THE AGE OF BEAUTY

At 58, Lou Kenny de­fies the stereo­type of model ma­te­rial. It may be 40 years since the start of her ca­reer, but her al­lure is prov­ing as po­tent as ever. By Cushla Chauhan. Styled by Mark Vassallo. Pho­tographed by Charles Den­ning­ton.

VOGUE Australia - - News -

At 58, Lou Kenny de­fies the stereo­type of model ma­te­rial. It may be 40 years since the start of her ca­reer, but her al­lure is prov­ing as po­tent as ever.

Amid the glam­orous fash­ion and shiny young faces on Vogue’s Au­gust is­sue sto­ry­board, it’s the grace, el­e­gance and damn fine cheek­bones of Lou Kenny – the beau­ti­ful 58-year-old model we pho­tographed for these pages – that mes­merises me the most. There’s some­thing ut­terly cap­ti­vat­ing about see­ing a ma­ture woman on the pages of a mag­a­zine, perhaps be­cause it’s so un­ex­pected, a pos­i­tive cel­e­bra­tion of the fact that a woman over 40 with grey hair can be so en­tranc­ing.

When I call Kenny the next day she has just fin­ished teach­ing a pri­vate yoga class in London, where she’s tem­po­rar­ily based. “I’m look­ing out on a gor­geous gar­den on a bright sunny day,” she says in a serene kind of way.

That Kenny is a long-time yogi goes some way to ex­plain­ing her ad­mirable pos­ture and toned body, but there’s no doubt she’s also been blessed with a nat­u­ral beauty, one that in 1977, when she was 18, saw her se­lected as a house model for Jantzen Swimwear. At the time, Kenny was study­ing so­cial wel­fare in her home­town of Mel­bourne, so con­sid­ered the role as sim­ply a con­ve­nient way to cover her petrol costs for the week. “I had a non­cha­lant at­ti­tude to­wards it, to be hon­est,” she says.

It wasn’t un­til she had grad­u­ated and was work­ing in wel­fare full-time that an op­por­tu­nity to shoot a TV com­mer­cial for L’Oréal in Syd­ney proved too good to pass up, and life took a new path. “It paid me enough to put a de­posit on a house,” she says of the job, adding with a chuckle that house prices were vastly dif­fer­ent “back in the day”.

Kenny’s mod­el­ling ca­reer took off in the 80s and con­tin­ued un­til she was into her 30s. Dur­ing her two preg­nan­cies, she chore­ographed shows for the likes of Ge­orges and Coun­try Road. “I was lit­er­ally giv­ing birth and a girl had to come in and get notes so she could pick up the chore­og­ra­phy and fin­ish off the pa­rade!” she re­calls. In her late-30s she ran her own mod­el­ling agency, one that sought to pro­mote diver­sity with the in­clu­sion of In­dige­nous models on its books, but left that af­ter qual­i­fy­ing as an Iyen­gar yoga teacher and mov­ing down the coast in Vic­to­ria to open her own stu­dio.

But the mod­el­ling world wasn’t done with her. At 54, hav­ing moved back to the city to care for her el­derly mum, Kenny sought a new stream of in­come. “I had a few jobs to tide me over, then got back in touch with my agent and dusted off a port­fo­lio and a mod­el­ling bag,” she ex­plains. “But they don’t even use port­fo­lios any­more, and no­body has a mod­el­ling bag!”

While cer­tain as­pects of the in­dus­try have changed, she notes: “I feel it’s very sim­i­lar.” To­day, as a 50-plus model, Kenny is in hot de­mand, gain­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion with over­seas agen­cies, ap­pear­ing on the catwalk dur­ing Virgin Aus­tralia Mel­bourne Fash­ion Fes­ti­val ear­lier this year and cap­tured in a cam­paign for lin­gerie com­pany Ber­lei.

In­ter­est­ingly, she says that pos­ing for that shoot wasn’t as daunt­ing at this time of her life as it may have been in the past, be­cause as a younger woman she had dealt with the same in­se­cu­ri­ties most women face. “It’s only now that I have fi­nally come to a stage in my life where I do feel con­fi­dent and I do feel happy and at peace within my­self.

“I’m ex­pect­ing this is the be­gin­ning of a new era for me, and I have an­other 20-plus years. I mean, the women kick­ing goals in that area are in their 80s, so I fig­ure I’m just start­ing again.”

Lou Kenny wears a Zambesi jacket, $1,360, shirt, $425, and pants, $540. Bas­sike ear­rings, $440. All prices ap­prox­i­mate; fash­ion de­tails last pages.

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