Meet Daphne Selfe. She is 82 and grandmother of four. To her age truly is state of mind.
The octogenarian, attached to top agency Models 1, is Britain’s oldest working fashion model. Currently the face of Wunderkind, Daphne is still bursting with the energy of those 20 years her junior. She has appeared in Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Marie Claire, Italian Vanity Fair, Tatler, The Observer, The Times, and the Independent to name but a few, and been photographed by the likes of Mario Testino, Nick Knight, and David Bailey. She has appeared in commercials for companies like Nivea and Olay and has modeled for designers the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Michiko Koshino and Tata-Naka, making her Britain’s oldest catwalk model.
Daphne began her modeling career in 1950 when she was 20, and thanks to her perfect posture, incredible cheekbones, demure smile and grey hair, she’s now more popular than she’s ever been, promoting the benefits of going grey. She has never had any cosmetic surgery done, and earns up to $1,600 a day working as a model.
Commenting on her graying hair, she said: “It made me more striking. My hair is my fortune.”
Regarding competition with younger models, Daphne Selfe says most of them admire her, but they’re not jealous because they don’t see her as a threat. She admits she has a niche all of her own.
Daphne was discovered in 1950 while working in the fashion department of John Lewis in Reading. Her colleagues convinced her to enter a local modeling competition, which she ended up winning and she was then photographed by the established photographer Gilbert Adams.
When a London agency held a fashion show at the Reading store – then known as Heelas – they needed a last minute model to fill in. She proved a success and she was signed by the agency and sent on a three week training course in London. For her first job she was paid 15 guineas – the equivalent to Ł15.75.
She went on to become a house model for clothing manufacturers and furriers and appeared in a few advertising campaigns. She remembers she had a decent career for about five years, but she was nothing special back then. She then married and had three children but continued her modelling career.
Although she continued to work as a model, Daphne’s big break came fairly late, in 1998, a year after her husband passed away. She was contacted by her agent and asked to appear in the Red or Dead show, at London Fashion Week where she was spotted by one of the world’s largest modeling agencies, Models 1. Her modeling career really took off after that. It began with an appearance in Vogue magazine, after which she learned there were plenty of big companies eager to work with a good looking older woman to appeal to older demographics.
Daphne says she’s lucky she’s half Irish, which is where she gets her strong bone structure and slim figure, and claims her long grey hair is the secret behind her glorious career. She maintains her svelte shape by eating large amounts of fruits, vegetables and fish, drinking plenty of water and doing yoga (she can still do the splits).
When she started modelling in 1950, she weighed 10 stone and boasted vital statistics of 36-24-37. She now is a stone and a half lighter with figures that have barely altered – 36-26-36.
She said models were under pressure to be too thin: “Some girls are naturally slim, like Lily Cole, but others take it too far and just look ill and gaunt.
“There should be a far wider spread of body shapes but at the end of day, the clothes must look good too. It’s tricky.”