Old gold: seniors find second life in modelling

Tall and dapper at 78, Yvon Castaing is not your average grandpa: the Frenchman is a professional model, a second career he stumbled on 15 years ago after retiring from his first.

Advertising used to focus almost exclusively on the young, the nubile, the energetic. But as Western populations age better and better, models over 60 - sometimes way over 60 - have become increasingly bankable.

Castaing is, well, straight from central casting, the perfect gentleman in a blue-and-white striped shirt matched to his blue eyes, and as crisp as his diction is clear.

"I am a dandy, I admit it," he says disarmingly.

Born into a large family in 1932, Castaing started his career with a brief stint in the hotel business but found his calling selling perfume at the esteemed French luxury house Hermes.

"I was a good salesman," he said with a smile. "I guess that's why I also like modelling - you have to sell yourself."

His new career started in 1994 after a chance encounter with Beatrice Costantini, an actress who also heads Agence Di, a Paris-based agency specialised in actors that offers a large selection of seniors.

"When I started my agency there was a demand for grandmother types - little old ladies with grey hair, tiny grannies who made jam and biscuits," Costantini told AFP.

"But over the years the traditional grandma is no longer true to type. People now want healthy dynamic seniors," explains Costantini.

Castaing had long flirted with the idea of becoming an actor, even taking lessons and appearing in a few amateur plays. So when Costantini asked if he wanted to cast for an advertisement, it didn't seem like too big a leap.

Over the next couple of years, he had walk-on roles in movies for Roman Polanski, Martin Scorsese and French director Claude Lelouch, but today he only does commercials and print ads.

- Old is gold -

---------

Business is booming. Having wrinkles, it seems, is no longer a taboo.

"There is definitely a market for seniors today," said Costantini, whose agency has more than 500 models on tap in its "Young Forever" department.

Nearly 30 percent of people in France are over 55, demographically typical of many rich nations. So old is becoming gold, and ads for stair lifts and dentures adhesive just don't cut it any more.

Françoise de Stael, also 78 and one of the leading lights on France's seniors modelling scene, has seen the profession become far more competitive as brands look to corner the seniors market.

"You have to struggle every day to keep your place in this milieu," she said. "There are a limited number of opportunities, and there are more and more people showing up for senior castings, some of them only 50. You need a lot of patience."

A former fashion model, De Stael says that apart from the cash "it's good for morale."

"We remain young because we work with young people. That's what I really love about this job."

But a sunset-years career on the catwalk or in front of a camera can have its perils.

"I did a shoot on my 60th birthday in which they asked me to jump on a trampoline," Castaing recalled. "I did it, but it wasn't easy and I wound up with an acute inflammation of the knee."

"Sometimes they ask us to do very stupid things to give an image of dynamic seniors, able to do the same things as youths", De Stael said.

Paradoxically, working behind a camera well into their 70s has made both models less self-conscious about their looks.

"I used to be too narcissistic. But at some point, you really do realize that beauty is only skin deep," Castaing said. "Being young is all in your mind."

De Stael says she won't invest in cosmetic surgery or rejuvenation shots just to stay competitive.

Being philosophical about looks doesn't mean letting oneself go, however.

Castaing cycles and swims every day, and is careful about what he eats. De Stael walks vigorously, and takes special care of her hair and nails.

"The engine gets tired but the bodywork's still OK," said Castaing.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence