- Aging -

Better With Age: Cindy Joseph

Sometimes, the best is yet to be. That’s what baby boomer and 54-year-old fashion model Cindy Joseph has discovered as she’s grown older and wiser.

cindy joseph

Earlier this year, a friend phoned Cindy Joseph to say she had caught a glimpse of her in Times Square. Cindy, who lives north of New York City, in Yonkers, was puzzled. She hadn’t been to that part of Manhattan in a very long time.

A few days later, while driving through Midtown, she rounded a corner into the square and suddenly understood what her friend had meant. There, on an enormous Liz Claiborne billboard looming over the buses, taxis and tourists, was an image of her: Her 5-foot-7-inch frame was now four-stories tall.

It was a towering achievement for Cindy. And not just because she’d once been told she was too short (by an inch) to fit the requirements of fashion modeling. According to the conventional “under-30” rules of fashion advertising, she would also have been more than two decades too old.

But those rules are changing. As baby boomers have made their cultural clout and purchasing power known, more over-40 models have been making their way into highly visible fashion and beauty photo shoots. Silver locks and wise eyes like Cindy’s are becoming more coveted in ads for everything from skincare to salad dressing.

Cindy, a self-described California “flower child,” believes her generation is redefining what it means to grow older, tackling their golden years as if they were the best days of their life. “We’re not sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch,” she says. “We’re running marathons and becoming yoga teachers and traveling the world. We’re just as alive and active now as we were in our 20s.”

Such vitality and joie de vivre are certainly part of Cindy’s character. She enjoys snowboarding and hiking and belly dancing. She revels in creative projects. She’s an active member of the California-based Institute of Human Abilities, also known as Morehouse, founded by the late Dr. Victor Baranco. Her involvement with the institute has taught her, among other things, the importance of pleasure as the sustaining and nourishing force in her life.

Cindy still stands by her best beauty secret, as reported in our first cover profile of her in July 2004: “I live according to what brings me pleasure.” Since she adopted this point of view about a decade ago, she says, her life has become more fulfilling, more meaningful, and far more abundant. That’s a message she wants to share with others.

“Pleasure is suspect in our society,” Cindy asserts, noting that we are generally encouraged to put our attention on areas of frustration and struggle rather than on areas that bring us joy. “We talk about what’s worrying us or driving us crazy, and we put all of our focus there. Meanwhile, we totally undervalue the parts of our lives that are current or potential sources of pleasure and joy. But if life’s not fun or pleasurable, then what’s the point?”

No one benefits from being around a miserable person, Cindy notes. And no one benefits from being in a place of misery, either. That’s why focusing on the bad and miserable as a way of improving our lives tends to backfire. “What you put your attention on grows,” Cindy observes. “So start by focusing on what’s right. Look for ways to find everything perfect as it is,” she advises, “then life can get even better from there!”

That approach certainly seems to be working for Cindy. Since the former makeup artist was signed, at age 49, by the prestigious Ford modeling agency, she has appeared in campaigns for Bloomingdale’s, Eileen Fisher, DKNY, Banana Republic, Nordstrom, Bobbi Brown, Target and Ann Taylor. Her image has populated the J. Jill catalog covers and store windows, and she recently performed in a series of workout videos and DVDs for the over-50 set. She’s never been happier, she says, and it shows on her face.

“If we’re excited about who we are and what we’re doing, if we’re thrilled about being alive,” Cindy asserts, “we can be just as vital and beautiful as when we were young.” But Cindy notes that she, too, has struggled with society’s stereotypes about women, youth and beauty. “I couldn’t have been a model when I was younger,” she says: “I was too self-critical and self-conscious. I wouldn’t have been as free in front of the camera as I am now.”

To maintain her health and vibrant looks, Cindy eats mostly raw foods. “In an average day, I eat two apples, two avocados, a big bowl of kale and cabbage, a couple of fresh baby coconuts.” She visits the gym two to three times a week and, whenever possible, gets her cardio workout through some playful activity, like dancing, biking, snowboarding, volleyball, hiking or tennis.

That freshness and zest for life is evident in her appearance. Pictures of her exude vitality, warmth and energy — which is probably why she’s recognized “almost every day, almost everywhere.”

You can read more about Cindy in our July/August 2004 profile of her  or at http://umanitoba.fitdv.com/new/articles/article.html? artid=64. She can be contacted through Ford Models in New York City, or at cindyjosephis@hotmail.com.

 

Joel Hoekstra is a senior editor at Minnesota Monthly.

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