You’ve probably seen Cindy Joseph before. Perhaps you recognize her as the silver-haired beauty from the J. Jill catalog or from her high-profile campaigns for Ann Taylor, Target, Dolce & Gabbana, DKNY, Banana Republic, Nordstrom and Bobbi Brown. At 53, Cindy has one of the most sought-after faces in fashion and is fast becoming the poster girl for gorgeous aging.
The interesting thing is, you probably never saw Cindy’s face until a few years ago. That’s because she wasn’t “discovered” as a model until the age of 49. Prior to that, she was a professional makeup artist who worked with plenty of famous models and actresses (including Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Uma Thurman and Susan Sarandon), but she’d never worked on the other side of the camera herself.
So how does a 49-year-old woman get her start in an industry wherein many careers dry up at age 30?
Cindy, the mother of two (son Bo, 36, and daughter Julia, 30), was spotted on the street by a Dolce & Gabbana casting agent. “At first, I had a hard time believing they were serious,” Cindy notes.
Obviously, they were. The prestigious Ford modeling agency quickly signed her, and once her picture started appearing in print, Cindy’s career (along with the careers of several other gray-haired models) took off. “I think the fashion and beauty industries suddenly woke up to the fact that there was a huge market of active, healthy baby boomers who really wanted to see themselves represented in ads,” explains Cindy.
It’s not just Cindy’s silver-streaked hair and beautiful face that make her a terrific model, though. Ultimately, her whole personality and lifestyle play a part. She got her great skin and fit, athletic body the natural way — through healthy, happy living. Cindy eats mostly fresh, raw foods and gets tons of exercise (when she’s not modeling, you can find her snowboarding, doing yoga and hiking Utah’s backcountry).
She has also cultivated an incredibly rich and positive philosophy of life, inspired in part by the teachings of the late Dr. Victor Baranco, who with his wife, Suzie, cofounded the Institute of Human Abilities, a source of diverse teachings about human potential, sensuality, gender relations and other personal-development topics. Cindy says that of all the Barancos’ teachings, the most valuable lesson she learned was the primary importance of pleasure as a sustaining, evolutionary and essential force. “I live now according to what brings me pleasure,” she explains. “I make it a top priority.”
While Cindy acknowledges that her positive, pleasure-seeking approach to life plays a big role in creating the energetic appeal she has to others, she rejects the notion that it keeps her looking “young.” In fact, she rejects altogether the notion of youth as an ideal. “The word ‘old’ has been given a bad rap,” explains Cindy. “Life has been mistakenly described as a downhill process, when, in fact, it’s an ever-continuing expansion. I think it’s high time we redefined aging. The answer is not for us to get rid of gray hair and wrinkles, the answer is for all of us, including younger people, to see gray hair and wrinkles as good and fun and alive and sexy!
“In this culture,” notes Cindy, “men have been judged most heavily on the basis of their accomplishments, which they can continue to develop as they get older. Women, on the other hand, have been judged most heavily on the basis of their looks. And then we’re told that our appearance starts deteriorating around age 25! The message is clear: The older we look, the less we can expect to be valued.
“I have huge compassion for all women who feel the desire to stay looking as young as possible in order to be valued in this youth-worshiping society,“ Cindy continues. “But I also have a fervent desire to change that, because our whole picture of aging in this culture is so wrong. It’s time we set new standards for what is valuable.”
Cindy says she’s happy to be able to model a new, more positive archetype of aging. In fact, she’s so passionate about it that she’s currently exploring the possibility of creating a documentary on the subject. She recently completed a three-part workout series (available on video and DVD) for the over-50 set and is also planning to do some writing and speaking on related topics in the coming year. We’re hoping to hear more from Cindy in 2005, and in the meantime, we know we can count on seeing her lovely image splashed across plenty of other pages. Come to think of it, with Cindy as its new spokesperson, silver hair may just be the new black.