Many supermodels have a great story about how they were "discovered" on the street and thrust into a world of fashion and glamour.
It's not often that such a discovery happens to a woman of 49 with laugh lines and a full head of long silver hair. But that's exactly what happened to Cindy Joseph on the streets of New York when a casting agent approached her about modeling for Dolce & Gabbana.
As they say, the rest is history: In the past decade, Joseph's image in ads for well-known brands such as Ann Taylor, DKNY, Garnier and J. Crew has helped shatter the stereotype that older models aren't modern or sexy enough to sell beauty and fashion. She also paved the way for a boom in boomer models.
The irony is, Joseph had been hiding in plain sight in the fashion business for 25 years, working as a makeup artist for supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford. Although people sitting in her chair had asked if she'd ever modeled, it wasn't until she stopped dyeing her hair that anyone expressed serious interest.
"They really wanted the silver hair," Joseph says. "I wouldn't be working the way I'm working if I didn't have the silver hair."
Still, she says, that hasn't cast her in the slot of Grandma in ads, despite having two children of her own, ages 40 and 37.
"It's amazing since I started modeling 12 years ago, I've done almost no 'old
age' products," says Joseph, who recently celebrated her 60th birthday."People of my generation and older still live a
life full of passion and vitality. They're running marathons and becoming yoga
teachers. We are living the way we have lived our whole life."
A Boom in Boomer Models
As America's 77 million baby boomers age, advertisers are scrambling to find beautiful older models that this generation can relate to -- or risk losing boomers and their tremendous buying power.
"[Boomers] want marketing that is relevant to them," says Paulette Ellison, who heads Ford Models' classic division, which represents Joseph and other models over 35. "They're not trying to be young. They want a representation of what they are, and that is vibrant, healthy and active. Sixty isn't what 60 was five, 10 or 20 years ago."
Indeed, Ford's classic division has tripled in size in the last five years from 20 models to about 60, Ellison says, with her oldest model, 79-year-old Carmen Dell'Orefice, still walking in the occasional runway show.
"The boundaries are changing," Ellison says.
The Beginning of a Second Career
Joseph's discovery almost didn't happen. She was set to exit the fashion business and had booked a sabbatical in Colorado to mull her next career move.
"I never expected to model. That wasn't in my scope or vision," Joseph says.
But after that first ad for Dolce & Gabbana, the offers poured in. She joined Ford Models, and then came ads for Target, J. Jill, Liz Claiborne, Banana Republic, Elizabeth Arden and Nivea, and appearances on the pages of O Magazine, More, Glamour and Mademoiselle. In her peak year she made $280,000, and now, with a much greater level of competition, she still earns six figures.
It's a level of fame that she couldn't have had when she was younger, Joseph says, given that she was shorter (she's 5'7") and slightly heavier than other runway models. Moreover, she says, she lacked the self-acceptance that she has now.
"If someone had asked me to model between 16 and 25, I couldn't have done it.
I was way too self-conscious. I was so critical of myself and was constantly
comparing myself to others."
With Age Comes Confidence
However, with age, and a lot of self-analysis, she says, she was able find a new level of acceptance and gratitude.
Indeed, she was surprised to find that life got better as she got older. She remembers pushing past 40, and then 50, waiting for "something bad to happen." Instead, she says, life just kept getting more interesting.
"Age has gotten a bad rap," Joseph says.
The main thing Joseph focuses on in daily living -- and one of her secrets to looking so graceful and serene in ads -- is finding the pleasure in life.
"I am not photogenic if I'm not happy. What I have to do to look good in a picture is have a good time."
Joseph's image of happy, vibrant, graceful aging has earned her a cult-like following among women over 40. Middle-aged women write to her, she says, and stop her on the street, expressing gratitude for her decision not to color her hair or have cosmetic surgery. They say it has given them the courage to do the same.
"We all want inspiration. I'm happy I can be that to women and also... be their spokesperson."
Recently, Joseph launched her own makeup line. It's called Boom! by Cindy Joseph, a minimalist cosmetics line designed to play up, rather than conceal, aging faces. "I don't want to ever tell women that the way they look has to be changed, fixed or hidden," Joseph says. "This is just to celebrate it. These products don't hide anything." It's an unlikely cosmetics line for a former makeup artist. There's no foundation, under-eye concealer or huge array of eye and lip shades.
Boom! features just three items -- a color stick to give a natural flush to cheeks, eyes and lips; a highlighting stick to play up certain planes of the face; and a moisturizing stick to make dry patches more dewy.
When it comes to aging skin, Joseph says, less is more. You don't want to put on a lot of cover-up or spackle.
"That's just putting texture over texture, and it's not the most flattering thing. You want to have your skin looking healthy and glowing and well-moisturized," she says.
Most days, when she's going out, she just rubs on her Boomsticks and a little
mascara and brow powder to fill in where her brows were over-plucked long
Mostly, Joseph credits her good looks and glow to her exercise habit. She works out three times a week with her trainer, Vadim Vilensky, with whom she stars in a new workout video.
She also tries to balance work and play, and is mindful of what she eats, sticking mostly to fruit and vegetables and eating slowly and mindfully.
"I don't overeat. I say no to certain things." It's not always fun, she says. But "it's loving yourself enough to do the right thing."
She shares a Victorian house overlooking the Hudson River in New York with her partner, Bruce, and five other friends, which provides her with a built-in community. "It's great; you can tap into that energy whenever you want," Joseph says. "I'll never live alone again."
She says she'll keep modeling and doing what she's doing for as long as it's fun. "I will not hesitate to drop everything and walk away from it," she says. "I always want to be in the driver's seat."
SecondAct contributor Melinda Fulmer writes regularly about issues of health and wealth for publications such as the Los Angeles Times and web portal MSN.
© 2010 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. dba SecondAct