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MEET DAPHNE SELFE, 83, THE WORLD’S OLDEST SUPERMODEL

By: Mdadisi Mambo On: 2:40 PM
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  • At 83 Daphne Selfe the world’s oldest supermodel appears in Vogue and struts along the Paris catwalks photo


    Daphne Selfe likes sugar in her tea, cake with it, biscuits, Downton 
    Abbey and raising money for her local church. She has a son, two 
    daughters and four grandchildren. Daphne Selfe doesn’t like 
    playing 
    bridge, or sitting around. She also wears a black leather jacket 

    without looking ridiculous, and has been working as a model for 63 
    years. In the past two years she has been on assignments in Paris, 
    Prague, Berlin, Beijing, Ibiza, South Africa and more. She is, to be 
    fair, a little bemused: “What’s going on? Perhaps this is my swan 
    song.” It seems unlikely, although she does have “certain 
    limitations”, such as being unable to wear high heels now, unlike, as 
    she acknowledges, the Queen.

    “She’s amazing,” says Daphne Selfe. “She looks even better than 

    when she was younger.” Which might also be said of Daphne 
    Selfe, 
    who got her big break when she was working at a Reading 
    department store in 1950 after her ambition to work with horses 
    had suffered a setback, and “Mummy said <<you just can’t sit 
    around>>.”First it was a local magazine cover, and then she was 
    off to London: “Mummy thought that was a lot better than 
    horses…less dangerous, to some extent, or perhaps dangerous in 

    different way.”

    Daphne Selfe has a twinkle and an accent of a type – somewhere 

    between Fenella Fielding and Joanna Lumley – heard less often 


    now than then (her father was a schoolmaster who read Greek in 

    bed for fun). London and modelling in the early Fifties, 

    though, “wasn’t anything special. There were no supermodels, it 

    wasn’t talked about much at all…I wasn’t nearly as successful in 

    my 20s, I didn’t get anything really exciting.”


    Daphne Selfe married Jim, a television stage manager, produced 

    three children, and returned to modelling in the Sixties.


    “But they didn’t like me. I wasn’t the right type: Twiggy and Jean 

    Shrimpton had the blonde fringe, I was dark with wavy hair, much 

    more classic, really. I didn’t fit in at all. But I did do a lot of what 

    they call store modelling, wearing somebody’s clothes and 

    walking   round the restaurant.”
    Daphne Selfe has been working as a model for 63 years photoWorlds oldest supermodel posed for TK Maxx campaign 500x640 photo

    And so her career continued, supplemented by any number of appearances as a television and film extra, and arriving, in a stately 

    way, in the early Nineties, at an advertisement for Stannah Stairlifts 
    – “first floor, please, Stan!” Work became more difficult, as she 

    was caring for Jim after he’d had a stroke. Then, in 1998, the year 
    after Jim’s death, came her great rediscovery, at the age of 70, when she was hired by Red or Dead for a London Fashion Week show.
    Suddenly, Daphne Selfe was in Vogue“which I’d given up dreaming about years ago…I was very surprised, extraordinarily surprised…70 was very unusual for a model…I’ve been very lucky, the camera likes me.”
    She was 5ft 7 and 10 stone (“a big strapping horsey girl!”) when she started; she is 5ft 6 and 8 stone now. She exercises “most days”. She has always had energy, doesn’t get jetlag and loves doing new things, a trait she clearly shares with her son, who has been, inter alia, a banker and an explorer, and now teaches yoga in India. One of her daughters sculpts; the other has been a ferociously keen sky-diver.
    Daphne Selfe has modelled for Mario Testino, Mary McCartney and Rankin, who told her that the difference between her and younger models was that they had nothing behind their eyes because they had no experience. Or, as Daphne puts it, “The reason why I’ve lasted so long is because I’m not quite as thick as some…you have to bring an element of intelligence to any job, that’s what sustains you and the people you work with.”
    And, “You’ve got to take rejection. I go to lots of auditions, and you only get one out of several, that’s how it is. It’s not necessarily your fault, it’s what they’re looking for, and if you don’t fit the bill, it’s nothing to do with how good or bad you are. That’s quite difficult for young girls to get used to. But I’m old and sensible – or insensible now – so I don’t worry about it, and on to the next one.” With that, she was off home to watch Sir David 
    Attenborough, 85.

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