Sitting in a café in Hitchin, Sue and I chatted to Daphne Selfe, fascinated to know what it takes to be this dynamic over such a long time. She has a really interesting story to tell:
On leaving school, Daphne worked with horses and ran a riding school. It was work she loved, but then came a job that didn’t turn out well, so with the help of a family friend she moved into fashion in a department store. It was here that she entered a competition to become a cover girl and won. But the opportunities didn’t stop there – when the smart London models arrived for a store fashion show, there was one missing and Daphne was asked to step in. Sounds like the script of a film – all it needs is George Clooney to play the store manager!
It was clear from the outset that Daphne was a natural model, so her colleagues and her mother encouraged her to give it a go – a lot better than being kicked around by horses, for sure. She soon had an agent and began a round of fashion shows in department stores as well as being the in-house model for a major Furrier and the face of Dannimac.
Did our paths cross?
I have very happy memories of ‘taking tea’ and Kunzle Cakes with my mother and sister in Beatties of Wolverhampton. My ambition in life was to be one of the models that sashayed around our table showing the latest offerings from women’s wear – small information card in hand, they twirled and swayed looking so glamorous! I spent hours working on that sway. And now I discover I was probably watching Daphne – Beatties was one of her stores!
Married at 25 to a producer at ATV, Daphne soon added Extra work to her portfolio and began the varied life of mother, model, actress and wife. With three kids, life can’t have been simple, but she managed it and had a regular stream of work. Then at the glorious age of 70 she was ‘re-discovered’, taking to the catwalk for Red or Dead in London Fashion Week and contributed to a Vogue article on aging. Right out there just as the world was discovering how beautiful older women can be, she flew the flag for us all.
Work continued to come her way, then recently she became one of our Fabulous Fashionistas – a superb and ground breaking TV programme in 2013.
So what is the secret?
Of course, I couldn’t talk to someone like this and not ask for beauty tips:
• Cleanse, tone and moisturize (my mother would have been very happy to hear that!)
• Always take your make up off at night. (and that)
• Look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. (that will please Sue)
• Try different styles to find what suits you. (and that!)
• Drink plenty of water.
• Sleep well.
Sounds good so far. We can do all of that.
What about food and exercise?
For Daphne, diet is not about losing weight – that’s not an issue – she just wants to be healthy. Having grown up in wartime, she focuses on ‘normal’. All cooked in her own kitchen and started from scratch, she has no time for convenience food. ‘ A little of the real thing is much better for you’.
Exercise is also important, with flexibility high on the list. Sue would certainly agree with that – she often says how ‘moving like a young woman is a major part of looking young’. Every morning Daphne spends 30 minutes exercising. No specific routine – just what she fancies at the time, although standing on her toes is an important one – apparently it keeps the feet strong and helps with night cramps.
And here’s an interesting one – Daphne has always lived in a house, so spends time running up and down stairs. Remember that the next time you forget what you went for – going back up there will help you stay young!
That wartime experience has left her very capable. Father taught her carpentry and electrics so she could be self sufficient if needed. Making her own clothes allows her to customize her outfits now, giving her a distinctive edge. And her mindset of ‘getting on with it’ means she didn’t feel old until she hit 80. But even now, she can find ways to get around her limitations.
Use it or lose it
Daphne is convinced that continuing with work in some form helps confidence. She loves being a role model for the increasing number of older models who are making their presence felt. It’s that determination to keep going, staying interested and curious that maintains her positive attitude. There is little sign of her slowing down and who knows what is next on her agenda.
Her favourite quote – ‘Growing old is compulsory, growing up is optional’
And the one I loved best – A smile is as good as a facelift!