The beauty of the fashion industry today lies in the fact that you can see models of varying sizes, shapes, colours, and even genders walking on runways, posing on magazine covers, and being featured in advertisements for all sorts of brands. Though much progress must still be made, it’s worth celebrating that the models we see now are more representative of the world we live in.
Age, too, in relation to beauty and fashion is being re-examined. It’s no secret that, historically, the industry has harboured an obsession with youth—capturing it, preserving it, prioritizing it—that has bred unhealthy attitudes towards aging. However, age really is just a number. Indeed, these six models are proof that neither beauty nor style—nor worth, for that matter—diminish as one ages. Over 50 years old and making strides in the modelling world, these women are showing us that life doesn’t end when you’re older.
At 71 years old and five-foot-four, New York-native JoAni Johnson became a model by accident. She and her husband were walking through Chelsea one day in 2016, when a street style photographer asked to take her photo. This led to an appearance on a viral video from Allure about the beauty of gray hair. From there on, the opportunities kept coming. She has walked the runways of New York Fashion Week, and modelled for the likes of Rachel Antonoff, Eileen Fisher, and most recently, Rihanna’s FENTY.
Like Johnson, Juliette Branker’s modelling career began accidentally–When she was 51 years old, while on a trip to Argentina, she impulsively signed up for salsa lessons. During one lesson, another dancer—a model—gave Branker her agent’s contact information at Ford Models, Inc. Wanting to try new things, Branker forwarded some photos of herself, hopped on a call with her agent, and was offered a contract on the spot. Now in her mid-60s, she has appeared in ads for Miu Miu, Nordstrom, and more (all while, for a time, still keeping her day job of driving a forklift at a Lowe’s retail store).
Hailing from the United Kingdom, Frances Dunscombe started modelling at an astounding 82 years old, shortly after the death of her husband. The idea for the new career came from her daughter, also a model (and in her 60s, no less) at the time. Now in her 90s, Dunscombe is leading the charge in changing the perception of style and beauty at later stages in life. For her first job, she wore Prada for Hunger Magazine. Since then, she has walked London Fashion Week (becoming the oldest model to do so), made appearances in several radio and television broadcasts, and graced the cover of Harper’s Bazaar UK.
One of Singapore’s foremost supermodels, Pat Kraal, broke out on the modelling scene in the 80s. Throughout her career, she has worked with other top models like Iman and Claudia Schiffer, and walked runways for a multitude of luxury brands like Givenchy and Christian Dior. Kraal retired from her modelling career in the 90s shortly after giving birth to her first child. However, decades later, she is still a force in the industry to be reckoned with. In Singapore, she served as a judge on the competition show Model Search, on which men, women, and children competed to become the country’s next top model. Most notably, in 2022, Kraal, along with former runway model Béatrice André-Basse, and producer Brandon Barker, launched Platinum Angels Management, a Singapore-based modelling agency that specifically hire models over 50.
One of the most prolific models of our time, when Veronica Webb signed a contract to become a spokesmodel for Revlon in the early-90s, she made history as the first Black model to do so. From there, Webb appeared on the covers of renowned magazines like Elle, Essence, and Vogue, and, in 1995, she walked the first-ever Victoria’s Secret runway show. Like many models today, Webb made the transition to acting, starring in some of the most iconic movies and TV shows ever made, like Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever and Malcolm X and The West Wing. She is also an accomplished writer, having penned articles for publications like Elle, The New York Times, and Allure. In 2016, at 51 years old, Webb made a much welcome return to the runway, walking alongside Naomi Campbell and Alek Wek for Yeezy.
Jericho Tadeo | Contributing Writer