Once I had an assignment in college to pitch and design a new magazine. I remember calling my mother and talking to her about the assignment. It had to be original and something that filled a niche. My mother said that she wished there were magazines that were targeted towards her, women in their fifties that were like Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar. She wanted beauty magazines that would have articles that talked to her demographic about aging skin, advertise products for aging women, talked about aging women’s health issues but in a high fashion stylish way, not in a frumpy, Good Housekeeping way. She recognized that women over a certain age were completely ignored by beauty/health and fashion corporations and the media. Not sexy enough. Once you hit a certain age, you are no longer relevant. Very little has changed since we had that conversation forty years ago.
Earlier this year, I met Maundy Mitchell, a local photographer in Plymouth, NH. I needed some professional headshots for my book. The only professional photos I ever had were my wedding photos when I was 28. That was thirty years ago! I am more comfortable behind the camera, so I was really nervous to have my headshots taken by anyone. While at Maundy’s studio, I noticed a collection of beautiful portraits of older women. She told me about the campaigns photographers all over the world are working on, which highlight and celebrate women over 50.
Maundy Mitchell’s campaign is called Unforgettable: the Over 50 Revolution. She is taking beautiful, empowering portraits of women in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and up. Portraits that celebrate their individuality, their lives, and stories. Maundy states on her website, “I want to cultivate the freedom and confidence that result from appreciating—and loving–our own maturity. ” The more she told me about the campaign and looking at the beautiful portraits, the her enthusiasm was infectious, and I decided to sign up.
Maundy has her clients start a Pinterest board with portraits that we like that we could share with her. The mood board is a big part of her design process. The morning of the shoot, Maundy has local makeup artist/hair stylist, Donna Cotnoir come in to get the client photo ready. At my first photo shoot a few months earlier, many people critiqued my shots, telling me my hair was too coiffed. And I don’t wear makeup. They were right, of course. The headshots were nice, but they didn’t look like me. I told my friends that’s what ‘author’ Xine looks like – she wears glasses, although her hair is usually in a ponytail, not coiffed, and absolutely no makeup. I told Maundy and Donna some of the reactions to my headshots, so it was important that at this shoot, I looked like me. They understood and went right to work. We had a great time at the photo shoot, and we got a bunch of great shots.
My life barely resembles the life I led when I began my fifties, eight years ago. I’ve grown in many ways and experienced many things which helped me become more confident This allowed me to be more self-assured when it came to some big life-changing decisions. There wasn’t the same fear there as when I was younger. There is still fear, but I have learned that I have to step out of my comfort zone to grow. In the last eight years, (and in no particular order): I’ve added to my fur family three times and became a chicken mama. I moved away from my home of over 25 years to a new state where I had no friends or family. I made career changes. I adapted a new daily routine of meditation. I read books more and watch TV less. I limit my time on social media. I spent more time outside in nature. I wrote my first book, which was just released this month! The only thing I haven’t done yet is go into menopause. I discovered that everyone just assumes you have since you are in your fifties, after all. And they look shocked when you correct them. There is a confidence that comes with age.
A long time ago, when he was in his fifties, my uncle and godfather told me to always keep learning and don’t be afraid to try new things. He was learning how to play the piano at the time, he had never played a musical instrument. He used to love to write and review books and movies which he would share with his friends and family — even including them in his commentaries on the economy to his clients, somehow tying which ever book or movie in with his economic outlook. For some reason I remember that conversation we had and thankfully his advice stuck with me. They were sage words of wisdom and I have had some incredible experiences stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things. I learned how to draw and started to learn Italian. When the kids’ left for college and I found that I was in an empty nest, took myself off to the local art school and I learned how to weld. I loved welding and sculpted a number of pieces of furniture, a few garden obelisks. But my most favorite project was working on the owl I fabricated. I spend hours over the course of a few years hanging out and working on projects at the metal shop. I met some talented and inspiring people there.
“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Roy T. Bennett
A few days before the photo shoot, Maundy had me come over to the studio with the clothing I had decided to wear for the shoot. I had been delaying making any decisions about what to bring, but now I was going to have to make some decisions. All the photos I had seen at her studio were mostly of beautiful women in gowns or dresses. The last few times I have worn a nice dress, it was at two funerals, and my lifestyle on the mountain is not inductive to wearing a dress. I hadn’t been feeling well, and I almost canceled until Mark offered to drive me over. Truth be told, I was having a hard time seeing myself doing this – this was way out of my comfort zone. The whole day before heading over there, as I was gathering my things together, I kept thinking to myself, what was I thinking?
What was I thinking? I was thinking that I wanted to have some nice photos of myself for my children to have that showed my personality and the lady I have grown into at the age of 57 years and 11 months old. Phew! Glad that’s over.