March 22, 2012

Confessions of a 51 Year-Old Supermodel. ~ Jodee Anello

Well, I’m not really a supermodel, but I’d like to be.

No, that isn’t true either, but I would like to make some extra cash on the side so I can go on a vacation once in awhile. I have a real job, Monday through Friday, with flexibility to take a few days off here and there for bookings, but I’ve only had four in the past two years.

That is not cutting it for vacation money because all of my modeling money goes to Botox. Before you judge me, hear my story. I’ve had no other “work” done, unless you count wrinkle removal via Photoshop.

I need more modeling to come my way, so I’m soliciting myself. I’m not sure why I don’t get more bookings.  Granted, I’m not in New York—though I’m willing to travel—and I have a wonky face, but I don’t think that’s it.

My agent tells me I’m an oddity. I look youthful, but I have gray hair. I can’t be a granny, nor can I be placed in anything where they want a young woman. Bullshit. Why can’t I be featured in the editorial section of Vogue?

Okay, I know that’s a stretch, but I also know there is work out there. How about pharmaceuticals? I can do that. Viagra? Cialis? Come on, I’m still hot! Men who need those drugs would want to have sex with me, right?

I started modeling in my teens and had a pretty successful career going. I was 31 and married when my husband was transferred to Philadelphia, and just when I started shopping for an agent there, I was struck with Bell’s Palsy. That resulted in complete facial paralysis on the right side.

Normally people fully recover within a few weeks from this, with no lasting effects. Not me. Mine did not begin to reverse itself for four months, and by then I had permanent nerve damage. Hence the wonky face.

Gone was my perfect symmetry. Complete devastation. My face was my livelihood. I had no other career.

On top of incomplete recovery, I was left with a condition where the nerves cross, called synkinesis. When I smiled one eyebrow went up. When I chewed food my eye would wink. I’ve had more than one strange man wink back at me from across a restaurant.

Joking aside, it was a horrible time for me, but I had to get on with my life. No more modeling. This really did a number on my psyche. I knew I was still attractive, but the camera was no longer kind to me. Big f*cking deal, I thought: you had your run, get on with your life. And so, I did.

Fast forward to me at age 48.

My husband and I were living apart due to his job, and with the arrival of another woman into the mix, I came to the realization that I might be on my own for the first time in 20 years. I needed to do something when agitation and worry set in. I took up running. As I felt my body getting stronger and in good shape, so was my mind.

I decided I was going to reinvent myself. I was going to be a model again.

My plan was: lose a few pounds, stop dying my hair, (I thought gray would make me more marketable), Botox injections (I had recently read that Botox could help with the lasting effects of facial nerve damage), and have some photos taken. Judge for yourself after you see the photos, see if you think you can pull it off, I thought.

For close to a year, I followed my plan. Going gray was the most difficult part. I looked like a raccoon. I tried a rinse once that turned the gray to a lovely shade of purple. People actually thought I did that on purpose and complimented me.

When I was ready, I reached out to a photographer friend of my son. I was hesitant. It had been almost 20 years since I felt comfortable in front of the camera.

After seeing the photos I was encouraged. I emailed them directly to two agencies: FORD, and another in San Francisco. Both responded, so I scheduled meetings the same day. I was a nervous wreck that morning, old insecurities were surfacing. Hoping for FORD, I scheduled them last. I thought if the first one went well, it would give me more confidence, and it did.

I was truly expecting them to say, “What’s wrong with your face?” Instead, I heard, “You are stunning,” and “We love your hair.” They signed me, and boy, did my ego need this, but truthfully I was stunned.

F*ck that other woman, I’m a FORD model.

Still waiting for that national commercial, though.


Editor: Jennifer Cusano

Jodee Anello lives in Healdsburg, CA, where upon arriving there three years ago, was finally cured of a near fatal case of wanderlust. She works at a popular winery while she tries to figure out if modeling will ever work out, but even better would be writing, which is her passion. She uses her blog to improve her writing skills with poetry, memoir and personal essays. She is a runner and cyclist and enjoys home improvement projects, landscaping and making garage wine with friends.

Photography Credit: Paige Craig


Read 58 Comments and Reply

Read 58 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Elephant journal  |  Contribution: 1,375,490