling menswear and real estate, to being a lawyer and helicopter pilot.

“The most valuable lessons are the ones you get from failures and turning those failures into something positive,” says Fouquet, who thinks of himself as “a free-spirited kind of a guy. I would not do things differently or I wouldn’t be who I am today. The journey is what it is”.

Flitting around the globe from job to job, season after season, he is all too aware of his sheer good fortune and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. “I still have the desire to try new things. I love what I do… meeting people, seeing the world. I work very well and that’s great for an old man.”

Catherine Loewe
Loewe had already accomplished much in life when, at the age of 57, she became a fashion model. A corporate lawyer for two decades, a mother of four, an art historian and a board member of the Verbier Foundation Festival, modelling had simply never occurred to her. Sylph-like, swan-necked, with a regal mane of silver curls, she was discovered by chance at a modelling competition for teenagers by the Visage agency. She made her debut on the catwalk as a muse for Jean-Paul Gaultier, and has since appeared in his campaigns in tight black leather and studs. She has graced the pages of Vanity Fair and Vogue Japan in blue-chip editorials, and is now signed up with the Next modelling agency.

Modelling at the age of 60 was “something new” for her, Loewe explains of the decision to break into an industry obsessed with youth. “I have an eclectic and curious personality. I was excited by the opportunity to lead an anti-conformist movement,” she says. “Our notion of beauty today is an unreality created by Photoshop, or anti-ageing products advertised by the faces of 14-year-old girls. Women of my age have worth. I really enjoyed the idea that I could perhaps bring depth and beauty, and reflect a vision of a more intelligent idea of beauty.”

Loewe says: “Two decades ago, I would have just been a grandmother.” But the director of Visage always believed in staging older models, she adds, because in the modelling business girls of 15 and 25 years old all look alike. “Women find it difficult to relate to what they see in advertising.”

Loewe says: “What surprised me was the girls’ reaction to my arrival. They thought they had to stop everything at 25 years; they have finally discovered that there is a life afterwards.”

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