MELLAWHO I AM AND WHO I'LL BE
I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA TO START EXPLORING OTHER OPTIONS BEFORE THE MODELLING BUSINESS GOT TIRED WITH ME – IT CAN BE QUITE UNKIND AS YOU GET OLDER; ALTHOUGH IN THIS GENERATION THEY HAVE REALLY BEEN EMBRACING DIFFERENT AGES WHICH IS SO REFRESHING TO SEE.
19/99 Take us through your daily beauty routine — morning and night.
Mella McLaren It is pretty straightforward; at 50 it is very similar to what it was when I was a child. I don’t wear a lot of makeup during the day, so I pretty much just wash my face with water and a washcloth, which helps with exfoliation. I don’t really use soap; now that I am a bit older I find soap really dries out my skin. When I was a kid I didn’t even use moisturizer — but now at 50 my skin is pretty dry so I have to use something. I have some friends who have been studying Ayurveda and they have turned me onto natural oils; they aren’t beauty products per se, I go to the grocery store and get grape seed oil or coconut oil. I use rose hip oil at night — I like to sleep with it on. I have a little bit of a secret weapon: Marie Graff. She does an ‘Omega Face Lift’, which is a facial that stimulates the lymphatic system so there is a lot of drainage and livens up the skin. I’ve been going to her for years for a lot of things; I’m just along for the ride. If there is something she says she wants to do, I just do it. She is cool, she is a very wise lady — if that doesn’t sound too silly. Maria has a lot of information and is happy to share it. She has this program, I think it is still in trial phase; I was doing it with some friends. She sends out different tips every week — general health tips. For example lemon and baking soda as a facial scrub that also helps with lymphatic drainage, a bath with apple cider vinegar. She has so much knowledge that is just nice to share.
19/99 I want her number…
MM She is amazing, she is so so good.
19/99 How has your beauty routine changed over the years?
MM I would say it has changed pretty significantly from when I was modelling much more seriously, doing it for a living, well as much as you can be working as a model. Then there was a lot more makeup on everyday or every other day. It takes a bit of a toll depending on how heavily it goes on. When I started modelling there wasn’t much retouching so most of the work had to be done by the makeup artist, and sometimes that required a lot of makeup. The way you cleaned your face, in those days was much different. I would have to use something specific for getting rid of makeup. I don’t even know what I was using back then — something creamy really helped get rid of it. I definitely found it necessary to use a heavy moisturizer because all that cleaning was drying. Same with my hair — my hair is quite fine so if they would do all these dos, and there was a lot of hair spray and craziness, I would have to be more careful on how I’d take care of it. There was a lot of stress too; all the travel, expectations, business and going to countries that I didn’t know the language. That stress would have an effect on my skin, resulting in some breakouts.
19/99 How did you get into modelling?
MM I moved to Toronto when I finished high school, to take a gap year before going into university, and I started dating a guy who introduced me to Elmer Olsen, with the idea that I’d be a good model, which I had never even considered doing before then. And one thing lead to another, and that is how that went. I've been with my agent Cynthia at Spot6 in Toronto for almost 20 years. I was about 18 when I met Elmer. I did end up going to university but I didn’t finish because I wanted to go to Europe and be ‘serious’ about modelling. I was working seriously for about 10-15 years. I spent a lot of time in Europe. I had always wanted travelled, and go to Europe, and it was a great way of having that paid for. So I started out going to Europe. Paris was the very first place I went; it was a bit of a disaster; luggage stolen, wasn’t very successful. Then I went to Milan and that was a much more successful trip, which meant I ended up going back to Milan quite regularly. When I decided that I probably should be a little more serious about making money, I went to New York. I thought it would be a good idea to start exploring other options before the modelling business got tired with me — it can be quite unkind as you get older; although in this generation they have really been embracing different ages which is so refreshing to see. I just saw Charlotte Rampling doing something for Givenchy, and she looked great. So I explored a bunch of different things, which brought me back to Toronto.
THINGS WERE REALLY STARTING TO CHANGE IN THE RUNWAY SHOW DEPARTMENT WHEN I GOT TO EUROPE. IT HAD GONE FROM A REAL LADY-WALK & WAY OF SHOWING YOURSELF TO BEING ABLE TO WALK DOWN THE RUNWAY IN A MOTORCYCLE JACKET AND BOOTS, WHICH WAS MUCH MORE ME, SO THAT WAS DEFINITELY A FACTOR OF BEING RIGHT TIME RIGHT PLACE.
19/99 How has your career evolved over the years?
MM My modelling career just evolved organically — in the sense of right time right place. Things were really starting to change in the runway show department when I got to Europe. It had gone from a real lady-walk & way of showing yourself to being able to walk down the runway in a motorcycle jacket and boots, which was much more me, so that was definitely a factor of being right time right place. That was super fun doing that. Then I fell in love with this painting and furniture restoration thing, I was helping out a friend and realized I was really quite good at it, which is gratifying and it was a way to make a living too. The furniture restoration; the idea of taking something that could be thrown away as trash and turning it into something beautiful that people want and covet. I started just doing it for my husband and I around our house; we were constantly renovating our house. I find now that younger people are doing it, partly for financial reasons. I think there is something really amazing with this idea of Kijiji or Craigslist, that if I don’t want this thing anymore that is fine, but somebody else might. For somebody else to see how they can fix it up or use it, I think that is cool.
19/99 Do you feel pressure to look a certain way?
MM I find those questions really difficult to answer. I was raised in a way with my parents that looks were never important. Other things were important like education and hard work. I grew up on a farm, we didn’t have any internet at that time, and I think things have changed a lot with the amount of information you can get, I just didn’t have that. My grandmother used to have this thing she would say when I was a teenager “If you don’t like the way you look, then stop looking in the mirror all the time, you need to make your life about other things”. It is actually quite remarkable, I have thought about it over the years; at the time I thought it was quite foolish, but as I get older it is it true — the more I get doing stuff, I find that I am good or proficient at something, I get more confidence, and I think that confidence is the most important thing in terms of how I see myself looking. There are times now when I go through a bad patch — even just a couple of days or something — and you look at yourself in the mirror and think I’m blah, or whatever. And I just need to get doing something, get useful, and then I feel like I look great. I mean there are certain times that I feel I look like a monster but generally I don’t think much about how I look.
19/99 Does the term age appropriate mean anything to you?
MM I guess it means something to me, but I’m not saying what it means to me is what it should mean to other people. I don't particularly like to try to look the way I looked when I was 16 when I am 50. I mostly just don’t see what the point of that would be. I am not going to be wearing mini skirts anymore, it doesn’t seem right; I’ve always been a super tomboy — I should preface all of this with that. But as I’m getting into my 50s I like the idea of looking like a little bit of a lady. Whatever that means. I don’t need to be wearing a Chanel suit all the time. I wear jeans most days; I’ve got a real preference for denim. I am a bit shy, maybe a bit prudish, so for me the idea of bearing all this skin, I didn’t even do that younger, but I’m certainly not interested in doing that older.
19/99 If you could ask the older generation one question what would it be?
MM I’d ask what are they doing to feel alive, and feel relevant to themselves. I feel pretty lucky because I have quite a few role models, who are older women, and I don’t really have to ask them because they are showing me; with what they are doing, how they are living, how they are still so engaged and learning. I want to be like that too. I don’t want to think I am tired, or give up on challenging myself physically or intellectually, or even socially. I think the saddest thing, and this happens at all ages, is a person throwing in the towel and being so overwhelmed that they don’t want to keep learning, or trying or doing. If you feel like you’ve only got one kick at the can, you might as well go for it. And we don’t always have to be the same; that is what is so beautiful about it.
19/99 If you could share advice with your younger self what would it be?
MM I would tell myself not to be so shy, or insecure; not necessarily about looks but abilities. But in a certain sense if I am happy with the way things turned out, which I am, maybe it was good to go through those things. There are steps to aging, we are always in progress; it is a process. Maybe I needed to go through all that stuff; shy people listen a lot, they observe a lot more. I certainly still am shy, and still have insecurities, but they are the type of thing that gives you empathy and compassion for other people. It allows you to bring more kindness to everyone you encounter throughout your day.
19/99 It allows connection with other people, and relatable experiences.
MM Yeah, I think we all share that. We all have different insecurities and we don’t have to be perfect. If you go to a 12-step program they say that admitting the problem means you are on your way to the solution. So I find sometimes acknowledging that I am afraid of something but I am doing it anyways helps me and helps others too. It is a way to just get going; fear can be a good motivator sometimes.
19/99 What makes you feel beautiful?
MM That is funny in the sense that I don’t know if I ever think I am particularly beautiful, although on the other side of that I certainly don’t feel like I am not beautiful either. I don’t think about that much. What makes me feel good about myself, which I think is the same as feeling beautiful, is if I am in good health, if I am feeling useful, whether it is to my husband or my friends, to have some joy in my life; however big or small. If I feel good inside then I feel good outside.
19/99 Is there anything that scares you about aging?
MM Well yeah, anyone who says there is nothing scary about aging is being foolish. There are things that scare me about it. One of the first things I noticed is my ability to heal, and recover from small injuries is not as quick as it was. In my thirties I learnt to snowboard and didn’t think twice about it, now thinking of taking up something new physically is more of a risk analysis. I’d rather not be that person but sometimes you have to be realistic. I’m old enough now that I’ve had friends and family that have gone through caring for an aging parent and some times things that can be associated with that can be very unfair and very unkind, things like dementia or Alzheimer’s, can be heartbreaking. It seems very random, and scary to think about what the future is for you in that sense. Other than that, stuff about appearance I don’t find concerning, some of those other things that you might have to give up. And then what are you going to do with yourself as you get older; you’ve got to keep active, and vibrant, but sometimes you’ve got to give stuff up.
19/99 Do you think there is a point at which we stop growing and learning?
MM Well unfortunately I think that there can be a point at which any individual might stop growing and learning, but it is the best thing if you never do that. Outside elements can conspire to get you to this stage where you think that this it is, you are set, you are on this path and just going to plod through your days, and that is sad, maybe even a little bit tragic. But we’ve got to just try. There are lots of amazing things. I just found out the other day from a girlfriend that once you are 60 you can go to university for free. That is going to be amazing. I take continuing education courses all the time and it is fun; you meet lots of different people, exercise your brain. It just keeps you alive, a certain bit joie de vivre, taking joy in this life that we have been given. Everyone has ups and downs, good things happen, bad things happen. We try our best, keep our fingers crossed, don’t get mired down in the bad things, rise up and have fun and do stuff. That is what I’m thinking it is all about.