Ise White: Where are you from?
Maye Musk: I was born in Canada of English, American and Swiss descent. My parents moved to South Africa when I was two-and-a-half. My three kids and I returned to Toronto when I was forty-two. I followed them to California at forty-eight, moved to NYC at fifty and LA at sixty-four.
IW: How did you start your modeling career?
MM: When I was fifteen my mother’s friend asked me to take a course at her modeling school; she booked me for runway shows on weekends and print work during the holidays. While a student, I won two beauty competitions and was a finalist for Miss South Africa. I’ve been modeling for five decades, in eight cities in three countries.
IW: Did success take you by surprise?
MM: Modeling became my second profession as I was a teenage bookworm and obtained a BS in dietetics. My children were my priority, then my nutrition business, then modeling. I didn’t stop studying and working because I expected modeling to end. I graduated with two MS degrees and studied French and German, which really helps when modeling in Europe.
Modeling is now my main career due to the demand for models over sixty. Who knew? My children just accept my billboards as part of their lives, although their friends say they’re excited to see me in the Beyoncé video, in ads and in magazines. My grandsons were particularly thrilled to see me as an agent in the James Bond video game.
On photo shoots I’m always pleasantly surprised by the creative teams. The stylist, makeup artist, hair stylist and photographer work so hard. Fortunately I benefit from their end results.
IW: Were there obstacles along the way?
MM: As a teen, I modeled when asked. I then graduated, married, had children and worked from home as a dietitian. After my divorce thirty-six years ago, I focused on surviving. My nutrition business covered basic expenses like rent and food; modeling added frills like a dinner out, vacation, new outfits.
IW: What makes you successful?
MM: I work really, really hard. I’m willing to change with the times – makeup, hairstyles and wardrobe. I follow the advice of friends in the business. It is hard but always worth it. I’m punctual, friendly, polite, respectful, considerate, easygoing – qualities I learned from my parents and passed on to my children and grandchildren.
IW: You are very close to your family.
MM: I was fortunate to grow up with kind, hardworking, respectful, honest and kind parents. My siblings are the same, and we passed these work ethics to our children. Besides working very hard, we love to vacation together and laugh a lot.
IW: How did your work affect your relationships?
MM: It is difficult to have a relationship as a model. We are often given 24 hours’ notice for a job, which makes it hard to commit to a social event. We work long hours and weekends and travel frequently. This is hard for any partner to understand. My family and friends accept my career challenges.
IW: What qualities do you admire?
MM: Intelligence, good manners, respect, curiosity and being considerate. On photo shoots I’m always pleasantly surprised by the creative teams. They have talents I don’t have: The stylist, makeup artist, hair stylist and photographer work so hard. Fortunately I benefit from their end results.
IW: What’s your biggest challenge?
MM: Maintaining a healthy weight. I’m not naturally slim so I plan my meals and snacks every day. I can’t get too hungry or full or I could overeat on fatty and sweet foods and gain weight quickly. I have to refuse treats all the time. That’s stressful but worth it.
IW: What are your beauty and health regimens?
MM: I clean and moisturize my face and body, and avoid the sun. To stay healthy I eat well, exercise and sleep eight hours.
IW: What should every woman do?
MM: Eat well, work out, have good energy, stay positive, be happy, have good posture, dress nicely, smile a lot. Change your hairstyle and makeup. Updating your appearance is challenging but worth it!
IW: Do you do charity work?
MM: I’m involved in causes for nutrition-related diseases, childhood obesity and the environment. My younger son Kimbal works hard with the Kitchen Community, building vegetable and fruit gardens in underprivileged schools. When you see how happily the children dig in the dirt to plant vegetables, and months later collect vegetables to eat, you feel you’re teaching good eating habits to the next generation.
IW: Who do you look to for inspiration?
MM: Scientists are so dedicated to improving our lives; I love reading their findings. Photographers, makeup artists and stylists transform models into works of art. And then there’s my family, always working hard, doing amazing things and making me proud.
IW: What is your focus now?
MM: Delivering great work for the next twenty-five years, to inspire women over sixty-five to continue doing what they love. Women over sixty should be represented in designer shows as we spend the most in the fashion business: wardrobe, makeup and hair ads. I want to be part of that! In my spare time I’ll enjoy my grandchildren and teach public health at a private school which allows me to have flexible hours.
IW: You talk about your age without reservation.
MM: I’m working because I’m sixty-seven. I put my age on my Instagram bio! Older models are trending and I’m just getting started.
IW: What do you wish you knew when you were younger?
MM: I tried to change people who were mean or dishonest; that never worked.
IW: What do you like most about yourself?
MM: I’m very positive and funny. I wake up happy and full of energy, thinking great things will happen; if they don’t, I wake up the next morning with the same attitude.