Its been 25 years since Karen Dobres last worked as a model. Could she harness her grey power to once again make it in an industry driven by youth?
Recently, I read online that Vogue Italia had dedicated itself to “timelessness” with 73-year-old Lauren Hutton gracing its cover. By a weird quirk of fate, on the same day, the call to join a “grey rebellion” landed in my inbox. Grey Models, an agency for older fashion models, was running a one-day intensive Grey Rebellion workshop – a “coaching session for new faces, returning models and pros”. It promised training on catwalk, poses, expressions, castings, fitness, contracts and even “a hi-res photo from a Master Photographer” to take home.
With my 50th birthday looming, was this a signal from the cosmos to resurrect my part-time modelling career from 30 years ago? Could I tear myself away from a comfortable life of box set bingeing on Game of Thrones, throw off my Greywalker chains and reject a life of House of Fraser to re-join House Givenchy or House McCartney? Oh, what the heck, I thought, 50 is the new 25, right?
Since my time in the industry, some model agencies now actually have a “classic” section. Online research led me to discover that there are some 60 legitimate agencies (according to the British Fashion Model Agents Association) employing more than 700 “classic” (aged 30+) working female models. Not too sure how many are as old as me though. Seven hundred isn’t exactly a huge rebellion, but it’s a start. I quickly came across the excellently named agency Mrs Robinson. So, despite a loud voice in my head shouting: “What the hell are you doing?” I gave them a call.
“Height?” they said. Literally like that, no pussyfooting around. “5ft 11in,” I answered. “OK, have you modelled before?” “Yes,” I said, “in the early 90s.” “Age?” “50,” I said proudly. “Oh don’t worry,” they chuckled, “we have ‘girls’ a lot older than you!” I hadn’t been worried about my age, but concede that referring to 50-year-olds as “girls” caused a twinge of anxiety. It was arranged that I’d pop in and introduce myself.
I won’t lie, I was jittery walking into the agency. I’m past the days of spending hours in the bathroom getting ready – preferring to leave that to my teenage daughter – and wasn’t sure that my greying hair and loosening skin were up to focussed visual scrutiny. But they’d allow for that, surely?