A struggle with greying hair and a chance encounter were the catalysts for Madalyn’s reinvention; a week later, she was on the Oprah show.
When did you start to think about charting a new direction for yourself in midlife?
As an award-winning teacher at an inner-city Chicago school, I wasn’t really thinking of a “new direction” until I went to my hair stylist. My dark brown hair was turning grey and I wasn’t ready for that. My stylist refused to color it; she loved my natural silver streaks, which she said people paid big money for, and convinced me to leave them alone.
Days later, a talent agent at the Ford Modeling Agency stopped me on the street to ask me where I got my hair done because she loved my “highlights.” She urged me to go to an Open Call for models the following week, so I took a chance and I did.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be modeling at my age and size.
At the age of 50, I was offered a modeling contract. I was floored, really. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be modeling, let alone for a renowned agency like Ford, at my age and size. It felt like I was on “candid camera.”
What is your next act?
I am an exclusive, Classic and Lifestyle model for print, TV and runway. Exclusive means that I only have one representation and when clients call for my “look,” I’m the first to be considered. It also means I can get booked directly without having to audition. Classic is a nice way of saying “over 50.” Lifestyle is a woman-next-door look that entails bookings for everyday type of work––health care and consumer products, for example.
I was given a contract the day I walked into the agency and I decided right then and there to sign. It was really a no-brainer, knowing Ford’s reputation. I didn’t have a lawyer look at the contract. I didn’t even tell my husband what I was up to that day.
My first assignment was modeling for the Oprah show. I was the only full-figured, over-50-with-silver-hair model she had on her fashion segment and that was 10 years ago. I felt totally outside my element, wearing stilettos (which I had never worn before), lots of jewelry (which I didn’t normally wear), and jeans (which I hadn’t worn in 20 years).
I was the last model to go out on stage and I panicked. Never having worn the type of clothing and accessories they had me wear, and never having practiced how to walk and pose, I thought my career would be over before it started. I asked one of the older models what I should do and she looked at me in shock and told me to do “what I always did.” When I confessed that I had never modeled before, let alone in front of a live audience for the most-watched program on TV, she just told me to be “myself.” That, in a nutshell, worked.
I love that, at my age, there is no competition or pressure in the fashion industry to be “perfect.”
When I walked out and the lights flashed, cameramen clicking away and the audience roaring in applause (probably because I was the only silver-haired gal in the lineup), somehow I kept it together. Oprah even started a little conversation with me, which I’m told never happens. She asked me how I felt in the clothes and I had to tell her the truth––that I hadn’t worn jeans in over 20 years. My stylist on the show, Charla Krupp (renowned stylist to the stars in LA) had a ball talking about me with Oprah. Needless to say, jeans have been a staple in my closet ever since.
You can imagine the children’s faces the next day after seeing their teacher on the Oprah Show!
Interestingly, the more silver my hair turned, the more work I got. I love that, at my age, there is no competition or pressure in the fashion industry to be “perfect.” I’m booked for who I am and what I look like “as is” –– without having to deny my age.
I’m proud to represent a demographic that is changing society’s perceptions of health, fashion, and beauty.
I especially enjoy the runway shows. I love wearing beautiful clothes and getting the audience’s reaction when walking the runway. The women in the audience (including their husbands) inevitably stop me after the show to let me know they are happy to see a mature woman model. Those comments always find themselves to the client, resulting in more bookings.
I’m proud to represent the clientele with the buying power, a demographic that is changing society’s perceptions of health, fashion, and beauty. We are not only our mothers’ daughters; we work, raise our families, take care of our health, and volunteer, while still maintaining our personal sense of style — celebrating age without denying it.
What favorite assignments have you gotten in print, runway, and TV? Any least favorites?
I did a national print ad for Chase bank. It was quite fun walking into my bank, which is Chase, and getting double-takes from customers. Friends and family from across the US called me to tell me my print ad was in their bank.
For runway, I loved my many appearances on the Oprah show. Working with Rita Wilson (Tom Hanks’ wife), who was a stylist on one of Oprah’s fashion segments, was my favorite. She was the best! Very sweet, kind, and professional.
I loved the TV ad I did for Kellogg’s Special K, which was the first time they used silver-haired talent. It was a little nerve-wracking and fun at the same time since the ad required me to twirl around for what seemed like a million takes. Shooting a Sandals Resorts commercial in Jamaica ranks way up there too.
My least favorite was a print ad I did for a hospital, where I was the patient in a wheelchair. The nerve! Ironically, it paid the best.
How supportive were your family and friends?
They are ecstatic at my transformation. I was very shy growing up. At 12, I was already taller than my father, which mortified me. I was stopped on the street at 19 to go to New York and model for the Ford Agency, but I was too insecure. Now, I’ve come full circle. My family and friends can’t believe I was once that shy, insecure girl. And for me, it started by letting my hair go natural. Very empowering. Very freeing.
I now belong to a “Silver Sisters” support group, inspiring women to “just be,” whatever that may mean, whether it’s to choose to ditch the dye, seek another career, or anything else. It’s a closed group I became a part of after someone on Facebook sent me a private message to join. Cindy Joseph, a famous NY model, is one of the members, so I said, why not?
What challenges did you encounter?
I didn’t know how to model. I was asked to walk at the Open Call but that was it. I was given no formal training. People––agents and clients—assume you already know what you’re doing, which can be a little daunting. On the other hand, the confidence that comes with age is an advantage in this profession. Most people on the set––art directors, photographers— are a few decades younger so I command a certain level of respect. If they only knew I started in this business at 50, I often wonder if I would have been booked at all!
The confidence that comes with age is an advantage in this profession.
I got a lot of tips from women in my category, who had been modeling most of their lives. In fact, I don’t know anyone in the Classic Division who started late in the game, like I did. My colleagues, clients, and agents just assumed I had been at it all my life, which is quite amusing to me.
It’s hard to work with a crew when they don’t quite know what they want. It can also be frustrating to work with stylists and makeup artists who don’t quite understand how to work with older skin, grey hair, or my size 10 (which is not the same as a size 10 on a 20-something).
It’s challenging to make a good living being a model, but a fun way to make extra cash. It really is a supplement to one’s income, unless you live in NY or LA, where there is more work. In Chicago, the going rate is around $190/hour if you’re starting out (if you have an exclusive, there’s usually a 2-hour minimum), the ½ day rate is around $1500-2500 and the full day $5,000. You could make more depending on usage frequency and medium (online, print, etc.). While these rates are lucrative, keep in mind that there’s no telling how often you’ll get work. It could be a couple of times a week or a couple of times a month!
I believe I’m at the tail end of my modeling days in the Midwest. Work dies down after 60 unless you’re in NY or LA, where the majority of the clients who book for pharmaceuticals and other age-related products are located. We used to be flown to those cities but now, with the economy, this rarely happens.
I learned that I can do just about anything I set out to do.
What did you learn about yourself through this process?
I learned that I can do just about anything I set out to do. I also learned — and you may laugh when you read this— that, especially in the fashion industry what you think of me is none of my business. This perspective is rooted in self-confidence. Don’t worry about what others think because what they think is only their perception based on their own life experiences and concerns.
What do you tell women who struggle with whether to let their hair grey or color it?
I can say this on behalf of all the women I have talked to over the years: Mother Nature has a way of giving us the “right” color for our complexion. It’s rare that natural grey hair doesn’t look better than dyed hair. Ironically, taking care of grey hair is very similar to caring for color-treated hair. I stay out of the sun and moisturize it once a week. I use non-sulfate shampoo. To keep it shiny and healthy, I apply extra virgin coconut oil as a mask an hour before washing it (I do this when I go work out).
What words of advice do you have for women seeking to reinvent themselves in midlife, and possibly pursuing your path?
As cliché as it sounds, I say follow your gut because it will rarely fail you. Believe in who you are, do the necessary legwork, and have a cheerleading squad ready to uplift you when needed. Always surround yourself with those who are positive and willing to help or mentor you.
Follow your gut because it will rarely fail you.
If you’re interested in modeling, stay out of the sun, keep your “look” fresh and consistent (your haircut must remain exactly the way the photos are in your portfolio), take care of your skin and hair, and stay fit.
The best way to start out, if you have no experience, is to call modeling agencies in your area and see if they have Open Calls, which are almost always the first step. Some agencies prefer to have you email them a candid photo then, if they’re interested, they will call you for an appointment.
Always surround yourself with those who are positive and willing to help or mentor you.
Show up at Open Calls wearing natural makeup and hair, jeans and a t-shirt, and make sure your nails are clean. The idea is simply to show “you.” Don’t bring headshots if you’re a novice. In fact, they prefer to be the agency that “discovers” you. Of course, if you have prior experience, bring your portfolio from your previous agency. The Open Call is over very quickly. You sign in and, within minutes, the agents decide whether or not they want to talk to you about a contract.
When signing a contract, be true to yourself. If you don’t want to be photographed in certain attire (bathing suit, underwear, fur, etc.) or you object to promoting certain products (STD treatments, liquor, cigarettes, and such), write that into the contract. Because you won’t be given copies of photos from the work you’ve done, you may wish to add “test shots” to your portfolio. Only work with the photographers your agency recommends; this way you’ll get the look they want that meet the needs of their clients.
When you go on auditions, you may be asked to do various things. For example, if you’re auditioning for a toothpaste ad, you may be asked to “brush your teeth” while looking into the camera as if it’s a mirror. Sometimes, the client will ask you questions just to get a picture of who you are. I once auditioned (and got booked) for a healthcare commercial and I was asked to laugh nonstop. That was a lot of fun!
What resources do you recommend?
For women in midlife:
A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. It digs deep to the core of who we are. Love is the key in everything we do. It starts with loving oneself; everything else follows.
I also listen to Hay House Radio—Radio for Your Soul. I look at the week’s lineup and choose the hosts who resonate with me; I may buy the books by the guest speakers, and even call into the show sometimes.
Dr. Christianne Northrup is the best! Listen to her on Hay House. She is amazing and is the expert on women and the “miracle” of menopause.
For women interested in modeling in midlife:
Model: The Complete Guide for Men and Women, by Marie Anderson Boyd
Modeling agencies I recommend for mature women:
Do you think you have another next act in your future?
I am studying for my real estate license and am a newly licensed leasing agent in Chicago specializing in the Loop, S. Loop, W. Loop, Streeterville, Gold Coast and River North. This works perfectly with my current modeling schedule.
I always seem to be in the process of reinvention, finding a new path and enjoying the baby steps along the way.
You look beautiful! I’m sure you have made a huge impact on your students and their families. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the gig in the wheel chair. I am 59, considering going to my natural gray and just got out of a wheelchair after 8 weeks. Luckily this time it was a temporary situation but at some point it will become permanent. We ladies in wheelchairs like to look awesome too. I’ve been told I “do a wheelchair and a mobility scooter very well” when I’m seen in public. I dress in a fashionably manner for my age. Thank you for sharing your story and listening to a tiny bit of mine.
Amazing story you are stunning classy beautiful
I would love to start modelling I am 54 in october
just had a few shoots done they are amazing
I wish I get noticed lol
My name is Diane and I am 51 years old and am interested in doing print modeling. Please sign me up for the newsletter as I want to learn as much as I can on becoming a model.
I would be interested in what you could also tell me about getting started and legitimate agencies in the Tampa Bay, Fl Area. I just do not know where to begin.
I will be 50 this month and have always wanted to try modeling.
Hi. I think you look fantastic , people tell me that I could do modling but not like
You I was a very out going person many years ago but as I got older that vanished
Away . As having very controlling marragie but I got out of this now . I am looking for new life for my self .
My name is Tai. I’m 6’2 40 something and a mom of 3. I was inspired by your story and it’s given me the encouragement to try one more time. I’m doing this as an example for my children whom I tell if one dream doesn’t work out on to the next dream but never stop dreaming. Thanks again
So glad to hear it Tai. All the best to you!
I’m Victoria and I will be 52 on the 17th of August. I have two wonderful sons and 3 beautiful grandchildren. I just celebrated my 32nd wedding anniversary to my first love. I’m interested in doing some face modeling for skincare products and makeup. I’m still being asked if I’m in my 20s or 30s. I’ve thought to myself maybe i should look into this. I would love to send you some pictures but I do not see how i can make that happen. Thanks guys.
Very truly yours,
Hi im from South Africa im 59 and would like to be a model. How can you assist me. Carin
Thank you for sharing your story.
I was recently widowed to cancer. I’ve been treading water and doing only what I had to do to keep my family (4 children) and career running. I am just passed the 3 year mark and ready to start thinking about what is next for me.
Your story gives me inspiration and let’s me know anything is possible and also a reminder not to take things so seriously.
So happy this story inspired you and all the best to you as you figure out what’s next. Because it’s never too late! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Hello, so delighted to read all of these next acts in life. I am 54 this month, starting a job as a corrections officer in a maximum security facility. I am also excited about an idea that I have to complete a degree program in fashion designing, that’s where my heart is. I would like to start my own clothing line. Yes, modeling would be something I would consider too. For years people encouraged me to give it a try, but I didn’t see what they saw. Now that I’m older, gray and anticipating truly enjoying my life now that children are grown. I am excited about life.
Wonderful to hear all your exciting news, thank you for sharing and all the best to you!
Thank you for your inspiring story.
I’ve always been interested in modeling print work.
I am fifty years old and looking for something else to do, get paid well and enjoy life.
Your story gave me hope.
Thank you for your inspiring story. I’m 55 and have been taking acting and voice over classes and would like to enhance my craft with modeling. I live in southern CA. I would appreciate any further direction you would have for me.
June 28, 2016 at 7:18am
Ahhhhh, I just hung a beautiful mirror last night in our new room. It is not Venetian, but it is a GOTHIC style mirror that fits the dÃ©cor and will catch the lights of the chandelier and the reflections of my garden…oh, I cannot wait for SPRING!!! BISES MA BELLE! Anita
I admired your inspiring story! ??
My name is Meg. I will be 50 next month. I have always been blessed with a very youthful appearance. I have never thought about modeling, I’ve always been an athlete. I was married for 25 yrs and was a stay at home mom. Now I feel lost with my daughter married and my husband leaving me. Im ready for the next chapter in my life! Everyone thinks im in my 30’s and I’m interested in seeing what’s “new” out there. I have no experience but am very eager to learn!
Any advice or direction on how to begin on my new journey would be greatly appreciated.
You look incredible and what an inspiring story. What a fabulous journey to begin over 50. I think it’s fabulous to relay that beauty is not just 30 and under. As I have reached my mid fifties it has crossed my mind to possibly entertain the career of plus 50 modeling! So huge favor. Would you mind checking some of my photos on IG under the name 2renagal and just honestly tell me if you think I have the least bit of a chance. Huge negative I’m 5 4″. Thank u for maybe a moment of your time. Keep the positive influence you have on women flowing. It’s fabulous. Please DM if you have a moment to view my page. Many thanks and blessings. Rena
I’m proudly 61. Own my business, divorced, and confident in my own skin. If I die Tomorrow, I’m heaven bound. For now I look fabulous and am happy!
Thanks for inspiring me . I am 50 now. And a stay at home mum. I would like to do modelling .i am married for 27 years now.children all grown up. People always says that I not look old. And asks whether my daughters are my sisters. (My daughters gets angry hearing this. I am joking)
Greek from Cyprus age 43. Single mother of 2 kids. Looking for some opportunity to build up my career and offer better life to my children….
Thank you so mu…
domnu’, nu ne mai aburi – da retete: cat se pune, cum se face, in cat timp, cu ce pret, de unde cumperi samd. asa stim si noi sa facem supe cu zarzavatul din gradina de la vecini…
Hi, I am 55 yrs old, i got to model on a runway yrs ago for fashion bug dept store, It was the best time of my life..I love fashion, always getting to many clothes….I have always wanted to do this again, My sons are grown, and I live on my own, I try to stay in shape, by exercising at home, try to take care of my face and hair, I’m small I can wear size 1 sometimes 3….this would be a dream come true for me..I have been through alot of hard times in my life, And I’m ready for some happiness!!!..This has always been my dream..thank you Audrey
Hi Audry I am so excited to know that I can still model I am 50years old I used to do fashion shows in my teenage age and my father stopped me due to reasons known to him but the passion of modleng never faded I am still in good shape and would love to model again
What an inspirational story. I am 50 and live in the UK. I have worked within my own Montessori Nursery School for 29 years but would love a change now and start modelling in my later years. Would you happen to know any agencies or photographers in the UK? I wouldn’t know where to start?!
Your story is very inspiring. I am 60 and have always been told that I don’t look my age. I am interested in modeling and I live in the Houston, Texas area. Please sign me up for your newsletter. Any information you can provide would be appreciated.
My name is Sonia. I am looking for a professional Female model in Houston, tx for my skin care company. I am looking for the following:
1. someone with healthy beautiful skin
2. age 55 or more
Please do not hesitate to contact me anytime. I look forward to hearing from you.
Im Marta from Birmingham,Alabama.I would like to send you a photo and see what you think.I am 61
Hi, I will be 55 next month. 5’5 110 lbs, in great shape! I don’t have gray hair, my hair is weaved and blond. . I would love to be a model, it’s something I’ve always dream of.. I’ve had a very rough childhood and so far a not so good adult life.. I raise my granddaughter, she is 16 and beautiful! We have horses and barrel race.. it’s our passion.
Can’t wait to hear from you.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I was really uplifted when I read your Bio on how you got started in the modeling at your age. I’m told everyday that I’m pretty or just too cute by people I don’t even know. I’m a black slim build women with curves in porpotion. I’m 53 but I look like I’m in my 30’s. I’ve never had a break in my life. I’ve always struggled to get to one mile stone just to get to another. If there’s any information you can help me with in starting a career in modeling I would forever be grateful.
Thank you again for sharing your beautiful story.
Awesome post about modeling! These days modeling are one of the hottest careers that a lot of people yearn to pursue. I love reading article about modeling. The best thing you can do for your modeling career is to be realistic about your goals.
I am 64. Hopefully not to old to start something new. I have salt and pepper hair and I’ve been told many times by other women including my hair dresser not to color it. I’ve tried to stay in shape and I feel young for my age.
I’m 48 years old and im interested in doing photographic modelling. Could yoy possibly put me into contact with a reputable modelling agency ,who deals specifically with over 40’s.
Hey, I am Aarti. I am from India. Modelling has never appealed me but suddenly I have become hopeful in this field too. I would be happy to have at least one opportunity in life to model. Please contact if you have something to offer me.
amazing story, you did inspire me to apply for modeling, i’m 44 years old and all my friends and family thinks i can be a model, my current job is accounting but i always felt that i don not really belong to an office job. All my life i feel that i deserve a modeling job even after i had my two kids i still have that i can do it!
please reach out to me if you think that you can help me to find my dream job where i can enjoy myself and provide food food for my kids.
thank you so much for your story, love you
Hi iam wendy iam 55 would love to be a modle.people say i looker younger how do i go about it
I am 59 years old and used to model from 14 years old to 37. Sincerely, I would like to get back into the business as a mature model. Older people today look simply great. It is nice to see that there is a business for us.
For picture submission, I can be reached by e-mail.
I am 59 years old and used to model from 14 years old to 37. Sincerely, I would like to get back into the business as a mature model. Older people today look simply great. It is nice to see that there is a business for us.
For picture submission, I can be reached by e-mail.
My Linkedin page gives you an idea of what I look like now.
I work as an English and French translator and proofreader in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
It would be great to get a chance to do what I love.
I am breast cancer survivor, I am 60 and I think I look my best now than I ever did. People that I meet think that I am in my forties. I would love to break into the modeling world. Please tell me where I should go apply.
Wow! Your story was so inspiring and opened my mind to exploring the possibility of life after menopause. I would love to visit an open call and see where it takes me. With the loss of my husband and illness of my adult child. I live for my granddaughters. i an over 50 with a love of fashion. Thank you for sharing. Blessings to you.
Am 65 but in good shape, I want to model, can U please help!
Wonderful story. I am 51 years young. I have been eating better and getting back in shape. Not there yet but not where I used to be. You gave me something to think about. It would be a great change. I never thought of myself ever modeling but now I like the way it sounds. Hmmmm. Lol. Thanks again
I love women like you. I love your enthusiasm for life. I am 55, divorced for 5 years, single and so want to make some major changes in my life. This is my freedom 55 year. My sisters retired from their 30+ years jobs at age 55 but I don’t have that opportunity. My freedom 55 is now having raised my sons and now it’s time for me to put some energy back into being me. At age 25 after going through a divorce I made a huge step for me at that time leaving a controlling, domineering relationship and a Mom. I started college and decided to try modelling. I was the oldest in class and I loved it. I took on small local jobs and did lots of fundraiser fashion shows and Bridal shows. I did this until I was 35. In St. John’s, NL and on the Sunshine Coast in BC. Tragically my Father died in 1994 and I moved back to our small town in NL. I so miss the excitement and energy modelling gave me. I would love to try again and bring this back into my life. Can you help me, give me advise on where to start and where to go from here. I so desperately need to feel alive again…Thanking you in advance…
Hi I am 55 and I have had photo shoot so I have a portfolio I am shocked by how good the pictures look. I did this in front of the camera to see if I would enjoy being a model. I’m not very tall but the pictures look good. I’m very excited to start modeling jobs
Hi I am 52 years old, 4’11 and 110 pounds. I think it would be very exciting to try out modeling at my age. I have received many comments over the years about how beautiful I am but always lacked the confidence to go ahead and try it. Any suggestions or recommendations on how to break into modeling at my age would be well appreciated! Thank you in advance!
I love your determination. When I came to canada 37 years ago I wanted to pursuit a model career, could not speak the language but still I visited an agency in Toronto, sadly I was descriminated. I got discouraged and I ended up working in Jones new york clothing factory.
I worked there for many years and I educated myself in clothing wear.
I love fashion I guess I fantasy those days.
I am 55 but I still have in me the love for fashion
I am mona I’m 45 and I’m a fun out going person that loves being behind the camera. I am interested in lifestyle modeling.
Amazing story I’m 68 yrs old very petite, when I look into the mirror I must say I would make a beautiful model at my age, this is still my dream. Thanks for sharing your story.
Loved your story and very encouraged. I am 61 years old, 5’7” 120 pounds. I am in excellent shape and have never colored my red hair that now has beautiful gold natural highlights. I would love some direction on where and how to see if this could be a possibility for me.
I would love to know more about 50+ modeling
You are a true inspiration to women everywhere.
My dream is to be sagaciously involved with modeling. The love of fashion & women empowerment steered me to this article & sparked my interest in becoming a model at age 63. Living in New Orleans & leading a Salubrious lifestyle has been wonderful, and I’m seeking another rewarding adventure. Opportunities welcome!
I love your story and your hair style!
I am a 58 year old Educational Kinesiologist looking for a new adventure in life and this sounds like a lovely challenge.
Ps. I also have trouble convincing my hairdresser to color my hair!!
I’m 48y/o, and has always wanted to model but the opportunity never presented.
Today ! I told myself undoubtedly;
“I wish I could back to my precious dream when I was 13 years old
I want to be a model!!”
I have been going slowly to the the platinum no more brunette
I just quit I job I hated with all my heart
Trying to find that Patricia in me
I am 55
Your story inspired me and honestly why not ??
I feel beautiful!
My name is Ericka, I’m 51 years old. I always wanted to be a model but I was very shy. Now it’s time for me to step out of my comfort zone. I can do it
I m 52 years old .i want to model