The Ah-MAYE-Zing Maye Musk! Life Lessons From The Hard-working Woman Who Shows We Can Do It All

by Freya Drohan

Drumroll please! Our breakthrough model is none other than Maye Musk, who’s not only breaking through but breaking ground at the age of 74. Here’s how it started, and where it’s going for the glamazon, author, and dietician. 

You’ve been a model for 50 years, how do you feel about your award?
I was certainly curious! I was always in more commercial print, but recently I’ve been breaking into couture which is a huge breakthrough. You don’t expect that in your late 60s or early 70s. I’m a dietician and that’s my real job, but I always modeled part-time thinking that it would end soon…but it just didn’t. I was booked for mother of the bride jobs when I was 28—the oldest model in town! Then I was doing hand modeling, feet modeling, modeling for medications.

Big difference to now!
Through Facebook, I got my first New York Fashion Week opportunity. At 67! After that, I started working harder on social media. I was in LA at the time, driving to model castings for ‘real people’. You don’t have to be tall to do hotels or aircraft [campaigns] so I’d line up with 300+ actresses who were in between jobs. You have to pound the pavement, or you don’t get work.

Love that! So social media has really helped?
My following started building and I’d get requests for test shoots and it became quite creative. Much better than Sears housecoats! It didn’t pay anything, but it was fabulous and did well on Instagram. Twitter I use more for nutrition updates and to post about my book—now in 100 countries and 30 languages, which is so unbelievable.

Tell us more about your book.
I didn’t expect to be a best-selling author. When a literary agent approached me, I said ‘I’ve nothing to say!’ But she convinced me and we met with publishers. I talked about my whole life, coming from Canada to South Africa, my adventures with my family in the Kalahari desert, and different life stages. My kids said I’d better bring in my struggles but I said, ‘No! I want it to be ‘Instagram perfect!’ But they insisted. There are parts in there about the abuse [I went through] and I cannot believe how many women have related to that.

How does it feel to be furthering representation in the industry?
I just love it! The fashion industry is embracing older women. I didn’t realize I was going to be a trendsetter, but I like it. I’m taking on great jobs, traveling the world, and enjoying the great opportunities.

Maye Musk

You seem to have had a really adventurous upbringing, what do you do now to ensure a sense of adventure?
I just can’t stop getting excited about all sorts of travels! I love going to new countries.

You were a finalist in Miss South Africa in 1969– is that what initially piqued your interest in modeling?
As a teenager, my mom taught me how to use patterns to make clothes and I would make clothes that weren’t available in South Africa. I’d make bell bottoms and mini skirts. When I went to university, the professor would say, ‘You have to put a lab coat on, girls don’t show their legs!’ We didn’t really take many photos then so I don’t have them from my jobs, which is annoying, but I did a lot of runway from the age of 15. To this day, I’m the quickest dresser as we would do six outfits in 30 minutes!

You’ve been in the nutrition space for decades, what are some foods you can’t live without?
Whole wheat bread, fruits and vegetables, milk—I love milk!—yogurt, cheese, and nuts. And beans! That’s all very economical. When I got divorced, I couldn’t afford meat so it was all about the good, simple stuff and basic food groups to keep my family healthy.

Your children have such unusual names—long before it was trendy to have unique names. Where did you get the inspiration from?
We went through all my family’s names to find someone who had an interesting name. My grandfather was John Elon Holderman. Elon’s second name is Reeve, my mother’s grandmother’s maiden name. Kimbal is from the book Kim from Rudyard Kipling. Tosca was my ex-husband’s idea—a girl he fancied in high school, but I liked the name! I’m a twin too. We are Maye and Kay!

Kimbal, Maye, and Tosca Musk

They’re my two grandmother’s names! Your family has always been in the public eye, how does that feel as the matriarch?
I grew up in the media because of my parent’s adventures—they gave lectures around the world. Of course, now there’s the Internet…But I try to have friends with me to protect me a bit so that strangers don’t come after me. When we travel, there’ll be security. But they have to be handsome! [Laughs] They make sure everything is ok.

What was shooting your first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover like?
My agent called and said they were interested in having me—I said, ‘I do not do swimsuits!’ But it was going to be in Belize, and my daughter said I simply had to go for that alone. It was absolutely fabulous and so tastefully done. They really did a great job and to be on the cover was a big surprise. They’re very proud of their diversity.

 

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A post shared by Maye Musk (@mayemusk)

What are some goals you still want to achieve?
I want to continue inspiring women all over the word to take charge, support each other, and move ahead until 50% of CEOs and presidents are women. We will have a kinder world then. We need men who will support women. I mean, look at Eddie [Roche, the Daily’s chief content officer]. We need more men like him who will move us ahead….and give us awards! [Laughs].

 

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