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A New Attitude About Aging from a Middle-aged Model

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When a New York Times reporter asked for an interview, my only request was that my age not be mentioned. I didn’t want my ‘coming out moment’ announced in the largest newspaper in the world. I could foresee the headline: Middle-Aged Model Makes It in Manhattan. I wanted the article to be about my work – not success despite my age.

Lesson learned: don’t highlight to a reporter something you hope will be ignored. My age didn’t make it into the article, but this did: “Ms Uddo, like many women in front of the camera, declined to reveal her age.” So while I avoided disclosing my digits, a spotlight on some deep insecurity was shone to the world.

Wish I could say I have a healthy view on aging and am embracing it with grace and acceptance. Despite being raised by a hippie feminist mother who advocated New Age ideals that encouraged feeling empowered regardless of age or outward appearance, I’ve struggled throughout my life with feeling I’m never enough. I had hoped the whole self-love thing back then would’ve convinced me that life gets better regardless of reading glasses, dried up eggs and declining health.

Working in the beauty business for the past two decades hasn’t helped ease insecurities around aging. I’m a ‘parts’ model, which means my various body parts are frequently featured in advertising. I’m best known for my hands, yet my mouth has been in magazines, my feet have sold shoes, and my legs have been in your Bloomingdale’s catalogs.

Thankfully, I don’t have the same pressures to be perfect as more conventional models. I’m short and over-the-hill by fashion standards. Parts models come in different shapes, shades and ages. We’re judged more on our close-ups than the full package, a sum of all parts. I like to say I look best cropped.

Still, every agent I’ve had has encouraged me to play the part of whatever age a client is requesting for a particular job. Ironically, in almost 20 years of presenting my parts to hundreds of clients, the age question has come up only a handful of times at a casting.

I’ve wondered why I’m not asked for my age more often. Once I worked with a hot parts model from France, on a shoot for Betsy Johnson. She talked about a successful European counterpart whom she described as “older than us,” with kids and even disinterested in Instagram. “I think she’s 35 and her boyfriend is really old, like 40,” she said. Clearly she didn’t assume I was 5 years his senior.

Oddly at my age, I’ve never been busier – at least before the world went into a post-Covid alternate universe slowing down most every major industry. Although I don’t lie about my age, there’s a part of me that has occasionally felt like a fraud, as if I am hiding some secret, and if I were found out I might be thrown out.

Perhaps my hands are the biggest imposters, posing as the appendages of lovely celebrities and my over forty-year-old fingers once filling in for those of some seventeen year old. I’ve doubled for girls who could be my daughters, and I was decades past the drinking age the last time I held a cute clutch and played with the prom king’s tie for Teen magazine.

When I was in high school, I thought I had until age 26 to make anything significant happen in my life: marriage, career, kids, etc.. None of those things happened until my late 30s and 40s. Yet with every passing year of my modeling marathon, I’m always a bit surprised I’m still in the game.

It’s often people outside the industry who seem to have an outdated idea of how a woman over forty should look and act. From them I hear how impressive and even unbelievable it is that I’m still working at ‘my age.’ Those inside the industry seem to care less about calendar age and hire more on appearance and whether someone can actually do the job.

Sheer numbers don’t count like they used to and it’s become increasingly difficult to pigeonhole someone based on age alone. Mere math ain’t adding up like it did for my mom and grandmas. The JLo generation isn’t exactly succumbing to muumuus and support hose.

Photo by Wendy Hope

Beauty pioneers like Ashley Graham have opened our eyes and minds to see a much fuller palate of what it is to be exquisitely expressed as a sexy modern woman. Fine 54-year-old, Monica Bellucci, played the last Bond girl and Christy Brinkley, at 65, was shown in a swimsuit for Sports Illustrated.

It’s refreshing to see some of the rigid rules of the past seem, well…passé. Age diversity is appearing in all areas of advertising, film and fashion for the first time in decades.

Beauty is being redefined. More shapes, sizes, colors and unconventional features are finally included in a club that was far more homogenous not so long ago. More progress will occur when women of all ages are invited, not to compete with younger women, but to show that beauty blooms at different stages and phases throughout life. As a woman of experience, I love seeing my peers and older women represented in marketing. I am more inclined to buy moisturizer from a model who has great skin because of the product she’s promoting, not because she’s in her twenties.

Despite advances, many ideas about age remain so old. At a recent shoot for Harper’s Bazaar, after sharing my age with a model, she confessed she was 28, while looking around nervously to make sure no one heard her. I told her I wanted to discover an empowered approach to aging. She looked intrigued and hopeful…yet still scared.

What most frightens us about aging runs much deeper than worrying about wrinkles. Perhaps age puts in our face (literally) that which we humans resist most: change.

Clearly 2020 has catapulted the planet into radical and challenging change, forcing us to take a hard look into the mirror of our own morality and mortality. No one is immune, individually or collectively, to the inevitabilities of evolution. No one can stop Father Time’s clock or Mother Nature’s reckoning – though we do have a hand in how we greet growth.

As my 50th birthday waves on the horizon, I refuse to accept ‘old’ as the new me. A positive perspective and a healthy body takes effort physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And of course an exceptional moisturizer helps too. 😉 I’m doing my best to be my best since I’m not ready to be part of the ‘my-best-years-are-clearly-behind-me’ club.

It’s become clearer in quarantine that I don’t want to hide behind my hands anymore or present primarily the parts I think people (or certain industries) will accept. I am changing. So much of what once was important no longer feels fulfilling. I find myself in the great gap where potential lies and much dies. I’m sad and even scared to leave my youth behind, but I believe the second half will be better than the first.

Being a girl is great. But it takes time and patience and a lot of love become a goddess. I’ve got a ways to grow…but the older I get, it’s the soul beneath the skin that most captures my attention and awe. My hope for the next chapter is to truly appreciate all my parts, no matter what shape, stage or age and that the inner spark of spirit so beautiful in some will reveal itself more and more in me.

 

I’d love to hear how you feel or what you’ve learned about aging 😊

21 Responses to "A New Attitude About Aging from a Middle-aged Model"
  1. Sarah Taylor says:

    What a beautiful, authentic, and wise post! I honestly feel that so much the world has viewed as “right” or “true” or “the way things are done” is crumbling and thank God for that. You are empowering several generations to own their gorgeousness. xox

    • adele says:

      Thank you so much! x Empowering women and especially the younger generation is absolutely my intention and deepest wish! 🙏 We can all bring hope and more positive perspective in our own way. 💛

  2. MaryAnn Reynolds says:

    Adele, you are enough, AND you have so much ahead of you! I appreciate the risk of sharing your age in an industry that emphasizes youth and perfection instead of authenticity and the great savvy that can only come from life experience. I love seeing age diversity and all the other depictions of diversity that are finally becoming cemented into popular culture, through fashion, advertising, and entertainment. The great gift that 2020 is offering all of us is a chance to rethink our values and become invigorated with the new possibilities. You’re doing the work. Yes, the second half will not just be better than the first. It will be amazing.

    • adele says:

      MaryAnn, this means a lot to me. Thank you so much! And YES, here’s to more age diversity in popular culture… And to the second half being more amazing! 💛

  3. Gail Dillon says:

    Adele, Just reading what you wrote makes me feel good!

    Your inner beauty and value leads the way for your attitude and who you are as a woman and a model. You know what is important in your life, everything else is a plus.

    Keep shining!

  4. Omg Adele…I loved you from the beginning but every new thing I learn about you just adds icing to the cake. Our creative team always had a special connection and I am so happy we are still keeping in touch because you inspire me, you give me hope and a reminder that amazing people are still out there. I feel so blessed to have you in my life. What a powerful article of honesty, love and realness.That’s the “part” of you I love the most.

    • adele says:

      Oh I LOVE this Melissa! And I love YOU. Thank you so much for the loving reflection. And I am also so grateful for our creative chemistry and mutual love and support 💛

  5. Adelle says:

    Adele, you’ve been on the fringe of my life since we were 16. Bonded by name but never really meeting. You popped up on my FB and I loved your reflections on age, beauty and self worth. One Adelle to another Adele…….All your parts are beautiful, singularly and collectively. I’m about to launch a podcast and would love to discuss a guest appearance. Let’s finally meet.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Adelle

    • adele says:

      Adelle, this message warms my heart. What a treat to hear from you and thank you so much for the kind words! I just went to your website and it’s so LOVELY, beautiful designs. I too am a minimalist quality-over-quantity girl. Just wrote about this subject in the last blog called ‘Modern Materialism and Why I’ve Driven the Same Car for 14 Years.’ There are a few Sonoma County anecedotes you may appreciate 😉 I’d LOVE to guest on your podcast. I’ll send you an email now 🙂 Happy holidays!

  6. Paul says:

    Adele,

    A beautiful, honest, warm, inspiring and endearing soul, inspiring many to set standards, embrace our own values and principles of life.

  7. Really enjoyed this article.

  8. Jema says:

    A demon for sure a Bringer of the Dawn . WORD!!!

  9. Maria says:

    Adele, I found your site looking for some information on your father. I think of him often. Once I moved to the Northshore I met Peter Ricca and we discussed your Dad a great deal. I loved your father, but also knew there was no room for us (myself and children) as he was tortured about you guys not being in his life every day.

    I knew your Dad in the mid to late 80’s. I will be 77 in October, which no one believes, but I too am 100% Sicilian and come from a great genetic bloodline in that respect…perhaps it is all the great food, crazy relatives, unbridled passion and yes, olive oil? Thank you for sharing your life in the truest form. It does fill in some of my blanks when it comes to your father. I would love to share these with you, if you care to email me at some point. I will sign up for your blog.

    Your father would be bursting with pride, not only for your beauty and grace, but your raw honesty, sense of humor and intense unwavering love and devotion of family.

    Congratulations on finding your loving husband, your beautiful children and opening your family to all the fur babies needing love as well. I wish for your future contentment, love, health and happiness. Everything else is icing.

    As far as growing old, each day is new when you stay curious, active and open while keeping all those lessons and experiences of the past accessible as references. I still think as if I am looking seeing through the beautiful woman I was during my “model” years of life. Only when I look in the mirror do I see an older women…notice I didn’t say “old”! Even looking down the barrel at 80 in 3 years, I do not feel old, only that the time to learn and experience things is getting shorter.

    I raised my children alone from the time my son was 8 months old, a boy and a girl. They remind me of you and your brother in the photos, as they obviously did remind your father as well. He spoke of you both with such love. My daughter’s name is Adelita, which is little Adele. She is the oldest of the two.

    Your father and I met at the River Bend. The children and I ate at the restaurant often, particularly Sunday brunches…these were our outings. I attended nursing school at Touro, took ballet at Hysell and Lelia Haller’s studios and loved shopping at Yvonne LaFleur’s. My daughter was hooked on her shop as well from the moment we first walked in the door and she couldn’t wait for the hand me downs. Adelita became a hair and make-up artist for the film industry, videos and commercials. More into photography now. My son is multiple things including an organic farmer, chef, metal smith and EMT/fireman just to name a few. He lives in TN.

    Wishing you light and love!

    • Maria says:

      Actually, it was mid 70’s to 80 that I knew your father. I moved to Jackson, MS for a job in 1980 and returned to NOLA in mid 80’s…that part of my life was not easy. I am sure your will identify with that logic.

    • adele says:

      What a wonderful treat to hear from you Maria! Thank you so much for taking the time to share all this 🙏 Hearing stories about my dad and perspectives from people who knew him back in the day means a lot. I really appreciate everything you said. Love that your daughter’s name is Adelita 🙂 How great that she works as a hair/makeup person in film and your son is quite the renaissance man! Beautiful. Wishing you ALL light and love as well! x

      • Maria says:

        Good Morning,

        My first date with your father was to the New Orleans ballet. We are both Libras, with great love of the arts in common.

        My children spent time out at the place in Lacombe as well and remember your father with great fondness. Their father left when my son was 8 months old, moved to Central America and had a new family there. Their father passed away when my son was four, so they truly devoured every moment with your Dad. He was great with children.

        I drove that beautiful green Jag by the way and had a good chuckle with your learning to drive story. I also wanted to mention that even though the Lacombe property was really unique and beautiful, it had such undertones of darkness. Those dark energies from days past and the negative history, prior to your father rescuing the place were still there and palpable, at least to me. Beauty with undertones of darkness, so very uncomfortable at times that I feel sure it had an affect on your father, particularly since he was such a sensitive man. I have felt that same heavy energy in some other older places visited over the years as I love older homes and architecture and travel to visit ruins in my youth. Teotihuacan in 1966 for one, absolutely spectacular…I was 20ish years old. I bought a home in Downeast Maine built in 1729, but the energy there was not and is not heavy.

        Have a wonderful weekend, I am so happy to have connected with you. I was thinking about your father when I started the search as our birthdays are coming up in September and October. It was wonderful to see his beautifully handsome face online transporting me right back to the 70’s. You look like your father a great deal, particularly the eyes. I look like my father as well.

        Warmest Regards,

        Maria

        • adele says:

          Thanks a lot for sharing these great stories Maria. It’s a treat to hear bits about my dad’s life from people who were close to him at some stage. You’re right about the heavy energy on that land – makes sense considering its scandalous history. Although I remember the boat rides on the bayou as quite magical and to this day some of the most elevated moments I’ve experienced in nature. You’re also right that my dad was a sensitive man. I’m also a Libra 🙂 Glad he was a comfort to your kids – yes, he was great at getting on the level of children. Thanks again for reaching out and hope you enjoy this summer Sunday ❤️

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