Known for being one of the first African-American supermodels to break barriers in the beauty and fashion industries, Veronica Webb’s latest endeavor, lifestyle blog Webb on the Fly is taking a stance on ageism by encouraging women to “Own Your Age. Own Your Beauty. Own Your Power.” It’s a tagline the 55-year-old takes seriously: “Ageism is so ingrained in our society, especially for women. When we look in the mirror, it’s like we see a ‘sell by date’ on our foreheads,” she says. “It’s important to never push away a compliment, apologize for your age or disparage yourself for growing older.
On owning your age…
It’s a subject I’m really passionate about. Menopause is very impactful on our health and beauty, and we don’t talk about it nearly enough. I was born when my mother was in menopause, which I only figured out later. But we never had that discussion. She was a nurse in the army who read Scientific American religiously, and my sister is a doctor, and none of us ever had the discussion—until I was basically blindsided by perimenopausal symptoms. So that gives you a good idea of how people just don’t talk about it. And then you have my kids, who are A.P. Bio students, doing their best in school and getting national awards. School has taught them everything about the reproductive cycle and sexuality studies with orientation, preference and gender, but menopause is literally glossed over. With all this expensive and comprehensive education they have, when I started to talk to my girls about menopause, they both looked at me and were like, “fake news, mom.”
Menopause is really like a second adolescence; it’s like a second puberty for your body. From your mood and weight gain to blemishes and discolorations, the changes are so rapid and unpredictable that I feel like I’m going through a lot of what my kids are going through as teens. Menopausal brain fog is a blessing and a curse when you live in a house full of teens. Everything has to be adjusted in your self-care, from both a topical and an internal perspective. Brain health, diet and exercise are the Holy Trinity in this new phase of life.”
On owning your beauty…
We all have different facets to our beauty. It’s important to recognize and maximize your best features, educating yourself on how to not only master your best, but also your most challenging beauty issues. When you think about the modeling industry, it’s sort of a double-edged sword with both health and beauty, especially during the time when I started in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
It was the height of the supermodel, that Victoria’s Secret body. You’re working really hard to fit yourself into this tight, physical ideal. It’s like ballet or football, or any display profession where you have to want it so badly and love it so much. Modeling does not make you feel beautiful, for the most part, because models are constantly being sized up by the clients and told what is “wrong” with them. If you fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others, it’s a one way trip to the kingdom of insecurity. Nothing is sadder to me than entering a social situation where women compliment each other by comparing looks or putting themselves down.
On owning your power…
In the modeling industry, young women start to panic about turning 18, then 21, and by 30, they think they’re facing extinction instead of looking forward to the heightened powers and strength that come with age. That is where the beauty lies. Of course, I didn’t always get that. It’s taken me years to understand, which I guess it does for everyone, especially women. Our bodies are these marvelous machines that are built to change. We change every 15 days. We ovulate, our hormones completely change, we have a cycle. Even our bodies expand so that we can make people. We are built for change. We are superhuman beings. Listen, I want to grow old, but it’s a real commitment to remain as strong as possible.
On the self-care connection…
The amazing thing about my mom was that she took care of everybody. She was the head nurse at the emergency room, and mentored hundreds of women. But, along with my father, she had little to no time for self-care. She grew up on a farm, so she knew everything about natural beauty and probably had about five cosmetics growing up, all of which you could pronounce every ingredient without having to sound it out. She never fell prey to anything like cancer or blood diseases or anything like that, but not having the time to exercise, to do the internal self-care—that, in the end, was her downfall. I think for women, most of us pride ourselves on being caretakers, which is why health care is dominated by women on every level. We pride ourselves on being doers, but we forget to do for ourselves.
One of the things that I think has been the most helpful for me was early training in ballet, mainly because there’s a bigger goal that goes beyond how you look. When I first got into the modeling industry, I had to take my workouts to a whole other level, but it was all external, it was all aesthetic. When I went back to my roots and found workouts that have a culture and a purpose to them—the ones where you can get better at as the years go on like Tai Chi, dance and yoga—I started to feel a lot better about myself, and also the way I looked. Then, when I layer in nutrition that is practical for my life, that helps me tremendously.
On letting your beauty breathe…
I’m a mom of biracial kids, so it’s important for me to let them create and let their “beauty breathe.” We all have these pet peeves about our bodies. Our skin is too light or dark, we’ve got a belly, we’ve got this, we’ve got that…or my hair is too curly or too straight or whatever it may be. I’ve raised my girls to be conceited in a healthy way because life has a way of knocking women down, and that starts with our looks. The biggest thing for me is that I try to never attack a part of myself. More like, “Let me breathe into what this is.” Because if I don’t like something, it probably has more to do with the fact that I’m neglecting it than there’s actually something wrong with it.
Beauty to me is…
Beauty is my inheritance, and also my legacy. When I feel the best about myself is when I see my parents in my face and in my body. When I look down and I see that I have my mother’s hands, my dad’s legs, my mom’s face, my dad’s nose—it’s a gift. Beauty to me is appreciating your own gifts building strength and knowing that it’s your inheritance and your legacy and your wealth.
I think the most beautiful women in the world are the women who take care of their bodies. There are certain things that stop us in our tracks, right? You’re doing your sit-ups, you’re eating right, you’re doing your runs, but you can’t lose that extra weight from the belly, back or thighs. I’ve been there. Utmost respect goes out to the doctors and the aestheticians who tell you, “Please eliminate and please add this before you come to me for whatever service it is that you want, so you know that it’s really you who’s in control of changing this.”
Once we give up our power to use our amazing, transformative bodies that can do so much, then we lose everything. Then you’re not letting your beauty breathe, you’re not using your gifts and you’re not passing along the best you to those around you. And there are so many options out there if you want them—Botox, cosmetic surgery, the like. When you do what is authentic to you, you can’t go wrong. For me, it’s about staying neck and neck with time—not turning back the clock.
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