What is it like to be a model at the age of 65? French-american Yazemeenah Rossi knows exactly what it is like to come into fashion at 30 — the age when models were ending their careers in the 80s — and thrive in the career, despite pressure to dye her beautiful silver hair. Raised in Corsica and now living in Malibu, Yazemeenah always sees beauty around her and shares it with people through modelling, photography and much more...
You were raised by your grandparents, and now you are a grandparent yourself. Can you relate to your own grandparents?
Yes, I can, because the wisdom in the simple way they lived made me who I am today. And this is what I am passing on to my granddaughters: taking care of themselves, respecting themselves, seeing beauty in simple things, being appreciative, having gratitude and being able to respect others.
Which lessons learned from your grandparents do you use for your grandchildren today?
To take care of their own affairs. My grandparents were so busy with their daily tasks, that they had no time to gossip or care about others. But they were always ready to help if needed. I do the same. I have never been interested in gossiping, since from a very young age I learned about caring about my own business. When you live like this, with dignity and grace, there is so much to do that you have no time for superficiality. When you have self-esteem and love yourself, you do not put yourself in difficult situations, like pleasing others in order to be loved. This creates trouble in relationships and makes you lose your healthy inner strength.
What piece of advice do you often give to your children?
I never give advice. The word is not a part of my vocabulary. Advice can create the contrary of what you advocate, resonating as a form of control with the other person. We cannot be in someone else’s skin. Advice sounds like you know better and people have to do as you say. This is not right. For me, it is better to inform people, to explain the different options in a situation and give proper information to think about and choose what sounds right, instead of giving advice that can make someone react against it and close off certain possibilities. Information expands consciousness, advice limits it.
What does age mean to you?
Age means more freedom, expansion of my awareness, consciousness of myself and the Universe. Ageing brings this grace with peace and serenity, building to a crescendo. I am in awe because it is not something I could even have imagined ten years ago. It is such a wonderful feeling to be more connected, more intimate with myself and my soul. So, for me, age means serenity, the freedom of having absolutely no clue about what others think of me and doing things the way I want. I have always been like that. My mother called me stubborn, but I just knew what was right for me. Especially in modelling, I am not afraid to show myself as I am without makeup and not all dressed up. I love authenticity, I think people are eager for it. This makes my life much easier. I respond to my inspiration in the moment. I will not stop shooting a video about something that crossed my mind just because I do not have makeup on or I am not in the perfect outfit. Ageing brought me this freedom and spontaneity.
There is a notion of the perfect body. Do you feel yourself to be perfect?
What is a perfect body? For me, above all a healthy body is alive and emanates life. A healthy body is always perfect in itself. I think the body is the most fantastic vehicle, it is such a wonder and miracle! I always felt perfect in my body, even when I had troubles in it, as I am so full of recognition for the amazing healing process ability that my body has and that I trust it. On the aesthetic level, when the body is healthy and in balance it emanates a beauty that is beyond pure aesthetic criteria. Some people have a kind of perfect appearance but do not emanate anything attractive, while others are not very harmonious but have such an attractive charisma. The body is a reflection of the soul, the spirit and the state of mind. I feel more perfect today than when I was younger, because I am much more intimate with my body now. It is like a long-time companionship with much love and tenderness.
Did you feel the same way twenty years ago?
I always had this passion for the body and its function, but in my twenties, I could not see my physical beauty for many reasons: family, socio-cultural layers that I had to peel back one after the other to be able to like myself and give myself permission to love myself. This increased and deepened when I opened up my consciousness. I do not feel at all the same as twenty years ago, I feel a totally different person. This does not mean that I did not like myself then, it was another cycle in my life and personal development. It is like I have lived three different lives and some years ago I started the fourth one. I feel much better now than twenty years ago.
You are a role model for women now. Where did you find the courage to become one?
I do not see why this requires courage. I am not fighting a war to save lives. I did not become a role model, I feel I have always been a role model. Long before being a fashion model I always advocated for healthy living with common sense and wisdom. Modelling came late in life and this is just a part of my activities. I have never defined myself as a model, fashion modelling is just a tool to make a living, to have free time to be creative in other fields. I have actually been in the margins of the fashion world for several years because, for me, something is not right there. I am much more than a beautiful image, I am rich with my life experiences. Being just a model on paper is quite frustrating because I can give much more, like what I have been doing on social media for several years.
As a role model, what advice can you give to women of all ages?
I give no advice, but I want women to find ways to express themselves in their unity. Do not imitate, we all are unique. Look for what is unique in yourself and bring this forward to the world. We need diversity, not clones. Try to be curious and to like what you do not like in yourself, bringing this to the world because the world needs you in your diversity. This is valid at any age, it is what I say to my grand-daughters and to the people for whom I do portraits as a photographer. They are always amazed by how I can make them so beautiful, because my connection is a deep acknowledgment of the miracle of life, not just the surface level. And when you are connected like this you recognise beauty and manifest it. Loving myself feeds me and does not make me feel I need validation. This has allowed me to be totally present to others, free to appreciate and reveal the beauty of others. It is a soul-to-soul connection. When you love yourself in a healthy way the world around you takes on another dimension.
What is the secret behind your perfect shape today?
Laziness and consistency in the discipline for many years. I learnt to follow the flow in the moment, to exercise very moderately following my current inspiration, not according to strict rules. With age I have learnt to rest and to enjoy being lazy. I also connect with my spirit through the memories of times when I was very active and sporty. I was a windsurfer, runner, swimmer, and can feel how my body was working then, the muscles holding the windsurf or running. I connect to that memory imprinted in my cells and it works. It can seem totally abstract, but the way we use our spirit makes for how we manifest in our physical dimension.
Please tell us more about your diet.
My diet is very simple, mostly vegetarian. I do not follow any rules other than my intuition that guides me from inside and common sense. I was always like this, raised like this. My size is the same as forty years ago, without any strict diet and varying by one or two kilos. I just eat what I like in moderation because I am at peace with myself. I do not eat make up for something, but to satisfy my body's need with pleasure. Having more pleasure and less frustration is very important in my way of living.
Can you please describe a typical day in your life?
I wake up around 6 a.m., drink hot water with lemon, take a shower, do yoga, read, answer emails with a cup of coffee and prepare a late breakfast. If it is sunny, I sunbathe, then work on projects, have a fresh fruit juice or fruits in the mid-afternoon, eventually walk on the beach, read and exercise outside. Then I prepare an early dinner, work on projects, watch films or read. I go to bed around 10 p.m., often earlier in winter, around 6. I love to hibernate.
You are both a model and photographer. What do you like the most about these two professions?
I like both of them. I am good both at directing and being directed. Modelling, in a way, is easier because you do your job, and do not have additional work as a photographer does. Combining modelling and photography is very demanding and quite hard. This requires a lot of energy, but being both gives a lot of flexibility. To be free to do what I want when I want with just me and my camera is challenging but very exciting because there is an aspect of randomness that I like. What I love just about photography is capturing beauty, revealing beauty in others and seeing how they rise to it and love themselves. I love photography as a kind of therapeutic act that soothes the soul. It is playing with magic.
You have been involved in the fashion industry from your very childhood. What are your next fashion plans?
Working more on the shawls projects and developing a jewellery line. I am not very into business as I think there are too many products on the market. I have had a lot of requests from friends and followers for years to create a clothing line from but I have not developed the business because it goes against my idea of excessive consumerism. I am more about creating exclusive, hand-made products, items that have value, soul, that we keep, cherish and transmit. I am very conservative and this is my way of doing business. My items will never go on sale and never be out of fashion, they are timeless.
Were you always so stylish?
Yes, it started when I was around four years old and I started styling myself with clothes of my grandmother and aunts. My first toys were fabrics, so my passion for fabrics and fashion evidently started from here. Pay attention to what you give to your children to play with, see what attracts them and what they do and you can get an idea about their future.
Who or what has helped you to form your style?
Fairy-tales, the Bible, science fiction novels and the dictionary which made me travel. These were the books I grew up with, they influenced me.
How would you evaluate the ageism in the fashion industry?
It seems to be just a trendy topic because I do not care about being ‘old’. I never think about this, it does not mean anything to me, and I do not see why we make such a thing about this. It is up to people not to look ‘old’. We have people in their thirties who emanate an ‘old’ energy and look old, while there are very old people who are sparkling. I go with the flow and it is not because I have wrinkles and my skin is sagging, but inside I am happy, full of life and follow what life brings onto my path. I am able easily to start again with something new. In fact, I love to be surprised by what life brings to me totally unexpected, it amazes me how things present themselves always at the perfect time.
One of your brilliant features is your beautiful hair. When and why did you decide that you would not dye your hair and embrace its natural beauty?
I had my first silver hair at eleven. I never had the idea cross my mind to dye my hair. For me, having a silver thread coming out of my head was magical, a real treasure, I always embraced my hair.
You are popular on Instagram. What inspired you to create the page and what was the main purpose of the page initially?
My daughter told me that I should be on Instagram about ten years ago, but at first, I was not interested at all. I had a personal page but I did not post anything for a couple of years. When we were on vacation with my daughter in French Polynesia, she told me that maybe this is the time to start to post some photos. And these were my first ones. Then I posted a lot of my daily activities, not really about my modelling work as I did not understand the use of that. I continued for years posting my self-portraits at home or on the beach. I just show myself with authenticity as I am, and this made the thing as it is now.
Were you afraid of looking different from the rest of Instagram when you just started the blog?
No, I never care about what others do as I am too busy with myself. I rarely look on others' pages because I do not have time. I just do what passes through my mind without caring about what is trendy.
Does the feedback from Instagram touch you, both positively and negatively?
There are always negative people with narrow spirits. Some people are so conditioned by the media that they are unable to see what is real and what is not. They are judgemental in a very mean way. This reflects their miserable way of living, so I do not really care. But there are also a lot of people who are very interested to get to know me. The majority, in fact. And this is exciting to me as there is a need for information, which often even my entourage and family were rejecting and that was frustrating. I give very generously and it is wonderful for me to give the information I have based on my experience to enable others the possibility to open up new horizons. The feedback and questions I receive expand my consciousness as well, bringing up topics that sometimes I had never thought about. It is very evolving, I learn a lot from my followers, there is a really great exchange on deep matters. — N
How can you characterise your style in three words?
Timeless, elegant, comfortable
Does age define fashion choices for women?
What is your life motto?
The sun is always shining above the clouds
Who is your favourite fashion designer?
Who is a fashion icon for you?
The Elves from The Lord Of The Rings
Which book do you plan to read next?
The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life
What is freedom for you?
Having no agenda