Maye Musk Talks Lipstick, Sunscreen, Modeling and Everything In Between

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This article first appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

Calling Maye Musk an accidental icon is an understatement. As the South African– Canadian–now American model, dietitian, and mother—of Elon (yes, that Elon), Kimbal and Tosca—chronicles in her new book, A Woman Makes a Plan, she’s undergone a rather unconventional journey to supermodel stardom. “You can’t control all that happens in life, but you can have the life you want an any age,” says the 71-year-old stunner. “All you have to do is make a plan.” With two Master of Science degrees in nutrition, the self-professed “science nerd” never dreamed of making history as the oldest CoverGirl model. Now, during what she calls the “prime of her life,” she looks back at moments that led her to become a bona fide beauty icon and our patron saint of aging gracefully.

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’67 – Fashion Maye-ven

“I was really into magazines and my mother sent me to pattern-cutting class so I could make clothes that looked like the pictures I’d see in magazines. I would turn my pants into bell bottoms and make my dresses into tent dresses, because that was fashion. I also made my own miniskirts. My twin sister Kaye remembers that I would be sewing well into the night to look fabulous the next day.”

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Mirror, Mirror

“This is from a makeup ad I did when I was 18 years old. When I was a teenager, I remember my sister Kaye and I were wearing false eyelashes and dark eyeliner because that was the style at the time. We also used single lashes under our eyes. It was that Twiggy look, and it took us a whole hour to get ready to go out. When it comes to makeup, I have a very plain face—it’s like a blank canvas. That’s why makeup artists can do all sorts of bizarre or edgy looks on me and they turn out quite beautiful.”

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’69 – Sunbathing Siren

“This was around the time I won the Miss Vaal Queen competition in South Africa, which I never expected to win. Back then, we didn’t have the Internet, which meant we didn’t have any skin-care advice. We would lie naked in the sun, slather ourselves in olive oil and use foil as a sun-reflector to get a tan. I used to have a big wall around my garden, and the other models would come to my house so we could lie naked in the sun because models couldn’t have bikini lines. It wasn’t a good idea, but that’s what we did back then. When I was 35, my aunt in Montreal died from skin cancer. That was a terrifying wake-up call. Since then, I will not go in the sun without sunscreen, a long-sleeve cotton shirt and a hat. I’m just very careful all of the time now.”

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’81 – Plus-Size Pioneer

“During my 30s, my fiancé had gotten someone else pregnant and moved next door to me. You can imagine I was very sad. I worked my way through all of that and I ate whatever I felt like. I would eat burgers and fries, fried chicken, ice cream and chocolate, and I really loved it. After I gained 65 pounds and my health deteriorated, I thought, I’m either going to have to take painkillers for my knees and my back, or I have to get this under control. It took me eight months to lose it all. It just so happened that plus-size modeling started at the same time that I gained weight. All of a sudden they started needing me in runway shows. They would ask for an older model and a plus-size model, and I was both. I was the only one in South Africa— because you can imagine, this was the ’80s—and all the other agents would book me and pay the commission to my agent to fly me around the country to be in all the runway shows. So, this was really cool. Today, I love seeing how the modeling landscape has changed. I think diversity gives women more confidence. I’m just happy that curvy models are influencing so many women in the world today.”

5 / 6

’86 – Bottled Blond

“For most of my life as a model, my hair was blond. I had to be blond and I was never going to give it up. I would do my roots religiously every four weeks. Now, I wear my natural white hair. I didn’t know when I let it grow out if I would ever work again as a model; I was just tired of coloring it. When I cut it short, I instantly had an edgier look, and suddenly everybody wanted to book me in editorials. I was in my early 60s and said, ‘They want me in an editorial?’ I usually got booked to be the grandmother or an older woman, or things like that. After everything it’s brought me, I’m never going to give my natural look up.”

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’17 – Lady in Red

“My signature look is a bold red lip. My mom always had her red lipstick, even in her 90s. It always made her look so pretty. If you wear red lipstick, no one will look at anything else.”

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