Daphne Selfe Supermodel

Posted on March 4, 2011 by

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Daphne Selfe (1)

The BF and Yours Truly were delighted to be invited to tea by Daphne Selfe, the famous eighty-two-year-young supermodel. Beautiful, elegant and confident with classic long neck and cheekbones to die for she is naturally lithe after a lifetime of Pilates and Yoga. Make up is just a touch of tinted moisturiser, grey eye shadow and mascara to emphasise lovely bright blue Irish eyes. Her famous long grey mane is swept up in what used to be called a coif. Fed up with hairdressers when Daphne stopped cutting and colouring her hair she began to get more work.

This is one woman who doesn’t mind if you ask how old she is. On the contrary, she not only turned the taboo on its head, her age has made her an icon in the cut throat world of modelling. Nor does she mind if you ask whether she’s had ‘anything done’. No, I would never let a knife near me. I’ve never considered Botox either. Young faces look so silly on old bodies’.

Daphne was seventy when her career took off returning to the catwalk after her husband of fifty years died (she has three children). In 1998 modelling for Red or Dead at London Fashion Week, she was amazed to be approached by Models1 agency who signed her up for a Vogue photo shoot. Her distinctive style, in demand ever since, intensified when she turned 80.

The BF photographed Daphne while I chatted about the autobiography she is writing. I suggested she start her story with 2010, a magical year professionally when she found herself in among other places China, Spain, Berlin and Paris.

No one would ever dare try to patronise this lady. Her aura is been there done that. And no wonder. She featured in Claire Wilcox’s film Changeling for the Radical Fashion exhibition in the V&A (2001) and is one of photographer Rankin’s Forty Women One Dress Project (2005). Others invited to pose in the Gucci frock (went to the cleaners after every wearing) include Jodie Kidd, Claudia Schiffer, Jerry Hall and Marianne Faithfull. She has been photographed by David Bailey, modelled for Dolce & Gabbana and Gap, is in all the glossies and can be seen in ads for Nivea and Olay though thinks it strange to be flown half way round the world to exotic locations no one recognises in the photograph. She’s just as happy boarding public transport for a shoot of ‘one of those loaves with seeds on the top’.

After leaving school Daphne wanted to work with horses but her mother took one look at her ‘huge’ hands and decided she would make an excellent Swedish masseuse. As her knowledge of biology and the sciences was zilch it didn’t work out. Her other passion being fashion she was much happier working in her local John Lewis. In the 1950s told that a local magazine was running a competition for a cover girl Daphne entered and won. She was on her way. After three weeks agency training she got a job modelling. At 5ft 7in weighing ten stone no one ever suggested she should lose weight. Today she is eight stone.

The industry now bears no relation to when she started. Then models did their own hair and make-up (thick layer of Pan Stick) and took their own corset, suspenders, stockings, knickers, shoes, gloves, scarves and jewellery to every shoot in a huge, heavy bag. Now she simply turns up and others perform the make over.

Daphne posed for sculptor Barbara Hepworth and the painter Sir William Coldstream. As neither offered to show her what they did she didn’t think to ask but thirty years later at a Coldstream retrospective exhibition she was miffed to see in the catalogue that his painting of her in the altogether was attributed to another model so Daphne put the curator right.

As for me, I think I’ll ditch that box of Kipling fancies, book in for Pilates and Yoga, go on the wagon, go grey and oh yes, lose three stone.

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Photography copyright Mark Playle

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