Vanichi Magazine goes one on one with iconic model Maye Musk in this interview and editorial photographed by Asami Zenri.

Vanichi spent a gorgeous day with Maye Musk. If her face seems familiar, it’s because you’ve been seeing her in ads, editorials and campaigns for 5 decades. Now in her 60’s, her modeling career is more demanding than ever. She’s traveling around the globe, gracing magazine cover after magazine cover and being featured in breathtaking editorials. She even recently did a campaign for Virgin America.

If her name seems familiar, it might be due to the fact that she raised 3 newsworthy kids: Kimbal who is changing the world of food, Tosca who is an award-winning producer and director and Elon who often makes headlines with innovations like Tesla and Space X. Their high levels of achievement shouldn’t be surprising. After all, apples don’t fall far from the tree.

Maye’s a woman of quiet strength. She has constantly built only to start over again and again. Yet, she consistently kept moving forward.

She’s a woman of science and has worked in 3 countries as a Dietitian Nutritionist. Currently, Maye also teaches and speaks on wellness. As a model, she’s in turbo drive yet she still makes time for her family.

Maye opened up about her life and her journey, yet as she shared her story, she focused on her momentum. That focus didn’t seem due to a denial of the frustrating, disappointing or heartbreaking moments of the past. Quite the contrary. It seemed to stem from a determination to keep the past where she believes it should be, firmly behind her. Maye is a woman who stays present by actually being present (and finding time to laugh).

Scroll below to read and see more of a day produced by James Arnett through the lens of Asami Zenri with makeup by Barbara Yniguez, hair by Bethy Mireles and styling by Jesse J.

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VM: You´ve had such an amazing life, and career, and story, and I just want to start with: Why modeling?

MM: Well, I was a science nerd at school, and schooling was easy for me. When I was 15 my mom’s friend was head of a modeling school and agency. She asked if I would just take a class for free, and I said, “Sure, I’ll do it.” I had no clue that this could be a profession, because I was so naive. Then she asked me to walk in runway shows. I said OK. So I would do modeling shows on weekends and evenings. I was paid and I thought, “I’m fifteen and I’m getting paid to have fun. That’s so cool!” People would say, “You’ll be done when you’re eighteen.” So I carried on with my studies. At seventeen I went to university and majored in dietetics as I wanted a profession after a BS degree. All through university I had classes from 7:30 in the morning to 5 in the evening. I modeled evenings, weekends and holidays.

Then I opened a dietetics practice, had kids and returned to modeling. At 28, I did my first modeling job as the mother of the bride, as I was the oldest model in Pretoria. Nobody was over 25 and modeling in the ‘70s. I traveled all over South Africa and started doing TV commercials. When I gained weight, plus size modeling was suddenly in demand. I was busier than ever.

Then my older son moved to Canada and wanted me and my two other children to move, too. Modeling was steady and I thought, “I’d better lose weight if I plan to move.” It’s hard to arrive at a new country as a plus size model and dietitian. I had to eat healthily to drop the weight, avoiding all fried and sweet foods. It’s not easy.

At 42, I moved back to Canada. In Toronto they said, “We would love you to come and model for us.” There was a demand for older models, which was also a surprise.

I had to take the exams to work as a dietitian in Canada, however, I couldn’t afford to rent an office. Fortunately, a model agent said to me that if I became the director of the modeling school, I could then have a free office. I taught modeling two nights a week and taught nutrition two nights a week at a college. In the day I was a research officer at the University of Toronto while studying for my second MS degree, modeled, gave presentations, and had a private practice. I didn’t have a life.

After my kids had graduated, they moved to the US and convinced me to move to the States. I passed the dietetics exam for registration and moved to San Francisco. After two and a half years, I flew to New York to give a presentation and loved it. The people think fast, walk fast, talk fast, and I said, “These are my people.” I moved two months later, not knowing anyone.

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I lived downtown, started my practice and signed with a model agency. For the first time there was competition in the modeling field. I was no longer the oldest model. There were many in my age group and actors were lining up with us for commercial print and TV jobs.

After living in NYC for 13 years, my daughter convinced me to come to LA as she was having twins. They were so cute that I moved.

At 67, I am modeling now more than ever because the demand for older models keeps increasing. I feel like I’m just getting started… Lucky me.

VM: What has the constant ability to start over taught you about yourself?

MM: I’ve started over in 8 cities in 3 countries.  It taught me that if you work really hard, and you’re nice to people, and you respect them, and are considerate, then your work will do better and your life will be better. I think those are the main things.

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VM: Why do you think the industry is finally starting to acknowledge the beauty of women at all ages?

MM: I don’t know why it’s like that, but I think it’s just because women ARE of all ages. I get a huge reaction from being 67 and modeling. And people are just so happy they call me the icon they use. I get a lot of “Thank you for representing us.” I get a lot of followers with grey hair.

VM: Do you have any advice for  woman that’s looking to get into the industry?

MM: Well why doesn’t she just take some photos of herself and take them to an agency? You just need a few snaps, you don’t need professional ones. An agent can see if you photograph well. They will take you on if they can make money out of you. So that’s what you do, you just send photos in. Actually now they do social media models. I’ve got over 8,500 on Instagram. In the beginning, my Instagram was what I ate and me walking down the street. Well… nobody cared, but once I started posting modeling pictures everyone got excited.

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What has social media done for you?

It has increased my visibility. In Facebook a designer saw that I was a model and asked me to walk in New York Fashion Week. Now, at 67, to walk in New York Fashion Week was amazing because it was my first time. I was over fifty and they didn’t have older models. I came out with my white hair, a white and silver gown -it was a long flowing dress- and people went crazy, they were screaming from excitement. That was a big show, and I was invited through social media. I went to New York again for Women in Film and Fashion and they asked me to be on their supermodel panel.

How do you maintain your sense of self when you’re constantly having to prove yourself?

You know you have to keep on going through all the no’s to get a yes. But you don’t have a choice, because you have to survive. Though, you do have one choice: you can go back. But you left for a reason, so you have to survive in the way you’re going now. The challenges are exciting and I always said, “If I have my brains, I can always work as a dietitian. If I have my body, or my looks, I can work as a model.”

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VM: With whom you are right now, and things are constantly still evolving, you’re shaping, you’re discovering, you want an adventure. What’s your main purpose right now for your life?

MM: I think I’m just having fun. When I talk of all the wonderful things, and all the things I’ve done, I don’t talk about the miserable things that have happened in my life. People who have known me all my life, think I’ve had the worst life possible. But from our interview you don’t think so… Because there’s no need to bring up the sad tragic and bad parts of your life because you will meet someone who’s been through worse. I don’t talk about the bad parts. At the moment I think I’m at the best stage of my life. I’m having fun. Today people look after me, to make me look glamorous, fabulous, edgy. Although some bad things have happened in life, it’s best not to talk about it if it makes you angry. It takes you back to a sad miserable tragic time and you don’t have to bring that up, because, things are going well now.

VM: How has traveling shaped your view of yourself, like, your inner view of yourself?

MM: Traveling just makes you learn about different cultures. Some are better and some are worse. I just feel that travelling… it makes me want women to have more rights. The countries where they don’t have equal rights upset me a lot. It’s unfair, and it’s wrong. I don’t know how you change that. Men there will not allow that to be changed because men have the power, and women… you know in the world how horrible stories are told in certain countries. It’s too upsetting.

VM: What’s your definition of beauty?

MM: When I see someone who’s physically beautiful, it’s kind of a freak of nature when they’re so perfect, they’re so lovely… But when they start talking and they’re not nice, the beauty disappears. Then you meet someone and you say, “Wow she’s so plain and she has a handsome husband! How did that happen?” When you start talking to her, she’s much more exciting than her handsome husband. She becomes beautiful. She’s not hung up on her looks or anything. She doesn’t care about them. She doesn’t care that she wasn’t physically perfect. She has developed such a deep sense of intelligence and humor that she’s a joy to be around.

I’ve tried to help people that are not nice, and they don’t want to be helped. They exhaust everybody because they come along and they bring everybody else down to their miserable situation. So, though they may be beautiful, wealthy, well educated, everything’s been given to them, they’re not happy. And, I don’t know how to change that.

VM: When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?

MM: I would say it’s when I’m with my family. They have such a clever sense of humor. I laugh a lot with my sister every night… we laugh a LOT. When I’m with my kids, and my nephews they are so funny! We can laugh until you cry, I mean, really… I love it!

 

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