I don’t find myself googling “average retirement age” every day, but after speaking with Maye Musk during our "Fashion Firsts" video and shoot highlighting some of our favorite pieces of the season, it occurred to me that I really didn't know exactly when people are supposed to stop working and take life a bit easier (at least, according to the stereotype). That topic hasn’t seemed to occur to Musk either. At 69-years-old, a few years above the average retirement age (around 65—thank you, internet!), she became an official Covergirl. And maybe the only thing more exciting than that is turning 70.
Earlier this past fall, the major cosmetics brand selected Musk, a dietitian and nutritionist with a 50-year career in modeling, to be its new face. It’s an honor that could skyrocket any young model’s or actress’s name. And the same goes for the industry vet, mother of three (including son Elon, the CEO and co-founder of Tesla), and grandmother of six. “I’ve done many grandmother ads since I was 42,” she notes, remarking on her career—clearly also nodding to an industry that tends to favor youth above all.
On Maye Musk: Maria Lucia Horan turtleneck; Tome jacket and trousers; Schutz shoes; Cos earrings and pin; Maxior ring; Le Vain ring; Marli ring
Though it’s easy to imagine anyone feeling pressure to maintain a certain appearance in such an environment, Musk famously credits a seismic shift in her career when she finally stopped dying her hair and embraced her natural bright white locks. Since creating her now signature coif, Musk’s modeling résumé (think along the lines of commercials for products geared toward the elderly, as she explains) started to change. She found herself on the runways of New York and Milan Fashion Week, she's made appearances on major red carpets events, and she’s appeared in Beyoncé’s "Haunted" music video. “I keep on thinking maybe I should have gone [white] earlier,” she tells us, “but then I don’t know if the time was right.”
If there’s one thing to learn from Musk in speaking with her (though it’s hard to pick), it’s that this moment in her life is not just a spark of luck or the result of having a recognizable name. She’s been working and hustling—arguably it’s overdue. “As a model you get your confidence knocked out all the time—it’s part of the game. You line up with 30 other models for a grandmother ad, and they say you don’t look like a grandmother. You’ll be on hold for a fabulous job and you don’t get it, and that’s how it is. But you have to let it go and just move on.”
For Musk, these disappointments in one area of her life have also allowed her to concentrate on what’s predominantly been her main gig and passion: nutrition. “I’ve always felt good about myself because my main job is a dietitian, and as a dietitian, age doesn't matter,” she says. “You just have to be healthy, eat well, present yourself, and pass on good information. Aging is not a problem because the older you get, people want to know your secrets, and your secret is eating real food.” She also credits her mother for setting a good example, too. “When she died at 98, she still didn't think there was any problem with aging.”
On Maye Musk: Maria Lucia Horan turtleneck; Michael Kors Collection trousers, blouse, shoes, and bracelet; Gilan earrings; Luv AJ rings
In an effort not to pigeon-hole our conversation, I ask her outright if she gets tired about talking her age. “It is unusual for a 69-year-old model or woman to be a Covergirl, so I’m quite happy with that. I’ll be 70 in April, and then I’m going to take off. I think my 70s are going to be amazing.” This big appetite for what comes next isn’t just Musk’s attitude toward her future; it’s also a hashtag that she puts on nearly every post on her Instagram account to capture to spirit of where she’s at right now: #justgettingstarted.
“As I was getting older, I was always working, but nobody was interviewing me or saying it’s a breakthrough,” she says when I ask her about being a new voice for women who might also who feel the pressure of passing time (which, admittedly, is all of us, especially those who have read a 30-under-30 list). “I would say now it’s a breakthrough. There are so many women who do loose their confidence—and men do too—and it’s great that women know they can carry on working as they get older and be confident and feel good about themselves. To know that, you just have to keep going and keep your confidence because it’s going to be knocked down a lot. A lot. You just have to keep on working hard and be the best you can be.”
Musk says she’s enjoying all the glamourous parts of her new success right now, but she’s also ready to take on whatever new challenges come next. And considering she’s #justgettingstarted, she has big goals in mind. “As a dietitian, I want to continue traveling around the world because I love different cultures and I’d love to explore that. And as a model, I would like some of the bigger designers to want an older model.” With a new fashion month right around the corner, and an industry that still has huge strides to make in inclusivity, one can only hope they hear Musk’s message, too.
On Maye Musk: Maria Lucia Horan turtleneck; Ellery suit; Schutz shoes; Cos earrings