Self-doubt is always lingering in the background when restarting anything. However, starting over at midlife is not so unusual for many women. Some have to restart their careers after divorce or the loss of a partner or even having been made redundant by their children. Sometimes we just suddenly realise that we need to fulfil our dreams.
But for me, self-doubt is something that I can not allow. I will not allow negative thoughts to rent space in my head.
I grew up in poverty in Rio de Janeiro and worked as a cleaner from the age of 7 before deciding to become a model at 20. I had a small amount of success appearing in magazines, adverts and some television work but discrimination was always a barrier in my country. I had to help feed my family so I started working in a factory.
When I was 32, I met my husband Niel (now 80) who was on holiday in Brazil. We eventually married and moved to London together having a charming life until in 2002 I was eventually diagnosed with alopecia. That really shattered my confidence.
A black person’s hair is so different to a white person’s – especially for black women. We value our hair so much and experience so much judgement, so when my hair started to fall out I was mentally and spiritually bankrupt.
It started with a small bald patch on the side of my head and over the next few years, I noticed more and more. I lost all confidence in myself and I stopped going out. When I did leave the house I’d make sure I was wearing a hat.
These days, despite still dealing with alopecia, I love working in modelling to set an example for young black women struggling with their appearance. I don’t think you ever get over something like alopecia. Every day I wake up and I’m scared it’s come back even worse. But you know, you have to come to terms with it – I keep my hair very short now and I accept my situation.
Modelling again at the age of 60 was very helpful and empowering. I love what I do: yes, there are fewer opportunities available for mature models but I am doing what I’ve always dreamt of doing and not letting anything hold me back. I believe that in this inclusive modern world there is a place for me as a mature model.
Being 60, black and foreign has taught me to accept lots of things that I took for granted when I was younger. Today I see the importance of loving yourself. It took a long time, but I love my hair and I am very comfortable with myself. Being part of this new diversity movement is the opportunity I needed.
I recently joined the “Break the bias” movement. It is trying to change and accept all people at work, in industries, sports and the arts. It is really only just happening but things are starting to happen albeit slowly. Give it time. I am so excited about what the future holds.