Changing face of beauty: 85-year-old former model Lesley MacLennan gets back in front of the camera for high fashion photoshoot
In the immortal words of Madonna, ‘strike a pose, there’s nothing to it’, especially for a former Yves Saint Laurent model, who took part in a photoshoot with esteemed fashion photographer, James Muller – 60 years after beginning her career.
Lesley MacLennan, who lives at Huntington House in Hindhead, Surrey, moved to London in her early twenties after her mother spotted her potential before making her way to Paris, where she worked closely with designer Yves Saint Laurent – then an emerging designer – and later with him at Dior, both on the catwalk and in front of the camera.
Now aged 85, she met James, who lives in Farnham, when he was visiting a friend at the home. He was immediately struck by her “beautiful hands and the way she carries herself” and visualised capturing her ‘poise and class’.
Following the shoot, Lesley said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the photo shoot – James made me feel perfectly at ease, he was the real McCoy! I would have said so if he wasn’t! The red and black outfit was so vibrant, it was stunning.”
James said: “I met Lesley in passing and thought how amazing it would be to capture her beauty again. When I asked her to look my way or turn her face, she did it with such grace – an absolute professional. She was very easy to direct. I kept wanting to bring her beautiful hands in to the frame and every time I asked her to, she did so with poise.
“I feel very honoured to have photographed Lesley, she has lived such a colourful life and to be a small part of it is magical. She’s an absolute delight. At the end of the shoot she held my hand and told me how much she enjoyed working with me. I was truly touched and will never forget that moment.”
Yet, despite her grace and professionalism, James admitted he struggled to find many examples of models or actors of Lesley’s age when looking for inspiration for the shoot.
He said: “I did a bit of research on models and actors Lesley’s age. There aren’t many, which I think is sad, but I looked at photos of Dame Helen Mirren, who I find inspirational, and supermodel Carmen Dell’Orefice, who is still a catwalk queen at 88 and the world’s oldest working model. I drew a lot of inspiration from those images.
“Age to me is just a number. During our shoot, Lesley was ‘that’ model again. Age made no difference. I’m sure she has worked with many a top photographer so for me to get the opportunity at her age is simply incredible.
“I think there aren’t enough older models out there in the media. In many ways, social media etc. is telling us that it’s wrong to age, but it’s such a natural thing. There is so much beauty in ageing too – we’ve just been taught to look at it the wrong way. I’m all for taking care of yourself but also all for self-acceptance in the bodies we have and ageing.”
Charlie Hoare, director of the Huntington and Langham Estate where Huntington House is based, said: “It’s been wonderful to hear Lesley’s memories of her modelling days and to see her back in front of the camera was just incredible – she’s never lost her sparkle.
“Finding a sense of purpose at any stage of life is incredibly powerful, and for those living in a care environment to find something that motivates them, as Lesley has, can have huge benefits for their wellbeing and state of mind.”
For more information about the Huntington and Langham Estate, please visit https://huntingtonlangham.estate/ or call 01428 604600.