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My career began at an age when others are thinking about retiring

Yazemeenah Rossi

BIRKENSTORY #18

Yazemeenah Rossi – photo model, photographer, lover of nature

“I discovered my first gray hair when I was about 12 – my granddaughter’s age,” relates Yazemeenah Rossi. Her hair was already more salt than pepper by her late 20s, when she embarked relatively late on an exemplary career as a photo model. Gray hair and a perfect figure are her signature features to this day. We visited her in Malibu and spoke to her about ideals of beauty, health tips, and why she used to think Birkenstocks were dreadful.

No water or electricity

Yazemeenah grew up as a nomad spending her entire childhood between her grandmother in the east of France and her grandparents on a beach in Corsica with no running water or electricity – it was all very basic. It was her experiences in Corsica that informed her whole life. “I used to wash in a cold river, but I loved it. It was a simple, but very rich way of living. This was imprinted on me for life,” explains Yazemeenah.

From an assistant model to a silver star

As is so often the case, Yazemeenah’s career started more by accident than by design. She heard from a girlfriend that a designer was desperately in need of a model for Paris Fashion Week. So she stepped in and found herself on the runway the very next day. And the rest is history, with her going on to work for names like Jil Sander, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix, Hermès, and Thierry Mugler. Later on in New York, she worked for Eileen Fisher, Bloomingdales, Barneys, and Bobbi Brown, to name but a few.

“I’ve never dyed my hair!”

At around the age of 45, Yazemeenah moved to New York and became one of a handful of professional senior photo models. There were two models with white hair in the 80s: Marie Seznec from Lacroix – and I worked for Lacroix as well – and me. There were not a lot of models who kept their hair natural!”

Through the years, Rossi has stuck to her convictions: “I don’t do anything that doesn’t sound or feel right to me!” She missed out on making a lot of money as a result because she refused to have her hair dyed in spite of receiving numerous lucrative offers to do so. She was one of the first models to consciously decide early on to let her hair go gray long before this was in as she never dyed it. “I never understood those clients anyway: they see me and like me, and then they ask me whether I could dye my hair brown. Why did they ask for me in the first place? They’d have been better off with a model with brown hair!”

Health begins in the mind

Something that is just as impressive as Yazemeenah’s silver locks is her fabulous figure. She has the body of a woman aged around 30. When asked what her secret is, she talks about the importance of your personal attitude. This is the bedrock of her balanced lifestyle consisting of healthy eating, sport, plenty of relaxation, and nature. “I still take a cold shower every day. It takes me back to the river in Corsica and puts me in touch with that little girl,” she explains with a smile.

A fitting model for Yves Saint Laurent ready to wear

Yazemeenah realized early on that foot health is important, too. Early in her career, she frequently worked as a so-called fit model. Pieces created by great fashion designers were fitted on her and this involved her wearing high heels and remaining motionless all day. After a few months, her feet were in a terrible state.

Love at second sight

Her painful feet led her to a specialist retailer in Paris. To her horror, they recommended that she wear Birkenstocks – which prompted an unequivocal “Non!” from her. Yazemeenah hated the sandals because she had often seen German tourists wearing those “laughable shoes and socks,” as she now puts it while laughing, when she was growing up in Corsica.

But Yazemeenah did ultimately leave the store with two pairs of sandals – she decided to give Birkenstocks a chance for the sake of her feet. This marked the beginning of a love affair because “... Those shoes saved me. They were bliss for my feet,” she effuses, reminiscing. And she goes on: “It’s a story of love and hate: I initially hated them, but now I can’t live without them. It really is funny!”

She currently has more than 20 pairs.

At one with herself and with nature

Yazemeenah has now been living in Malibu, California, for close to 12 years after eight years in NYC. She’s someone who loves herself and life. Health and naturalness are her top priorities. The sexagenarian who has two grandchildren is just as curious now as she ever was and more creative than ever: she has been designing her own fashion collections for some time, works with ceramics, and makes her own organic cosmetics. She just recently created her first piece of jewelry. Yazemeenah is also an impressive photographer on both sides of the camera. Her unedited self-portraits are viewed by countless Instagram followers around the world, many of whom see her as a role model.

One last question: how do you become a “good” model? Her answer seems simple: “Be yourself and work out what makes you special – even if it’s something you don’t really like about yourself. This is actually something you can apply to everything, not just modeling, because you are unique!”

Yazemeenah’s tips for a healthy lifestyle

For Yazemeenah, it goes without saying that our bodies need healthy influences both inside and out. The first rule is: no chemicals on your skin. She believes one of the most common mistakes is excessive makeup. This blocks the skin’s pores and promotes skin aging. “Anyway, it’s not a question of what you put on your skin, but what’s inside you. And this is then externalized,” she says assuredly. She starts every day with a glass of hot water and lemon juice. She enjoys this with balanced, organic nutrition, and she incorporates avocado into one of her meals every day.

Yazemeenah practices yoga and is very active – whether it’s walking, running, or cycling, the most important thing is to be out in the fresh air. And when it comes to skin care, she uses nothing but natural organic products like homemade face packs containing fruits, honey, olive oil, hemp oil, pomegranate oil, avocado oil, and many other organic oils mixed with essential oils mostly from wild plants from Corsica such as Helichrysum and myrtle, just following her inspiration at that moment. She also makes an exfoliating scrub once a week with olive oil, argan oil, sesame oil, hemp oil, and fine salt or fine sugar. But most important of all for her is the way of thinking that creates who and how we are, our reality, that is what choices we are making beyond our fears to satisfy our personal specific basic needs and knowing what our priorities are so we can take action to minimize the sources of stress and enjoy life.

More informations: http://yazemeenah.com

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