Deborah Chambers – better known as Deborah Darling – is a 58-years-old, silver-haired grandmother. As her 50th birthday was getting nearer, she decided it was time to make some drastic changes in all the areas of her life that did not satisfy her anymore. Eight years later, she is travelling the world, modelling for fashion shoots and even though she every now and then pinches herself to make sure it is all true, she is loving every minute of her new, adventurous life as a model.
Deborah had naturally dark blonde hair, and in her forties, she used to put in blonde highlights every couple of months. At 50, she realised her hair was more silver than anything else, so she decided to stop having it coloured to see what happened. She loved her new, grey look and so did many strangers who started asking her if they could take a picture with her when she was out and about. When Deborah’s silver hair started to get more and more attention, a couple of friends suggested that she try modelling. One night she sent a couple of photos to an agency in her area. She was invited for a casting of a deodorant advertisement and loved being in front of the camera, dressing up and getting her make up on. Since then, she has been doing fashion and beauty shoots in different continents, and her natural, photogenic beauty is praised and noticed worldwide. Her down-to-earth, vibrant videos and sassy, classic yet fun photos on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook and Pinterest have awarded her the title “pro-ageing ambassador”.
However, it was a rocky road to success, also for Deborah. Rewinding back to 2012, she was divorced after 25 years of marriage, and still trying to make sense of it all, as she never expected divorce to happen to her. The same year, within a couple of weeks, she lost one of her closest girlfriends and her sister, who was 12 years younger than her. They both died suddenly, due to brain aneurysms. Deborah had been carrying more weight than she was happy with for most of her adult life, and was unfit and inactive. She had also worked for the same company for more than 20 years and knew she had to make some dramatic changes to improve her quality of life.
Deborah contacted a dietician in Johannesburg and got lucky, as she found a person who taught her to think differently about her body. She learned that the body she hadn’t ever really loved or cared for, was fit and perfect for so many of the things she could do and had done: dancing, jogging, listening, making love, bearing and breastfeeding a child. “Reframing the body that I didn’t care for helped me to get a handle on life again. Respecting and treating my body in a better way was a huge shift, both physically and emotionally”, she admits.
Deborah stopped dieting to lose weight and started feeding her body with nutritious food. She had been quite a couch potato apart from occasional swimming, so she also started moving: at first walking around the block and then slowly jogging and running. A friend proposed to go cycling together and suddenly Deborah was doing the three sports that were needed for a triathlon. She tried a Sprint Triathlon and loved it as she felt it was achievable, but still quite a stretch and a challenge. Triathlons became a new passion that helps her keep fit and feel good about her achievements. “And the best part of participating in a triathlon is getting a medal: I just love winning them”, Deborah laughingly exclaims.
Rocking your look, whatever it may be
Deborah thinks she is lucky to be photogenic. She doesn’t know what exactly causes the happy phenomenon, but photographers say that cameras just love her. She doesn’t want to take all the credit though, a lot of the fabulous pictures are produced thanks to professional makeup, great lighting and professional photographers who know what they are doing.
According to Deborah, a successful look comes together when you wear clothing that flatters your body shape and when you dress in a way that reflects your own style and personality. If you can get these two things right, you’ll look and feel confident. Sometimes even a small change in your look can make a huge difference. “If you have had the same hairstyle, eyebrows and makeup routine for as long as you can remember, consider some small tweaks to update your look”, she advices. This doesn’t necessarily mean diving into a whole new wardrobe of revolutionizing your haircut (unless you are ready for that and then you should go for it). You can even just style your current hairstyle differently (adding some product and creating a slightly messy look), thicken and add definition to your eyebrows with pencil or powder, or use a brighter lipstick shade. That may be enough to make your look more vibrant and fresh.
Deborah thinks that grey hair often gets a bad rap because of the way it is styled – or not styled at all – and not because of the actual colour. If you want to embrace your grey hair, be ready to rock it! Have it styled by a professional and don’t be afraid to make a statement with your bold look. You might be astonished by the positive comments you’ll get! “The best feedback I’ve gotten is photographs of women with their new -Deborah Darling Hair-Do- and messages from women I have never met who tell me that they have been inspired by me to make a positive change in their lives. That truly overwhelms me”, she humbly admits.
Ageism is alive and well, but to Deborah this doesn’t mean that we should try to look younger than we are, instead that we should care for ourselves so that we look the best for the age we are. Right now, her aim is to look like a healthy, happy and current 58-year-old. “My grey hair represents a much braver me. I also love the idea that I carry my late mum with me in my silver hair, and this is a sobering reminder that I am lucky to still be here, much older than she got to be”, Deborah remembers. “I have had my time being young, with all the lovely things that stage had to offer. I don’t have any desire to be younger than I am now, I love this phase of my life and the new perspective I have!”
Finding your courage to try new things
It can be terrifying to try new things. Deborah admits she is not as confident as people perceive her to be, but she has learnt that it’s okay to scare herself. Several years ago, after her divorce, she took a trip to Argentina by herself, without knowing anyone or speaking a word of Spanish. She spent three months traveling the beautiful country and made life-long friendships and great memories. That was her first step towards the unknown and it gave her the courage to start trying new things and getting out of her comfort zone. “My advice to anyone who would like to make a change in their lives: try not to think about what everyone else will think – this is our time and we should make the best of it! Just take the first step, even if that step seems like a very small one.”
Deborah approaches life differently now, but she is learning and growing so much now that she thinks her wisdom has yet to come. “I would love to travel more, so I’m planting small seeds to make that happen”, she recounts with a smile. These small, deliberate actions, planted like little seeds, have brought Deborah to where she is today. With her bold, positive and energetic attitude, it seems only sky is the limit!