Daphne Selfe - The World's Oldest Supermodel

Closing in on her 9th decade Daphne Selfe rather enjoys being referred to as ‘the world’s oldest supermodel’, after-all it has rewarded her with an amazing career that any model would give their eyeteeth for.

“Morocco, South Africa, China, Australia,” Daphne is listing off the countries she has jetted to courtesy of her modelling career, which took off when she was re-discovered at the age of 70. As part of the Bath Literature Festival Daphne is ‘in conversation’ with the writer, broadcaster and comedian – Viv Groskop, to promote her book: ‘The Way We Wore’. A personal account of Daphne’s remarkable life and her long-lasting love affair with clothes.

From the outset Daphne displays a vivacious personality and a lust for life that exceeds many half her age. She has a no-nonsense approach and a very British ‘get on with it’ attitude that she accredits to her mother, Irene. Dressed in block red and black Daphne proudly lists off her charity shop finds, along with their prices. “I care about how I look and I like to see people looking nice.” Rather humorously she adds that people not bothering are doing us all a disservice as we gaze in their direction.

Despite her remarkable career that has accelerated in her latter years Daphne had a hard time getting her book published. “I have no sensations in my life, I’ve never got divorced or had a terrible childhood, or anything like that. It seems you have to have a disaster to get published these days.” Thankfully Macmillan thought differently and could see that her positive story on ageing gracefully in front of the lens was a story worth telling.

Daphne’s high cheekbones didn’t go unnoticed when she was a young adult, after winning a competition to appear on the cover of the ‘Reading Review’ she spent five years in the industry during the 1950’s as a working model before settling down to marriage and family life. However, it wasn’t until she was re-discovered in her 70’s, after she agreed to appear in a Red or Dead catwalk show that the likes of Vogue, Marie Claire and The Times came knocking. 

“It’s great fun to prance about in clothes you can’t afford,” she says tickled that she enjoying such a glamorous career when most have long retired. “I pinch myself everyday to check I’m still alive!” Living in an ageing population there’s no denying that the likes of Daphne, a natural beauty untouched by the surgeon’s knife and free from Botox, is a much needed role model that we could do with seeing more of.

While she doesn’t work everyday she describes her life as busy with “homework” from answering interview questions to attending castings or being photographed for test / editorial shots that don’t pay. “There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. You go for hundreds of auditions and often get rejected, but it’s no good crying over split milk, you just go on to the next one.” When Viv asks who has rejected Daphne – she replies; “M&S, I’ve been to see them many times but they never use me.”

Naturally slim Daphne is keen to promote a healthy mind and body. “Be positive, curious and interested in the world, and most importantly be healthy,” is her personal mantra. Her weekly regimen includes home cooked meals, yoga, ballet and regular walks. “Why should we become invisible after 40,” she states. If anyone should be an ambassador for growing old gracefully then surely Daphne Selfe is the ideal candidate. 

The World According to Daphne:

What’s your personal take on style?

“I love bright colours and to rummage in charity shops.”

What fashion designers do you like?

“Dior, Chanel and Victoria Beckham, she does some very nice clothes, however they are very expensive.”

What’s the most expensive item you have bought?

“I bought a ball gown at a charity shop recently for £50 – I can’t wait to wear it.”

Do you still wear high heels?

“I’ve never been good at high heels, I wear them in shoots but not to walk around in.”

What was your favourite fashion era?

“I think the 1950’s – I liked the style and clothes were made properly.”

Do you read any fashion magazines?

“Unfortunately, I think they are mostly full of teenagers, there are more older people in the world now and yet we are often invisible, it is getting better but more could be done.”

Top tips for looking good…

“Eat the right things, I’ve never eaten a hamburger in my life! Drink lots of water, exercise, have a good posture and a positive and healthy outlook.”

Who do you think are stylish role models…

“My mother, the Queen, Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren. 

What do you say to those that complain about getting old?

“Get on with it!”

The Way We Wore A Life in Clothes by Daphne Selfe is now available in paperback.

http://www.daphneselfe.com

By JoJo Iles

Images courtesy of Daphne’s portfolio / models1.co.uk and JoJo Iles

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