mary ann elizabeth 48
model, philadelphia 

A creative soul, Mary Ann Elizabeth found satisfaction living an artist’s life and showing the students she taught at various art colleges that it was composed of sacrifice and work and diligence. But when the financial strain of it left her creatively exhausted, she began casting about for another medium.

Discovered by Eileen Ford (of the renowned Ford modeling agency) as a 15-year-old on the street, she was discouraged from that path by her parents. Now a parent herself—to two teenage sons—she got some timely advice from one of them. 

“I always tried to tell my kids that you can do anything … so one day my son says, ‘Why don’t you try modeling again?’ And so here I am,” she says.

Though the 48-year-old only picked it up a little over a year ago, she now has representation in both New York and Philadelphia—near where she lives—and regular work. More importantly, she has the feeling that she acted in a way that set her up to view the remainder of her years completely differently: “In terms of numbers, I’m at the halfway point of my life,” she says. “But I also feel like I’m at the beginning.”

And she feels like she’s entered the industry at the right time. Mary Ann says she’s sensed a shift in the demand for women of her age for modeling work, and she puts it down to the increasing vitality and success of her generation. “They want to see people of their own demographic represent those products because we are more selective, and we are more interested in being recognized and being part of that culture,” she says. “If it’s a youth-driven culture, maybe it’s time to be more than that.”

Like many in our tribe, Mary Ann saw the path her parents took and deemed it unsuitable to her temperament, or the era in which she was living. It’s why reinventing herself creatively was so crucial, and why the changing landscape of her industry might be so rewarding. 

“I will jump through different hurdles and I will take risks and if I fail and make a fool of myself trying to model in my late 40s, oh well, but I tried,” she says. “If I make art and have a show and it’s not successful, oh well. I’m putting myself out there; I’m creating and doing and being what I need to be in order to feel like I have my purpose. And I’m following my flow. I think that that’s something that’s important to me too.”