She's about to celebrate her 60th birthday and she has two grandchildren, but her freakishly young-looking body has landed her on the cover of fashion magazines all around the world as well as prominent roles in advertising campaigns for brands such as Marks & Spencer. I had a conversation with the Malibu-based French model Yazemeenah Rossi about beauty standards, the world of fashion, and the relentless passing of time.
VICE: When it comes to fashion you were a late bloomer—you were about 30 when you started modeling. How did that happen?
Yazemeenah Rossi: By chance. A friend of mine knew a designer who needed a model quite urgently, so he thought of me. I worked as a catwalk model for quite a while, which is a very difficult part of the business. You work extremely hard but it's harder to get noticed. Around the same time, I started working as an actress for TV commercials, so I moved to New York and then to the West Coast.
You are about to celebrate your 60th birthday, but you still model. is there something in particular that attracts you to your lifestyle?
Mainly, the freedom modeling offers. I get the chance to travel the world, which is one of my great passions. It's a wonderful job, but not everybody is able to manage the uncertainty it brings. Models and actors often have no idea when we are going to work next, and many times things tend to go real slow. But to me, it is a part of what makes this job so interesting—not knowing what your life is gonna be like in the short term.
Would you say you are going through a second youth?
That's a way to see it, yes. Mainly because I became a mother when I was very young. These days, 40-year-old women become mothers for the first time. I was 45 when I went through menopause and I thought that was the end. But I met a therapist who made me realize I had so much energy left in me and so much more to give.
"Nobody likes to see their skin give in to gravity. It's been a human problem since the dawn of time."
Is the world of fashion too focused on young people?
It's always been that way and it will always be that way. There was a time, some years ago, when I started to think things would gradually begin to change and we'd start to see more older models, but that did not happen. It's of course way more common to see ads featuring older men with young women—it's so common it's a cliché. My agent in Japan tried to start a small revolution 20 years ago—he began booking women in their 40s to model with men in their 20s, but it didn't last long.
I live a bit like a hermit and I don't even have a TV set at home, so I can't have a broad opinion on this issue. But I do believe that men and women have the same concerns about growing old, although men might talk less about it. Nobody likes to see their skin give in to gravity. It's been a human problem since the dawn of time. At the same time, growing old is something beautiful because you become stronger with the passing of time.
Do you feel younger than your real age? Is youth a state of mind?
Yes, it definitely is a state of mind. If you are connected with your inner child, you can recharge your batteries and keep that energy. You need to have a playful, adventurous, curious spirit. And you need to rid yourself of fear. It's fear that makes you grow old.
What are the main challenges when competing against younger models?
I believe I could work for big brands like Prada, D&G, Ralph Lauren, or Gucci but they clearly look for younger models because they don't want their brand to be associated with old people. And yet, I very often meet women between 40 and 70 years of age who would love to see models their age in their advertising campaigns. Can you believe I have never been asked to advertise a moisturizer? Have you seen my skin? Or my hair—I'm one of the first models who decided to leave my hair white, when it wasn't trendy. You wouldn't imagine how many clients have asked me to get my hair dyed.
How have you kept your body looking so amazing?
When I was 20, and after having two children, I weighed [154 lbs]. I have lost a lot of weight since then, but I haven't starved myself to do it. It's been a matter of a balanced diet, an active spirit, and yoga.
Have you had any plastic surgery?
I won't say this idea hasn't crossed my mind, but I haven't had any cosmetic surgery so far. I only had surgery once, when I was 30, because I had some excess fat under my eyes provoked by the terrible allergies I suffered since I was a kid. So, the idea of going under the knife when I am perfectly healthy, doesn't make much sense to me. But I think it can make certain people feel better about themselves so if the operation is done well, I have nothing against it.