“If I Don’t Try, I’ll Never Know”: Woman Becomes A Model At 68, Smashes Age And Beauty Stereotypes

Should you really be wearing that? It’s a little short don’t you think? Your legs aren’t as pretty as a 20-year-old’s anymore! How about we size up to hide those curves a bit? That’s so mature and classy and hides your girls just right! Might want to lay low with the lipstick; don’t want everyone looking at you, do you? 

There are few truths which we as a population can agree on, yet one of them is the undeniable reality that we all age. And yet, so distasteful is this truth that we spend bounds of time trying to avoid it, trying to find the fountain of youth keeping us agile, strong, and beautifully desirable. Especially when you identify as a woman.

Those questions and statements I’d hear time and time again, whether it be my mom talking to herself when in the dressing room, commenting on the looks of other similar-aged women, or trying to educate me that women of a certain age are not fit to wear certain things. I always found it confusing—it’s just a piece of fabric, wear what you want! Live your best life and the haters can choke on a pinecone.

One woman is embracing just that way of thinking, proudly celebrating her beauty at 71. This is the story of Rosa Saito, who encourages all to go after their dreams regardless of their age and to wear whatever they like, however they like it! Let’s get into it!

More info: Instagram

Rosa Saito took the fashion industry by storm as a model at 68 years old and is successfully continuing to do so at the age of 71

Image credits: rosa.saito

Starting the journey on a new path in life is never easy, especially if that same path has been walked by those different to you. However, the yearning for adventure and self-discovery cannot hold one back from their calling, regardless of any circumstances.

The beauty industry is one that fascinates and horrifies. It permeates each little bit of life, whether we want it to or not. There’s no escaping it. Just like there’s no escaping aging.

You can run from it all you want, ignore it, shun it away to the deepest well, but it will always crawl its way back. The two—beauty and aging—seem to have a very complex relationship. So when they come together, it is a wonder to see.

Rosa or Setsuko Saito (she adopted the name Rosa for easier pronunciation) was born in Araçatuba, São Paulo, and had always had a talent for the arts

Image credits: rosa.saito

The story of Rosa Saito, or Setsuko Saito (she adopted the name Rosa for easier pronunciation), is one of inspiration and brightness, a true breath of fresh air. She inadvertently challenged the predisposed notions surrounding both beauty and aging by becoming a model at 68 years old, and is successfully continuing to do so at the age of 71.

Rosa had always had a talent and passion for the arts. Born in Araçatuba, São Paulo, her childhood was filled with creativity: she took up singing, drawing, and writing, believing she was destined to connect her life with the arts in one way or the other. “I always knew I was going to pursue something creative, something I could invent. Everything I do I take to that side,” she said, as reported by BrightSide.

She couldn’t pursue her passions early on. At 22, she began taking care of her bedridden mother. In 2000, she lost her husband, leaving only her to care for their 3 kids

Image credits: rosa.saito

However, that road would be far from reach for young Rosa. At 22, she took care of her mother, who was bedridden for three years. Then, in 2000, she had to say goodbye to her husband as he passed away, leaving her to be the sole carer for their 3 children.

What kept her spirits high was her love for plants and gardening. She found her daily meditation in them. “It is important to seek and find yourself. And my moment of peace is with them (plants). I go to my garden and talk to them,” she said.

Years later, she was unexpectedly approached by professionals in the fashion industry, asking her to model for them, but she let the idea mature for a year

Image credits: rosa.saito

Years passed, and it seemed Rosa’s life was a life well-lived, though destiny had another idea. She was unexpectedly approached by professionals in the fashion industry, asking her to model for them.

“Twice it was by professionals from the Mega modeling agency and once by a photographer. I let the idea mature for a year, after all, it had costs too. It wasn’t something I was going to get into just like that, blindly,” she recalled.

Image credits: rosa.saito

At 68, she decided to take the leap and, although she had little knowledge of the industry, it didn’t stop her. Her adventurous spirit continued to lead her forward

Image credits: rosa.saito

Until she decided to take the risk at 68 years old. Although she had little knowledge of the industry, it didn’t stop her one bit. Her adventurous spirit led her down the road that was promised to her at the very beginning of her life. She had found her passion and her calling. It even got her into São Paulo Fashion Week!

Her goal has never been fame. “I only seek to do the best in what I embrace with love and to find myself. I thought: Be what God wants. If I don’t try, I’ll never know,” she told Estadão. This, however, has not stopped her from gaining over 45K followers on Instagram.

Image credits: rosa.saito

“I only seek to do the best in what I embrace with love and to find myself. I thought: Be what God wants. If I don’t try, I’ll never know,” she said

Image credits: rosa.saito

At 1.68 meters in height and naturally slim, she revealed that she’d been vigilant to take the best care of her body. She was raised in a very natural way and never got to take even one aspirin as a child. “It was all based on tea, and in my essence, I am like that, kind of against everything that is chemistry. So I always took care of myself with aloe, coconut oil, olive oil,” she said.

Yet, she emphasized the importance of being in harmony with oneself. “The beauty itself is in really taking care of your thoughts, your spirituality. The person can become beautiful, captivating, friendly, this is much more than the beauty all stretched and perfect. It’s the content that counts, in my opinion,” Rosa explained.

Image credits: rosa.saito

Rosa takes great care of her body, but she emphasizes the importance of being in harmony with oneself: “Beauty is taking care of your thoughts, your spirituality”

Image credits: rosa.saito

“Of course, as a woman, there are some things I’d like to change. We all do, but I’m not dissatisfied with myself. I feel beautiful”, she stated. “I don’t believe aging is the right word. I would say learning. I keep learning and I feel that the more I learn, the less I know. Surely time passes, but what is time, my God in heaven? If I were to give my soul an age, I would give it 22.”

For her, the beauty industry’s standards are oppressive, but she believes there is hope. “I feel that slowly we are changing. People are living longer, taking care of themselves more and companies really need to open up more in that sense and visualize these potential customers.”

Image credits: rosa.saito

There is still a long road when it comes to changing beauty standards and minimizing the persistent issue of ageism in fashion and media

Image credits: rosa.saito

Let’s take a very tiny dive into a very difficult topic: Ageism.

According to Annika Gralke, ageism has been seen manifesting in at least three ways: negative attitudes towards older people, old age, and the aging process; age-based discrimination or unfair treatment; and the implementation of practices and policies that amplify these negative stereotypes.

All this leads to people over 40 feeling neglected or invisible in society and the obsession and promotion of youthfulness. Maria Edström argues that, similarly to what Rosa said, the media tends to be consumer-oriented, not citizen-oriented, especially when it comes to women.

Image credits: rosa.saito

“I feel that slowly we are changing. People are living longer and companies really need to open up more in that sense and visualize these potential customers”

Image credits: rosa.saito

Denise C. Lewis et al. argue that the multidimensionality of a woman’s body is very much diminished and ignored, and the reluctance of the fashion industry to recognize the needs of women over 40 years of age feeds into a belief that naturally aging women’s bodies are socially undesirable.

The visual content analysis of eight fashion magazines revealed that the fashion industry continues to focus its promotional efforts on youthful populations and rarely includes images of women over 40, regardless of the large percentage of such women among their readership.

Image credits: rosa.saito

The social construct of ageism and its practices harm everyone, not just ‘elders.’

As Lars Svendsen put it: “[Aging is seen as] a permanent state rather than a transitional phase. Thereby, the youthful, skinny body that is high fashion’s immortal muse is shamelessly equated with beauty. It is no wonder, then, that younger people believe they will become less attractive as they age, and older people feel pressured to stay looking ‘youthful.’”

Not only that, but as the industry defines what we should wear by shaping what we feel is age appropriate, Hannah Swift believes it restricts people’s choices, making it harder for them to express themselves through mediums of fashion (clothing, dress, hairstyles and makeup) in a way that makes them feel good about their age.

Image credits: rosa.saito

The pursuit of eternal beauty through the ever-changing and renewing fashion and beauty scene is both beautiful and tragic. As Roman Meinhold, a German philosopher and sociologist, puts it, fashion is a means through which human beings position themselves in the present, because they are interested in the transcendence of life and aware of its finality.

Death and loss of desirability. Two very natural things that we are made to fear, as though it is our only purpose to live forever through whatever means necessary and to continue being aesthetically pleasing to our fellow humans.

So where does that leave us?

Image credits: rosa.saito

Paulina Porizkova, a supermodel at 57, feels that the beauty of aging is being underrepresented. “You don’t get to dismiss me because I have some wrinkles and sags and gray hair now, when I’m kind of fabulous, the most fabulous I’ve ever been. In fact, I’m going to just put it out there and go, you know what, this is me at my best. Deal with it!”

Jacynth Bassett, founder of The Bias Cut, an age-inclusive fashion boutique, believes that “Women over 50 just get lumped together, rather than brands recognizing the huge diversity amongst them.” She says that “Older women today are active, vibrant, modern – and they’re increasingly embracing and celebrating their age. It’s no longer about aspiring to be younger, but aspiring to be the best versions of themselves today. After all, you can’t age backwards!”

Rome wasn’t built in a day and, little by little, we’ll crumble the strict walls of beauty standards, allowing for more inclusivity and celebration of all

Image credits: rosa.saito

However, there have been those who noticed the fact that Rosa is naturally very beautiful. She’s slim, tall, has long beautiful silver hair, and fantastic facial features. So are we really breaking any sort of standards of beauty or are we building more expectations for how women should look in their sunset years?

It’s a fascinating discussion to have, but I believe that a step in the right direction comes with playing by the rules and then adding a twist, which could lead to more change.

Image credits: rosa.saito

Image credits: rosa.saito

Rome wasn’t built in a day and, as much as we’d hope for change to happen quickly, it takes patience. Little by little, we’ll crumble the strict walls of beauty standards, and the best way to do it is to send Trojan horse after Trojan horse—fitting the standards, yet unexpected.

Build towards inclusivity little by little, and one day we’ll wake up to a myriad of shapes, colors, and sizes proudly displayed in the media.

We wish Rosa all the best and can’t wait to see where the future leads her! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Image credits: rosa.saito

Let us know your thoughts in the comments—are you brave enough to venture into the unknown, regardless of your age? Do you think we need to rethink fashion from the ground up? Also, don’t forget to upvote and follow the author for more discussion-filled content!

Bored Panda has reached out to Rosa for comment.

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