Age is no barrier for these mature age models

Tinelli might be a well-known name to Perth people of a certain age but most would associate it with the hospitality industry – not fashion.

Enter Helen Tinelli, former wife of Umberto, a stalwart of Perth’s restaurant scene, still going strong with Cafe Lucia, the West Perth restaurant he now runs with their son Christian.

Helen Tinelli

Back in the day when Umberto was strutting through his popular Italian eateries like Tinelli’s and Campo de Fiori – and later JoJo’s – Helen Barnes, as she was known then, was carving out a name for herself in television commercials, catwalk gigs, print advertising and teaching young girls how to walk tall.

Readers might remember her familiar face from advertisements for Maybelline, Rottnest, Walsh’s menswear and Port Bouvard Marina – all before she became a full time Mum to Christian and her daughter, Rebecca.

Now, approaching the age of 70 – when most people are putting their feet up in ugg boots – Tinelli is again swinging her tote bag packed with make-up brushes and composite cards.

She is one of a handful of seniors getting bookings in Perth in a climate where demand for local models of all ages is declining, due to most commercials being produced on the eastern seaboard.

But just as there is a worldwide movement for diversity in models when it comes to race, ethnicity and size there is also a call for older models. 

So, five decades after starting out with Joyce Spiers, the now defunct modelling agency where Tinelli worked with illustrious names like Jane Priest, Cheryl Rixon, Debbie Hillhouse and Jacinta Phillips, she has been signed by Chadwicks.

And the jobs she’s getting are far more glamorous than the stereotypical products often associated with seniors, such as incontinence pads and hearing aids.

Tinelli recently did a shoot involving a train trip to York for a commercial for the Public Transport Authority of Western Australia, where the passengers were treated to breakfast, and lunch during their day’s outing.

“I’m doing this because I love it,” she says. “At this stage in my life what else would I be doing? I love the theatre of it, the creativity, getting together and meeting different people. I love watching the camera crew doing the shoots. To do this kind of work you have to be flexible. You have to be able to smile on cue and have a little bit of acting ability and be easy going. It’s not for everyone.”

Pamela Jackson

Pamela Jackson is another mature Chadwicks model who – over her 21 years in the industry – has featured in commercials for Subaru, Lotterywest and real estate developments along with fashion parades and magazines like Wedding and Bride & Bride magazine.

“In my work I have had four fake husbands and a bevy of children who are not my own, as well as seeing my body parts like eyes or arms star in their own roles,” laughs Jackson who started modelling at the age of 38, and supplements her income now by working at Chanel’s airport store.

“It’s not like it used to be in those day,” she says. “The whole industry has died down a bit.”

She says the work inspires her to keep fit and maintain a young outlook on life.

“I’m still a size 10,” she says. “Don’t get me wrong, I am no Pamela Anderson and we all have moments when we over indulge. But I love what I do.”

Jacqui Fairfax, at the age of 58, is proud to be what she calls a very mature age model.

Jacqui Fairfax

Then again, she has been modelling since the tender age of three.

But, today, she pops up on the Bowra and O’Dea Funeral directors commercial often shown during the nightly television news.

The Chadwicks model recently did two beauty shoots which promoted mature women, where she says the camera was scarily close for comfort.

“I commend those clients for recognising and promoting mature women in their advertising and I was so thrilled to read the wonderfully positive comments from women who took the time to view those photos and to say how much they appreciated seeing a mature model,” she says. 

She says modelling pays very, very well, but jobs can be irregular and there is some uncertainty in it.

“At my age I truly do it because I love it,” she says. I have the best agent in the world who looks after me.” 

And for those thinking they might dust off their false eyelashes from the 70s and get themselves signed up, they don’t have to look far to find an agency happy to sign them up.

In 2015, Brigitte Warne and Georgia Branch started the first mature aged model agency, Silverfox, which now has more than 400 models on their books and offices in Melbourne, Sydney and New Zealand.

In Perth, Chadwicks and Vivien’s Model Agencies both represent mature men and women.

Christine Fox the legendary model scout and booker from Vivien’s who discovered Gemma Ward, Nicole Trunfio, Dempsey Stewart and Bridget Malcolm says:

“There has always been a place for mature models and there always will be. The myth that a model’s career finishes at 25 is not true at all. There is a market for every age group, so a mature age model can have a lucrative career.

“They are used in advertising campaigns, fashion shoots for cars, for beauty, sports, lifestyle, health, shoes and swimwear. They get roles in TV commercials as a hero talent or background extra. Some will be confident to act and host and compere events. They appear on the catwalk for major fashion brands. Mature models will do everything that you would expect their age group to represent. A mature model will always have a place within the industry.

So, if you are not quite ready to don the ugg boots and sit on the couch thinking about your bunions where do you start?

Says Fox: “Send photos into a modelling or casting agent. You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money. Snap shots are fine and if the agent is keen to offer you representation, then they will arrange for you to do a few shots with a professional. But I would advise you keep any cost to a minimum.”