Beate Howitt looks like a model who has done this before; that lipstick, those cheekbones, that fabulous grey hair. But this 80-year-old is only just launching her modelling career having just landed the cover of glossy magazine ‘Goldie’ and a top modelling contract too.
The retired teacher was entered into a competition by a friend only to beat out entrants half her age.
But Beate is no stranger to achieving things later in life because she did a degree at 60, got her Masters of Arts in her 70s and now this latest incredible addition to her impressive CV.
“When you get to 80 you really don’t fear anymore,” she told Lumity. “The world is your oyster and it’s wonderful.”
Beate is a breath of fresh air. Clearly as intelligent as she is a joy to chat to. She couldn’t sound further from the stigma often associated with a woman in her 80s. She’s full of life, energetic and very open about how she’s come to this point today.
Originally from Germany she came to England as a young girl but couldn’t follow her dreams of going into fashion because her strict guardian forbid her from venturing down such a path.
“It was out of the question,” Beate says matter of factly. “I was told I needed to earn a living, I must be independent and I was forced into being a teacher.”
To remove herself from her home where she felt her wings were being clipped she found a man to settle down with.
“Marriage for me was an exit from my guardian’s home,” admits Beate. “I had come over to England with my twin brother but it was in a time when it fell to the girl to look after the ageing parent and the boy could do his own thing. I didn’t want the tie, I’m a free spirit and so I married young, a week before my 22nd birthday.”
Beate says she adored being a family woman and mother to three children but says between parenting, teaching and helping with her husband’s business; “There really wasn’t time to think about myself.”
And so once again her hopes of going into the fashion industry had to be placed on the back burner.
Rather than admit defeat and look longing back at what could have been Beate played the waiting game and when she was 60 she really blossomed.
“I’ve always been an inquisitive person and loved learning but at school I was labeled as ‘not University material’ which was awful. In all my years teaching you never tell a child they are no good. You praise them for the effort they make.”
“Anyway, I’d seen a photo in the Telegraph of an elderly lady sitting on the steps of the university with a book in her hand and I thought if she could do it why couldn’t I? What was there stopping me?”
For three years she studied at the Open University and earned her Ba Honours Degree in Humanity. But what she loved as much as the satisfaction of receiving that qualification was doing it alongside such a varied selection of people.
“I have to tell you I was so happy to be a student. It was lovely because it was a mixed group of men and women. Some were golden oldies and some were young but we were all working together. That’s how life should be.”
Beate was on a roll and not content with just the one degree she embarked on an MA.
“My aim was to jolly well prove the old teachers who said I was no good wrong. My level of confidence grew and I started doing adult education classes too. When my tutor said ‘You could do an MA’ I thought ‘yes I can’ and I went on and got one in Comparative Religions in Modern Times. I was in my 70s.”
It really comes as no surprise then that when Beate found out she had not only been entered into the competition with ‘Goldie’ magazine but had won, she wasn’t frightened or put off in the least.
“I was absolutely over the moon. I was thrilled. I was just excited.”
So what are Beate’s do’s and don’ts when it comes to looking and feeling her best?
“The first is no way to plastic surgery,” she tells Lumity. “I’m a woman of faith and believe God made me the way I am. I’ve been blessed with reasonable features and I’m tall and slim and I’ve kept my body in top shape.
“Beauty sleep is imperative and a good haircut too. I like a fairly regular massages about once every two months and the same goes for my facials.”
“I am a sun lover though and although I put on plenty of sunscreen I still have a few brown sun spots so I like Chanel’s makeup to even out my skin tone.”
“I keep active. I don’t go to the gym but I walk absolutely everywhere. I can’t play tennis anymore because I have two artificial hips but I have never looked back on that operation and I feel very fortunate I can still do my high kicks.”
And as she embarks on a modelling career with a top agency what does she have to say to people who seeing ageing as a burden?
“We have one innings on this planet and life can be so wonderful if you bother to be interested in people, curious about things and get out there and engage with the world.”
Images: @ Gerald Wilhelm and @ Sam Bennett.