Our Willowberry Age Without Apology Insta Live Series is held bi-weekly on our Instagram page. These live chats with expert guests are designed to help you navigate age with confidence and style. Here are the highlights of our recent chat with model Rachel Peru.
Rachel Peru became a model at the age of 46 after volunteering in a Macmillan charity fashion show led to a life-changing career switch. Now 51, her portfolio includes fashion, beauty, swimwear and lingerie campaigns, proving it’s never too late to achieve what you want in life.
In this inspiring chat, Rachel spoke about embracing the glamour of grey hair, how getting older has brought a confidence that her younger self could only dream of and why finding your joy later in life makes it all the sweeter.
Life Story Part 1
I left school without knowing what I wanted to do and spent a lot of time in retail. I had 3 children and then found myself getting divorced at 39. I went to university and got an Education Studies degree and thought I’d be teaching for the next two decades.
Life Story Part 2: Becoming a model at 46
A friend volunteered us both to model in a local Macmillan charity fashion event. I had never done anything like that before. So, after several gin and tonics, off I walked down the catwalk … and I absolutely loved it. I came off that stage feeling empowered, I was ready to go and do it again! I sent off really basic photographs to agencies all across the country and signed with London agency Bridge very quickly. I never thought I’d be doing this at this age.
Turns out modelling swimwear is the ultimate confidence boost…
When I started modelling I assumed that it would just be lifestyle stuff, fashion, a bit of beauty. Within my first year, I found myself modelling swimwear. I was 47 at that point and I had really struggled with my body confidence over the years. In my 20s and 30s I’d never felt comfortable in my skin. I’ve always been curvy. So to find myself modelling swimwear at 47 alongside model Ashley Graham and singer Lizzo? I was just blown away by that experience and came back thinking: ‘OK, your body is good enough just as it is right now’.
Sexy doesn’t have an age limit
The feedback I get from other women who see me in lingerie campaigns: they are really positive about it and feel represented. We need to see a 50-year-old wearing a bra rather than always seeing an image of a 20-year-old in lingerie ads, that’s really important. We also need to give women permission to feel sexy in their 50s and 60s+. If you’re not visible and you’re not seeing women going out there buying really beautiful lingerie and wearing it, it makes you feel like there’s something wrong with doing that. It’s important to get that conversation out there.
The Bank of Confidence
I spent a lot of my years feeling scared, so when I turned 40 I was determined this was going to be the decade I was braver. I’ve said yes to everything and very much worried about it afterwards! For my 40th I did a tandem sky dive. I hate heights but I knew I had to build this bank of confidence up. Then I started travelling and volunteered in orphanages in Uganda and India and travelled on my own. It was doing things like that that actually built the confidence up; it was nothing about the way I looked.
Older women and the beauty industry
In advertising and media and marketing, they are missing one of the biggest groups of consumers financially. They are still not serving us and not showing up for us which is really frustrating. There’s still that tokenism where they use one older model in a campaign. But hopefully by including an older model in a campaign, the feedback they then get from their consumers, which is always really positive, will lead the way to these brands really listening to what the consumers actually want.
(Grey) hair is everything
I was grey since I was a teenager. So I’ve dyed it every colour of the rainbow. I dyed it until I was 45 and by then I had remarried and I was in a really good place, comfortable in my own skin. I just woke up one morning and thought ‘I just do not want to colour it anymore; I’m just going to stop’ and that was it. I was lucky, I had a very short pixie cut which helps massively because it just grew out! I felt really comfortable and, for the first time, properly like myself. Get a really good hairdresser because a great cut makes a massive difference to your confidence.
Beauty tips for mid-life
I drink lots of water. I make sure that I moisturise, I use eye serums, I have factor 50 SPF on my face because I live in Yorkshire and I’m out walking all the time. I have got more fine lines but it’s nothing that bothers me. I’m just more aware of making sure that I give my skin the right products.
Listen to your body, especially when you’re going through the menopause. I think you really do have to be kinder to yourself. Make sure you have a healthy balanced diet, drink a lot of water and sleep.
Watch your (beauty) language
Words like anti-ageing and anti-wrinkle send out such a negative message about ageing, it’s like we’re meant to fear it. Ageing is a gift. It’s not a given. We should be celebrating it instead of telling the younger generation of women to fear it. You have a wrinkle in your fifties? Shock, horror! We need to really shift that narrative. We’ve seen so many shifts that have really been positive in the last couple of years, I do feel like ageism is the last box to be ticked.
How to Age Without Apology
Just be really true to yourself and don’t let your age stop you from trying anything new. That’s where the magic happens. When you find that thing that brings you joy.
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