By Alyssa Shapiro
We believe that youth belongs to all ages.
We cast our latest campaign with this notion in mind, because Youth To The People is skincare for all. Featured here is the 63-year-old Gillean McLeod, a model and stylist in Los Angeles, but would you believe her start in modeling didn’t come until just about four years ago? With age has come a better sense of self, and the confidence that goes with it: “I've let go of an awful lot of fear,” says McLeod, “I'm talking about the way I look and the way I feel about my looks. And I just feel like I'm free.”
Styling is your primary career, right?
Yes. And it has been for the last 25 years.
And modeling came after—were you discovered through styling?
Actually, I was dating a photographer after I was divorced, and he suggested that I start modeling. And of course, I wasn't convinced. And so he shot a small portfolio for me. And because I know a lot of casting directors, I called them and said, where should I go? When I joined LA Models, everything really sort of took off.
How old were you then?
How have you found the industry to be about age?
Well, most people are so welcoming of me on set. All of the young actors always want to know about my life. I feel like I've been really welcomed—I don't ever even think about age, I just feel like I'm just sort of part of the group of people who were chosen to be there. So it's absolutely fine. And I'm totally fine with the way I look, and whatever photographs are taken.
Do you have any vanity about how you’re photographed?
No, not really. I mean, at this point, I'm just about to be 64. I know what I look like, but I can spot a picture that I don't care for.
Has your own perception of age changed through modeling and seeing your face in different places?
It has, and I really welcome it. I've noticed more and more women who look like me are being included in these ads, and, and I think it's tremendous. The only place I don't see it happening is in broadcast commercials; you're still getting that older silver fox guy with the 40-year-old woman. And it's interesting to me: why does this wife have to be so young In comparison, and if the roles were reversed, people would use that awful word: cougar.
What do you know about yourself now that you questioned when you were younger?
I certainly have much better self-esteem and I've let go of an awful lot of fear. I'm talking about the way I look and the way I feel about my looks. And I just feel like I'm free. I'm just who I am. My skin is what it is.
What would you tell those who have any doubts or insecurities about getting older?
Just enjoy life as much as possible. [Aging is] just part of life. It's not like it's a disease or something. It's a wonderful experience. I mean, the older you get, if you have children, you get to participate in their lives and maybe have grandkids. It’s a remarkable journey. Just don't be scared. You can't change it. If we're lucky, we get to experience it, right? So you have to make the most of everything that you have.
What do you stand for?
I stand for women realizing their worth and understanding they make a difference.
Why do you feel it’s important to make your voice heard?
It is important to make your voice heard as generations of women before us did not have the opportunity. They did not get to vote or have opinions. They were relegated to traditional roles of motherhood.
You moved to the US when you were 22—what was your socio-political experience of this country like then versus now?
Well, I was pretty clueless about politics when I moved here. I didn't give it much attention at all. However, I was already aware that it was difficult for women to, you know… abortion rights have always been something that's on my mind, you know, because I feel like it's definitely our decision. But I became aware of how awful everything was in the US around 1981 during the Reagan years. I lived in downtown Los Angeles in 1981 when crack hit the streets, and it was really a sad time. And it was also a time when all my friends in London who were gay died in the first sweep of AIDS.
Is there a moment in your memory when you changed your mind about any social justice issue? Or realized its importance to you and the world? What happened then?
These last few years have seen a resurgence of the government interfering in women's rights, trying to overturn laws already in place. I actively support Planned Parenthood: for the generations of women coming up, it would be terribly sad to see these safety nets disappear as it becomes purposefully more difficult to obtain help and information.
If you could get the world to change its collective mind about one issue, or adopt one way of being, what would it be and why?
If I could change the world, I would revisit every single charge against imprisoned people who were sent for simple possession. Now that marijuana is legal in so many states, it's a travesty that hundreds of thousands of people are locked up whilst the rest of the country buys joints as easily as a cup of coffee. Fairness. That's what I'd like to see.
What's the biggest thing you think you've learned about yourself through modeling?
Actually, that I can do it. I mean, who would have thought 10 or 15 years ago that I would have this sort of status as a model? I certainly didn't. It wasn't even on my radar.
You weren't scouted when you were younger? No one tried to get you to model before 60?
A few times in London, I would be stopped in the street. But I didn't have the self-confidence to do anything like that. And I didn't have great skin. You know what, up until about 24 I had pretty bad acne. I didn't think that that could ever be me. I certainly am much more fit than I was, you know, five or six years ago. I work out and I do HIIT training and I try to achieve good posture. Here I am, and I'm doing the best I can. It just feels so great. I just had my physical and everything was perfect. It makes you just feel really happy that you know you are healthy.
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