Aging to Perfection
“Most people don’t know how to live their life so they don’t know how to die. They are startled or confused by it but it is part of living. That’s why I always say, when I die it’s going to be my way. – Carmen Dell’Orefice”
Carmen Dell’Orefice, the world’s most enduring supermodel
When you hear the word over 80, your thoughts would probably border around old and wrinkly, your speed earlier on the highway or the number of your unread emails. It wouldn’t remotely cross your mind that it could be the age of a magazine cover model. That is of course unless it’s Carmen Dell’Orefice, who is an embodiment of grace, beauty and humility at the tender age of 83.
Standing statuesque at 5’9 tall, the octogenarian with her prominent cheekbones and bright white hair who landed her first Vogue cover in 1946 when she was just 15 years old, is still making her appearance on various magazine covers both local and international. A true living legend, she defies all odds, still walking runways after seven decades in the fashion industry.
It hasn’t been all milk and honey for her however; she has been through childhood struggles, three marriages, investment losses, not to mention the inevitable pains and bearings of old age. As she said in an interview, “Today I am in a territory that business considers unmarketable: age and white hair. Slowly, however, I started to own that territory little by little because I stood up for age.” Stand up she did indeed, defying the ageism in the modelling industry. Which leaves us all wondering in awe, how does she do it? How does Carmen remain so in demand?
Carmen has been a model before modeling became a packaged profession with agents and limos. Her assignments were booked by sending a boy to her parents’ apartment with a note which she’d read to her mother. After getting permission, she would put on her roller skates and head to the studio with her cocker spaniel in tow. She was just a teenager having fun.
Nearly seventy years later, not much has actually changed, she’s still having fun. Carmen speaks of her career in a matter-of-fact way, she’s very humble and she never takes credit for her achievements. She credits instead the photographers and her mother. Claiming in an interview that she was still “figuring out how to do the job and who I am”, goes to show how this admirable woman remains humble despite her many successes.
In the end it all boils down to one word, her secret is resilience. Her beauty might have landed her the job, but it was her modesty and character that kept her there.
As, Fashion Houston Co-Owner, Vivian Wise puts it, “Carmen Dell’Orefice has single handedly redefined our standard of beauty for models, but also women everywhere. Age is nothing but a number, and Carmen Dell’Orefice is owning 83.”