62-year-old model and icon Yazemeenah Rossi shares the secrets to living a long & colourful life.
Model and muse, Yazemeenah Rossi is a voice in the darkness. Breaking onto the scene late into her forties, the French-born beauty called time on the age narrative and forced the fashion industry double take. In a culture that glorifies youth, she stands proud, spirited and defiantly visible. Beautifully regal in her freedom, she is a woman who lives boldly and without restraint. After decades of pushing against the status quo, she has learnt to respect the life-affirming power of her inner voice. Using her intuition as a compass, she moves naturally between states, playing her cards as they lay. Perfectly in sync with the natural rhythm of her body, she sits comfortably in her sixty-two years refusing to let them slow her down, or define her.
Sitting in the mid-morning sea breeze, we speak Rossi about the freedom of living authentically and the secrets of staying young. As she unravels the twists and turns of her tale, her signature bright white hair falls around her face and she seems to glow golden in the light.
Q: What drives you to chase new experiences?
I’ve always been attracted to the unknown – it excites me.
I moved to New York when I was 45. My family kept telling me “you’re crazy, you’re too old” but, when I feel something is right, I do it. So, I left everything and arrived in my first apartment with two suitcases and started life again. I worked well there, and I loved New York but it’s was so cold and I missed nature. After visiting a friend in LA in the middle of December and feeling the heat, I came back and told my husband we were moving to the West Coast.
Again, everyone said I wouldn’t find work out here but, I had to trust that the universe would deliver. We have to realise that sometimes our crazy ideas really aren’t that crazy. Whether it’s intuition or inspiration, we often ignore how we feel. For me, what I feel inside is more powerful and important than reason. When we let go and really look inside ourselves we can work out what we really need- not what other people think is right for us. Here in LA, I’m working less than in New York, but the quality of life is unbeatable. Right now, my window is wide open, and I’m facing the ocean. My little guest house is a beautiful place. It’s not the four-bedrooms I had in Paris but I love it.
We have to realise that sometimes our crazy ideas really aren’t that crazy.
Q: What have you learnt about attitudes towards ageing?
It surprises me how as people get older they limit themselves for fear of what others think.
I turned 62 in December and people always ask how I look the way do at my age. It’s a question of spirit. It’s not just a question of what I eat or what I put on my skin. It’s about how you think. I’ve found that a lot of women are stuck in the boxes they put themselves in. I think when you’re set in these limits it puts so much stress on the body and cuts you off from being who you want to be. If you don’t follow what makes you happy, slowly it starts to die. I think this is one of the secrets to staying young, it’s very simple.
It’s not a question of hair, makeup or clothes. We have to realise that the beauty of it is that we are all different. There are movements all around the world that are helping women find their place and, I have started to see an evolution in the fashion industry’s approach to diversity. Brands are starting to step out of the box to represent real people and draw attention to real topics. We have to use the power of the image for this purpose. I’m not sure if fashion and magazines do it intentionally enough to move people deeply but, if we can let go of the limitations we will start to see change. It will take time.
Five years ago I turned down a big job with an international client because I refused to change my hair colour. I’ve always been very firm on that, sometimes I think I’m too stubborn. I’ve had white hair since I hit puberty and, the first unconventional thing I did when I was young was to keep it white. My mother always told me to dye it and I wondered how she could ask me to when she bleached hers platinum blonde. Her jet black hair was so beautiful but, I guess it was fashionable to be blonde at the time.
It’s not a question of hair, makeup or clothes. We have to realise that the beauty of it is that we are all different.
Q: How do you make sure you’re living your best life?
I’m at an age when people start thinking about retirement. I may never retire, but I have found my own rhythm.
I wake-up, do yoga, check my emails and cook myself a late breakfast then eat again in the evening. I grew up in a very simple environment when I was a child and I learnt that everything you need is in your kitchen. The basic principles of living well are; eat fresh, eat organic as much as possible, and cook simple food yourself using natural, freshly pressed oils. Avocado, nut and olive oils are great for cooking and you can use them on your skin too. When I was in my twenties, I used to buy creams and products over the counter but, as I got older I started using less. Now, I never buy ready-made cosmetics. I have brown spots but I don’t care!
I may never retire, but I have found my own rhythm.
Q: Do you have any advice for other women?
Don’t be scared of what you feel inside.
There’s a little voice inside us and sometimes she cannot be heard through all the distractions. We have to find a way to reconnect with our inner voice and be present to it. When we are well centred, inspiration flows. So, experiment with what works for you. For me, it happens when I work with my hands. When I sew or cook, I create with my hands and my mind is free. At that moment I don’t question if what I’m feeling is right or wrong. You have to stand up to fear. Sometimes it can even be an asset, it makes you listen and investigate new ways of doing things. You have to be alone with yourself to be in touch with that intuition, instinct, and voice. It helps you to protect yourself. People speak about meditation, but you can enter a meditative state without sitting on a floor. It’s like I said, I use my hands, I walk barefoot on the sand, and I’m present when I do it. With every step, I feel the ground under my feet, and it centres me and connects me to my surroundings. Being present with everything you do is very satisfying and fulfilling.
We have to find a way to reconnect with our inner voice and be present to it.
Yazemeenah Rossi is a 62-year-old model and photographer based in Malibu, USA. Born in Corsica, France, Yazemeenah began her modelling career in Paris as a mother in her late 20s. Her big break came after a move to the United States at age 45. Here, she landed major international print and television campaigns with leading luxury fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands. Today, she continues to model while using social media to share a glimpse into her work and daily lifestyle.
Photography by Ian Flanigan for The Dresyln x Land of Women