The new face of beauty
US cover model Valerie Ramsey has graced many magazines and ad campaigns, as well as runways and TV. And she’s 71!
BY: Eleanor Yap
Valerie Ramsey is a highly sought-after model that has graced runways, print ads and TV. She has modelled for Lexus and St John’s Knits, and appeared on TV such as “The Today Show” and “Extra”. This mother of six and grandmother of eight is also an author, having written her first book in 2008 with her daughter, called “Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age”, where she shares a lifetime of hard-earned wisdom, insider secrets, and practical advice on how to look and feel your best – inside and out – at any age.
For 15 years she held the post of public relations and media manager for Pebble Beach Resorts but when her book came out in 2008 she left that behind to move on to new ventures. Her many plans include having her own TV show, which is still in development. Slowing down? That is not even in her vocabulary. She certainly is living proof that being older than 50 can be both exciting and healthy, and let’s not forget, sexy.
Living in California, US, with husband Wally, Agelessonline catches up with her through e-mail to find out more about her life, what’s next for her and to get her to share some tips on how to look and feel one’s best – inside and out – at any age!
You were mostly a stay-home mom until age 53, when your children had grown, and you wanted a career of your own. How hard was it for you to transition to the workforce? Did you have to take computer courses? Most people would fear being accepted and blending with a youthful generation, what do you say to that? Also, why did you decide to work when you could have just continued being carefree?
It really wasn’t difficult at all. The key is not to mind if you have to start at the bottom and work your way up, which I certainly did! When my husband and I moved out to the Monterey Peninsula, I knew I wanted to work at Pebble Beach Resorts, but I didn’t have any work experience in the hospitality industry and so I started out working in the pro shop one summer with all of the college students.
While I was doing that, I went to the local community college and learned how to use a computer so that I could move out of retail and into marketing. Working with younger people wasn’t a problem at all. In fact, it was great fun and I honestly didn’t even think about the age difference very much. If you’re relaxed and happy, they will enjoy being with you as well. It’s all in your attitude! As for choosing to work – having a fulfilling career that would be challenging, interesting and fun was the dream I set my sights on for the next chapter of my life. Not to work was a choice I never even considered or wanted.
I read from another article that on the first day of work, you broke your foot, the second day you learned you had uterine cancer, and the third day your doctor discovered a dangerous heart abnormality which required surgery (I understand you now have a an implanted defibrillator). Wow, not a good start though. What was your motivation to continue?
Yes – after four years in the marketing department, I was promoted up to my dream job of becoming the public relations (PR) and media manager for Pebble Beach Resorts – a rather large undertaking as the Resorts are made up of four golf courses (the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links and three others), three hotels, a large spa, seven restaurants, and 17-Mile Drive. It was on the first day of my new PR job that I stumbled on the cart path, which was dark and slippery at 5am, as I was going out to meet a film crew who had just arrived for the week to shoot car commercials. I fell flat on my face, breaking my foot and spraining my ankle!
The next day I was again out on the photo shoot when I got the phone call from my doctor confirming that I had uterine cancer. He scheduled surgery for the following week. The following day I once again had to leave my film crew to go down to his office for a routine pre-op check-up. There it was discovered that I also had a very serious heart condition, cardiomyopathy, which was complicated by the type of arrhythmia that can cause sudden cardiac arrest. That was the first three days on this great new dream job I had just begun, and it was a major crossroads for me – whether to take it as a sign that I was taking on too much with this new position and to give up and go home. Or to say, “No! This is the career I dreamed of. I am going to get past all of this and go on to lead the very best second half of my life that I possibly can.” After I recovered, I went to Washington, DC, to speak at the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Leadership Conference, and after that I began giving keynote speeches for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women fundraisers. I resumed my PR role at Pebble Beach, and all sorts of unimagined miracles happened after that.
PR and media manager to model? What a change! How did that happen at age 63? Why a second career and modelling too?
I never had any intention to become a model, but when I was 63 I was out on the golf course overseeing a photo shoot for a TV show, and the producer asked me if he could take some pictures of me? He wanted to send them up to Stars Agency in San Francisco, one of the biggest model talent agencies in the city. Shortly after he sent them, I received a phone call from Stars saying they wanted to sign me.
I wasn’t about to give up my career at Pebble Beach, but I did sign with Stars and took on modelling jobs whenever they didn’t conflict with work. After that, I was recruited by Ford Models in Chicago and three agencies in New York City. Why did I do it? Well – why not? Instinctively I felt that this could be a wonderful opportunity, and even though I had my doubts and uncertainties about becoming a model at my age, I decided to do it. It is so true that in life it’s not the things we did that we so often regret, it’s the things we didn’t do.
Where has your face appeared? I understand you also have done runways. Tell me more. How was your first experience and how did you feel being among so many younger models?
I have appeared in any number of magazines and newspapers as well as several TV shows – The Today Show three times, Fox News, Extra, CBS-NY, NBC-Philadelphia, and many, many others. My first experience as a runway model was a major challenge – I was so nervous!!! It was a Christmas show for the Boys & Girls Club in the Grand Ballroom at the beautiful Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill in San Francisco. There were over 1,000 people there, and the T-shaped runway was VERY long! The models were all young boys and girls – about 18 to 25 – and then there was me, the silver-haired grandmother. The ball gowns and jewels were spectacular; the room was filled to capacity and buzzing with excitement. Behind the scenes, it was exactly as I had seen in movies – stations of hair and make-up people, dressers, and so forth. I needn’t have worried though. The immediate friendship and support I got from all of the models was wonderful, and the hair and make-up people were so marvellous. It was a great experience that I will never forget.
From mom to career woman to model. You have an incredible life and many would want to be in your shoes. How has your family reacted to all this? Have they been supportive?
My family is loving all of this. My husband gets such a huge kick out of all the fun things I do and the interesting people and places that keep popping into my life! And my children love it as well. They, of course, are all grown with busy lives of their own, but they’re proud of their mom, and I think I’m being a good role model for them, as my own mother was for me.
Are there many models in their 60s and above in the US? Does ageism exist in the modelling world? What advice can you give to a baby boomer breaking into modelling?
There are a few models in their 60s and above in the US, but not very many. Carmen dell’Orefice is the most well-known – she just keeps going and going! And she is just as beautiful in her 70s as she was in her 20s (she will be 80 in June). And there are others. Lauren Hutton for example (who is in her late 60s).
Modelling is still a young person’s field, however, and although there are 80 million baby boomers in the US, the opportunities for women my age are not all that plentiful, particularly in San Francisco. It’s better in New York. My advice to anyone interested in breaking into modelling is to check the Internet for agencies in your area and see when the open calls are. Do NOT spend any time or money on getting expensive head shots done ahead of time. If an agency thinks you have what they’re looking for, they will send you to a photographer after they sign you.
What are some key lessons you have learned about entering the workforce for the first and second time? What advice can you share with others?
When I made the decision to begin a career at age 53, I was not afraid to start at the bottom and work my way up. You have to be open-minded about that. And then while I was in that retail position, I went out and acquired some other skills (such as learning how to use a computer) while at the same time learning as much as I possibly could about the hospitality industry. From there I wasn’t afraid to ask for what I wanted – such as a promotion! And I got what I asked for!
As for the second career – modelling – again, it was recognising a great opportunity when it came along and then not being afraid to go after it. That, too, involved learning new skills – how to walk the runway, hair, make-up (very different for TV and print), and so forth.
And now I’m launching into so many other new things (see below).
What made you decide to author your book “Gracefully”? Are you planning to do another?
The decision to write “Gracefully” came after I started receiving the most wonderful e-mails from women all across the country telling me how inspired they had been by my story. They seemed to be hungry for the validation that it is never too late to pursue something new, and that 50 or 60 is not the end of the road … rather it can be the start of a whole new race!
What new ventures are you currently involved in? (I understand you are the first ambassador for clothing line Nina McLemore and you are an ambassador for You Go Girls DesignHer Travel.)
I have so many new ventures. Yes – I became Nina McLemore’s ambassador, modelling and speaking at events, after she saw me on The Today Show, and I also represent You Go Girls DesignHer Travel. That is a phenomenal organisation that takes women (and sometimes men, too) on wonderful trips all over the world. I am also on the speaking circuit, am invited to do numerous Internet broadcasts, am working on a video project with Blue Marble Media in Atlanta, have a TV show, “What’s Next?” in development, will be speaking on some cruise lines, and will be taking part in the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit in San Francisco on April 29. I am a spokesperson for Early Bird Alert and continue to model when opportunities present themselves. Another book is not planned for at the present time, but that isn’t to say that there might not be another in the future. (Early Bird Alert is a home patient-centric healthcare device for seniors, etc. It attaches to a telephone and provides a number of services with the touch of a button – calendar reminders, reminders to take meds, doctor’s appointments, communications with friends and family members, etc. Hundreds of thousands of these devices are being distributed via Meals on Wheels, the Television & Screen Actors Guild, and many other charitable organizations. It will have its official launch later this spring.)
What is your nutrition and exercise regime like?
I have a wonderful nutritionist in Los Angeles – Derek Johnson – whose company is New Metabolism. I’ve worked with Derek for years. He has devised a program that is customised for my particular body and needs – in my case, high protein and complex carbohydrates. For exercise I belong to the Carmel Valley Athletic Club, a glorious facility in beautiful Carmel Valley, and there I can work out with a personal trainer, swim in the pool, or just relax out in the beautiful fresh air surrounded by flowers, mountains and sunshine.
Did you ever imagine your life being such an adventure?
No – absolutely never!!!! But it was all about recognising opportunities and then not being afraid to pursue them.
It seems like you are making up for lost time? Do you think you would want to slow down?
I can’t think of anything I would rather NOT do than to slow down. For me, being engaged and productive is what gives me energy and fills me with excitement and enthusiasm about greeting each new day – looking to around the corner to see what great adventure or opportunity is coming up next.
What are some tips to looking great at any age?
• Project a positive body image.
• Love yourself enough to take care of yourself!
• Get seven or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
• Eliminate negative thought patterns to reduce stress. Stress will age us faster than anything else.
• Take good care of your skin – I believe in exfoliating at least two or three times a week. I love Clinique’s Exfoliating Scrub.
• Sun block.
• A healthy diet, high in anti-oxidants, protein and complex carbs. Never eat a carbohydrate by itself. Add a protein or fat.
• Exercise – weight resistance and cardio. Get out and walk in the fresh air, too.
• Keep sexuality alive!
• Clothes that really fit and flatter your body. Have a good tailor (usually your dry cleaner will have one on site).
• Keep your smile whitened and your eyes bright (I use Visine every morning).
• Well cut, shiny hair.
• Be enthusiastic about life! Be involved, engaged, challenge yourself, and keep moving forward.
Name 6 things in your handbag that you just can’t do without?
• My BlackBerry.
• A small notebook and pen.
• L’Occitane hand cream.
• Translucent powder for touch-up.
• Janeke hairbrush from Z Pharmacy in New York.
Can you share some beauty tips from your own regime?
• My skin has dried out so much as I have gotten older so in the shower I use Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash.
• I also use – and love – Cetaphil to wash my face, and their body cream after I shower.
• I use Bumble and Bumble products to give my hair extra body and shine.
• I love using a make-up primer – it makes all the difference in the world, making your skin look even-toned and glowing. CoverGirl & Olay Simply Ageless is a good one.
• I also use Cover Girl & Olay Simply Ageless makeup. It’s wonderful!
• And Estée Lauder’s Creme blushes.
In your book, you emphasise the need to value relationships. Can you share why this is important?
To me, relationships are the most important thing in the world. Without them, nothing else matters – nothing else will come about. With our partners, our families, our friends and loved ones, our business associates – having good relationships with all of these people are what make life worth living!
You also spoke about journaling. Why is this important and how does one start?
Journaling can be a great tool both for looking back and seeing where you’ve been, and for looking ahead to figure out where you want to go next. If you’re in transition and aren’t sure what you want your next step to be, looking back at your old journals can give you an insight into the kinds of things you were drawn to and enjoyed before. They can help provide the answer to where you want to go in the future. Also – keep your journal positive. Fill it with gratitude. Don’t use it as a negative sounding board. Emphasise the good things. Remember – what you focus on expands, and that our thoughts become our realities. So keep it positive and upbeat.
What are your thoughts about age? Is 60 the “new 40”?
No – 60 is not the “new 40”. Sixty is still 60, but we’ve totally revamped 60. It isn’t old anymore. Sixty is healthy, strong, sexy, vibrant, involved, curious, active and seeking to add new dimensions to life. In short, it’s better than ever. We have much in common with 40-year-olds, yet we also have a tremendous advantage over them. We have maturity, life experience and confidence on our side.
You have had a long marriage with your husband Wally. What are your secrets to keeping it together?
Wally and I have been married for 51 years. Hard to believe but it’s true. There are a few secrets to maintaining a happy, healthy relationship that I would offer: Communication, a common sense of purpose, a good sense of humour, giving each other room and encouragement to expand, and grow outside of the relationship. Keep sexuality alive!
What are your thoughts on anti-ageing treatments? I understand you like Botox.
As for anti-ageing treatments, it really is such an individual thing. There are so many non-invasive new options out there! I think if they are used judiciously and with a qualified specialist in skincare, they can work wonders. Like anything, they should be used in moderation. I have used Botox occasionally, but only in the furrow between my eyebrows, and then only about twice a year. Mostly I rely on my own personal regime of good skincare, as described above.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Five years from now I hope to still be chasing after new opportunities, forging relationships with great new people, and to still be looking around the corner to see “what’s next?”
Anything you would like to try doing, but haven’t yet?
Hosting my own TV show would be a new experience that I’ve never done before. So will speaking on a cruise ship, but I will soon be doing both. I’d love to travel more, take cooking classes in Italy and France, take in more cultural opportunities around the world, and spend time with folks in need, helping out in a meaningful and productive way – starting with those right here in our own backyard of America.
Anything to add?
I’d like to end with a talk I gave on ageing well:
“There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” – Sophia Loren
Getting older can bring about many changes in our lives – but it can’t keep us from having a positive attitude, from sharing love and laughter with those around us, or from giving the very best that we have to give every day to the rest of the world.
It can’t keep us from putting on a broad, happy smile and sending out a positive energy, or from having a genuine love and enthusiasm for life. It can’t stop us from being grateful for all of our blessings – or from showing our love and appreciation to others.
Getting older can bring with it the proverbial “empty nest” – but it can’t keep us from starting a whole new adventure or from planning, “what’s next???”
Getting older can mean the loss of our sex life as we once knew it – but as long as we have an adventuresome spirit and a sense of humour, it can’t stop us from still being our fabulous, sensual selves!
Venturing into a new arena can cause our self-confidence to become a little shaky – but it can’t keep us from projecting a confident body image! “Fake it ‘til you make it!”
Getting older can give us a sense of having lost some of our vitality. Well, remember this: If youth is a state of body and mind, vitality is a state of being – of soul. If we wrap ourselves in the essence of vitality, youth will follow. Vitality reflects our higher selves, and if it runs high within us, we are likely leading a happy, healthy life filled with fun friends of all ages, a healthy relationship, and a career or other mind stimulus that keeps us waking up before the alarm goes off.
Vitality is the essence of your soul; it helps drive who you are and where you’re going.
A vital woman exudes confidence and inner beauty. She is strong in mind and purpose. She leads a rich and fulfilling life, balanced with loving friends and family, activities and interests, and a career (if that’s her choice).
Getting older for many can mean some endings – but it can’t prevent us from starting a whole new race!
(PHOTOS: Supplied by Valerie Ramsey with permission.)