I’m standing in the mirror with a tube of mascara, covering grey hair.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t be caught dead with grey hair. My mom started going grey at 16, and by the time she was in her 30’s she was so tired of constantly coloring it that she let the whole thing go white. It was and still is beautiful, I have to admit, but I’m not going there, even at 45. I might as well break out the walking stick and cruise right into old age.
Sometimes, I think back to my modeling days when walking down the street was just glorious. The stares, the cars slowing down, the power. Then it stopped. Kids came along with a few extra pounds, wrinkles, and grey hair. Sometimes I feel like I could shrivel up like the bad witch in the Wizard Of Oz. Plastic surgery is not the answer, I’ve been down that road and it doesn’t end well.
This is on my mind when the phone rings.
It’s my bestie Tomiko, excited because she just signed with a modeling agency. A modeling agency?
This wouldn’t be such a big deal knowing Tomiko’s background. She was the first African American woman signed to a cosmetics contract with Maybelline, and she’s been in tons of magazines. But the truth is she took time off to have babies, her twins are 3 years old, and she’s about to be 48. Modeling isn’t one of those jobs where you take maternity leave and come back. You go into it knowing there’s a shelf life.
When I bring this up to Tomiko she says that she couldn’t ask for a better fit. “This agency is based solely on older models. They know my age, my weight, and that I’m a mom. I get to be completely myself.”
Is she kidding me? Where do I sign up?! I clearly remember a time when something like this would never happen. I wonder what changed?
Tomiko puts me in touch with Jill Perlman, an industry veteran who got her start working for Eileen Ford, and one of the partners of Iconic Focus Modeling agency. She’s more than happy to talk to me about what’s happening in the industry.
“As a woman, when I look in catalogs or go to the cosmetics counter I can’t relate to a 19 year-old girl and wanting to buy the same products that she’s buying because that’s not who I am,” Jill says. “So we thought, why not open a model agency and bring back all those girls whose faces we saw when we were in our 20’s, 30’s and teens. Women that we used to look up to. Women that you want to buy from because you trust them, and want to be a part of their world.”
It makes sense. I get excited seeing Iman and Naomi because I grew up with them and they really show how beauty has no age. I wanna know what products they’re using and how they keep themselves in such incredible shape.
“But still, what about the advertisers? Do they care that we want to see women who look like us? People were asking to see curvy models for years and it’s only now that we’re seeing a change.”
“Our girls are working,” she says. “There’s a whole market out there because we’re living longer and we’re not dressing like our grandmothers and wearing muu muus and taking out the garbage. We are very educated and worldly and we have so much to give, and money to spend. It’s the baby boomers from age 35-70 that are spending, not the 19 year-olds who are still being supported by their parents.”
This makes even more sense because information that I’ve been picking up on, but never really thought much about, is coming back to me. I’m thinking about how the global population is aging at an accelarated rate, and Centenarians are the fastest-growing age segment. By 2050, the number of 100-year-olds is expected to reach 6 million, compared to just a few thousand in the 1950’s. They attribute the spike to advances in medicine, better diets and overall health improvement. The fact that we’re living longer and healthier explains why people who are 50 years old today look so darn good! Women like actresses Elise Neal, Halle Berry, and Angela Basset are killing it; and let’s not forget Helen Mirren who makes 71 look like a dream.
Think about it this way…back when people used to die at age 50, their 20’s was their prime. But when you start living to be 100, 50 really does become the new 20. I don’t know about anyone else, but that makes me smile.