My Secret Life: Daphne Selfe, 84, model

'I have great hopes of living to 100'

My parents were… My father was a schoolteacher and a classical scholar. My mother was a singer and a pianist.

The household I grew up in… was very happy. It was an unexciting childhood, apart from the war. We were far out of London so didn't see much of it, but there were nights when we slept in the cellars because of the bombers, and had wonderful midnight feasts.

When I was a child I wanted to be… a horsewoman. I worked in a riding school for several years. Then there was a competition to be on the cover of The Reading Review and I was the girl who got picked. I was 20. I wasn't anything very special – I was a big, horsey girl – but I managed to earn my living modelling. I only became a top model after I was 70.

If I could change one thing about myself… I'd have longer legs. I've never been happy in mini-skirts.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at… I used to make all of my own dresses. I draw and paint as well.

At night I dream of… I don't dream of anything these days. It's disappointing!

What I see when I look in the mirror… A wrinkly old woman. Not good! It's amazing what make-up and a bit of titivating can do, though. And when you're animated, your face comes alive, but not when I look in the mirror.

My favourite item of clothing… A mauve cardigan. I bought it in a sale in 1970-something and still wear it.

It's not fashionable but I like… baggy trousers.

I drive/ride… I've been stopped driving because of my eyesight, which is a bore.

My house is… a Tardis. It's an old place on a row of timber-beamed houses .

My favourite work of art… Flaming June by Frederic Leighton (1895).

My favourite building… The De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. My parents used to live in Bexhill when they were retired.

My greatest regret… I never went to art school. I should have done art, but I never studied it properly.

My secret crush… Alan Rickman. That velvet voice, I love him.

The last time I cried… If I see a steam train, I'm off. I don't know why. It must be memories and nostalgia and childhood.

My five-year plan… Since people are living to 100 now, I have great hopes. I'll keep at it, keep fit, eat properly and I'll keep on working if I can.

What's the point? I go around looking at people and I think: "You look so sad". I have been very lucky so I can be cheerful and I'd like to make other people cheerful, too. If wearing clothes and prancing about in funny outfits is going to amuse people, I'll keep on doing it.

My life in six words… Perseverance, happiness, curiosity, luck, excitement, gratitude.

A life in brief

Daphne Selfe was born in north London in 1928. She married Jim Smith, a TV floor manager, in 1954, and worked as a model, dancer and television and film extra throughout their marriage. Later in life, Jim suffered a series of strokes and Daphne cared for him until his death in 1997. At the age of 70, she appeared in Vogue and was signed by top modelling agency, Models 1. She has appeared in campaigns for Dolce and Gabbana, Nivea and Olay. She has three children and lives in Baldock, Hertfordshire

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