Posted by Irene Ojo-Felix | July 30th, 2019

MAYE MUSK

Not many can claim a career spanning over 5 decades, in any profession, but if you ask model Maye Musk about her storied career her mantra is in all likelihood that the best is yet to come. The 71-year-old entrepreneur and licensed dietician has kept people guessing hitting modeling milestones for Tiffany & Co, Moncler, and Salvatore Ferragamo all while raising her notable billionaire progeny. Modeling since she was 15 years old, her recent contract with CoverGirl broke barriers as she became the beauty brand’s oldest spokesperson in its history, a true testament to playing the long game. Shot by photographer Joshua Jordan for Models.com, Maye Musk speaks with us on aging with grace, achieving notoriety later in life, and how she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Photographer : Joshua Jordan for Models.com
Stylist : Sarah Gore Reeves
Hair : David von Cannon
Make up : Brigitte Reiss-Andersen

Model: Maye Musk
Interview: Irene Ojo-Felix

Your story is something that’s so unique but I wanted to hear it from your perspective. How did you first become a model and where were you first discovered?
I was 16 years old and my mom’s best friend had a modeling school. She asked me if I would do a course and I said okay, but didn’t give it a thought. I looked terrible, I made my own suit, and I had my hair blow-dried for the first time in a really corny style but obviously, she saw talent. I still have that photo which I won’t share with anyone. Then she booked me for runway shows on Saturday mornings because I couldn’t take time off school. And then during the holidays, she booked me for a print job and I thought, “Oh this is fun! Wow, I’m getting paid this is even more fun”.

Absolutely. And how does someone, who’s based in South Africa, eventually move to Canada and then create a career in the States? You seem like you’ve been very much a global traveler since you were younger and I know that’s the nature of the business for being a model. Was there always a spirit that you had that was dedicated to traveling the world and moving around?
No, I don’t think you can choose to travel because when you move it’s a huge pain. This is my eighth city since I’ve been an adult and eight times starting off as a model. I also have my nutrition practice, which was my favorite income as I always said my modeling was the cherries on top. In other words, I was able to support my kids, as a dietician.

Talk about this, this joint career as a dietician. What do you think models need to know about maintaining a healthy lifestyle when it comes to food?
First of all, I know it’s really hard to eat healthily because I will go on a shoot and always choose the healthy food – the salads, the whole wheat bread, the high fiber foods, and fruit. Then I will have a skinny young model next to me and she’ll eat cookies and she’s just naturally thin and you can’t fight that. I’m a size six and it’s hard enough to be a size six, which is not sample size but a great size for catalogs. Before that, I was just the original working model. Flying economy to Europe and doing catalogs but it was really nice and I was loving every bit of it. I didn’t depend on modeling.

Left: Suit – Brunello Cucinelli | Right: Suit – Hugo Boss

Well, all the hard work shows. I mean your CoverGirl campaign last year was obviously a huge milestone from an outside perspective. What was your reaction to hearing you’d be a part of that campaign?
I was told that they’re considering me, but you get that a lot in modeling and models will tell you. But then they said, “We would like to meet you”. I said, “Okay…” Then I get to the meeting and they have all my photos up and they’d already decided, I was going to be a CoverGirl. It was so surreal listening to them say how they want to work with me and that. And then I walked away, I said to my agent, “Am I a CoverGirl now?” And she said well they have a contract for you. That’s not something you dream about as a model because you think it’s not ever going to happen. You can’t even think about that. So it was really weird and absolutely wonderful. But then, of course, the whole journey has been incredible.

It’s been amazing from an outside perspective because even my brief understanding of what the industry was, it always felt like it was very youth-obsessed. So to see someone, who doesn’t fit within the expected mold it brings hope to see specifically beauty brands evolving with the times and realizing their products are for everyone. Do you think fashion or culture is youth obsessed or are we now kind of evolving to this new era?
I must say from my Instagram account, I get a lot of positive comments from women of all ages saying, you give us hope, we no longer fear to age, we’re not scared of our wrinkles, thank you for what you’re doing. I even had someone say a year ago, “I can’t wait to be 71”. I thought it really gives a woman a lot more confidence about being fashionable, being confident and getting out there and not worrying about their age.

You mention social media and it’s been great to see you being a pioneer embracing it with no qualms. When Instagram and Twitter came about, were you at first intimidated or was it always something that you just naturally embraced?
As a dietician, I would give lectures around the world on how to be an entrepreneur and meet with communities and teach them how to eat well. That was easy. As a model, I never combined the two because to me modeling was more fun than serious science. I never let people know I was a model. Then my son sat down with me and opened my Instagram account and said, “You have to start posting your modeling photos”. And I said, “Ooh, I don’t like to brag, I don’t like to brag”. And as you notice I got over that very quickly.

Blouse – Givenchy

What makes a model last in this business so long? Do you find that it’s just tenacity or is there like a certain mindset that you have to have?
I think you have to maintain a norm, a healthy way to be in good health and you have to be nice to everybody. I mean really, you can’t have a diva attitude brought up. Women would ask, “Hey, I’m reaching 60 can I be a model?” And then I’d say put on your best face and post on Instagram. I can’t give advice and say, “Oh yes of course because you’re old you can also be a model”. That’s not the point. The point is you’ve got to work at it and you’ve got to build up your portfolio. You’ve got to have photos taken, selfies, test sheets, and everything to let people know you exist, you know?

“I get to the meeting and they have all my photos up and they’d already decided, I was going to be a CoverGirl. It was so surreal listening to them say how they want to work with me…That’s not something you dream about as a model because you think it’s not ever going to happen.”

How has modeling changed since you started?
In the past for a runway show, you did your own hair and make-up and you packed your shoes and accessories and you carried a huge bag with you. Now I just turn up with a clean face, clean hair, clean nails and they do everything for me. Also, runway used to be heavily choreographed and you would have to remember which dress you were wearing and where you’re meant to walk, where you’re meant to turn, where you’re meant to stop. I used to have a chart so that I could see exactly when I walk and when I pose and things like that. Now I just have to have a sulky face. I used to smile all the time. Now I just have to look sad or depressed. I’m only joking. I mean just a blank face and then you just walk straight and you walk out. It’s the easiest modeling I’ve ever done.

I miss the twirls, to be honest. I want to go and lobby for some choreography on the runway again. I don’t know who I should talk to. Going back to your CoverGirl campaign, I think it was interesting to see the impact of that campaign and the new rules for beauty being limitless. How do you define beauty? What do you consider beautiful?
When I see someone who’s interesting and fabulous, and full of life, just a joy to be around, they’re beautiful. Those are my friends. My friends’ traits are based on a warm personality, being kind, doing good for others, considerate of others. That to me is a beautiful person.

Out of the goals that you’ve already accomplished, are there any more that you want to conquer or brands or photographers you still want to collaborate with? What is left?
I think there’s still a lot left. There’s a lot of top photographers I haven’t worked with. Hair and make-up people, creative people, brands I haven’t worked with. So many brands have realized my seventies is a good age to promote their brands. My mom stopped working at 96 and I hope to go longer. Who knows?

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3 Comments to “Maye Musk on becoming a CoverGirl and aging with grace”

  1. Aida says:

    We need more women like her!

  2. Very happy for her, she´s a hard working fashion model who deserves this recognition and brand success 😉

  3. ashlenn says:

    i love this story!! i would love to model and tell you my story!

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