Model Lou Kenny on self-love, confidence and cartwheeling at 59
-Sep 6, Hannah Hargrave, Living -
Lou Kenny is making waves in the modelling world and she’s doing it in her 50s. The gorgeous Australian model and yoga instructor tells Lumity about confidence, feeling young and why you’re never too old to cartwheel.
Looking at her chiseled cheek bones and fabulous figure it’s easy to see why Lou Kenny is making it as a model. But this down-to-earth, mum-of-two isn’t just gracing the pages of catalogues, she’s killing it on the catwalk and has fulfilled her dream of featuring in Vogue.
At the age of 59 Lou’s career both in the modelling world and the yoga studio is showing no signs of slowing down and she doesn’t want it to, because in her words; “if you stop, you lose it”.
Here Lou – who is by all accounts a hilarious breathe of fresh air – talks about the ups and downs of ageing, how yoga changed her life and why you should never tell her to ‘grow up’.
You began your modelling career at 18-years-old and now here you are at almost 60! Did you ever think in your early years of modelling you’d be doing it again today?
“I didn’t back then,” admits Lou, who before quitting to focus on her family and yoga she worked as a model (from the age of 18), choreographer, stylist and even an model agency owner. “In fact I would sometimes look at older women working in the modelling industry and feel sorry for them. I’d think ‘Oh you poor thing, why would you bother? Why aren’t you doing some fabulous study or something else?’. But now I have a lot more appreciation for older women on so many levels.
“You get to a certain point in your life and you realize, ‘Oh I’m actually in the latter part’ and you have to accept and embrace that.”
What would you say the key to success is?
“You need to remember that life is what you make it and I actually have calculated this for a while and the key to success is preparation and opportunity. I’ve done plenty of preparation and I continue to do preparation.”
You are so incredibly upbeat about life but have there been times when you’ve found it tough getting older?
“I had a bit of a midlife crisis when I was in my 40s. It was just as I was finishing up my modelling agency, my marriage to my husband of almost 20 years was on the rocks and I didn’t know where to turn or what to do. I was looking and searching for something.”
What helped you to get out of your life crisis?
“Yoga! My very first yoga instructor. She came into my life at a very important time. I found myself in her presence and everything turned around. Yoga was my savior. It gave me confidence. I remember my teacher telling me that at the time and I thought, there’s no way, but I stuck with it and it’s absolutely true and remains so today.”
Are you more confident today than when you were younger?
“Yes, definitely. It’s about functioning and functioning well and whatever we can do to make sure we are able to do this. I’m not saying I don’t get injuries. I’ve been hobbling a bit since I practically did the splits on the tennis court the other day, but had I not been as flexible due to my yoga it could have been a lot worse.
“Years ago I remember a student of mine who was a few years older than me – I was approaching 50 at the time – said to me: ‘When you are over 50 you’ll become invisible’ and I thought, no way. Sure enough though she was pretty much right. And yet, I’ve got the confidence that I don’t need to have gratification from other people to feel good about myself. I just know that I get pleasure from simple things. The simpler the better, natural things like observation.”
So you are a strong believer that you are never too old to start yoga?
“A lot of people ask me about yoga and where do they start? And I give them this analogy. It’s like you want to go from here to the shops, you want to go from A to B. You can walk, you can take a bike you can get an Uber, you can get on the bus, you can drive a car. There are all these modes of transport but which ever way you choose you are going to get there. Either way you have to make that decision now. Maybe you just want to start walking to the shops, which is completely fine. Start with whatever is close to you. Don’t judge it, just do it and as you work your way up you may just find you end up in a Ferrari burning down the highway.”
What else besides yoga keeps you feeling young?
“I revert to what I loved as a child. I love playing table tennis, I love playing tennis, I love playing games and I just can’t help myself. Give me a ball and off I go. I love card games too.
“I look back at all the things I loved as a child and it’s how I feel now and that should never stop and yoga has helped me to maintain this love.
“I get sad when I walk past a playground for kids and think where are they for adults? Why aren’t we catered for? We have to make our own fun. Everyone is allowed to go running around the park for fitness, that’s acceptable so why can’t we cartwheel about?”
But you do cartwheel don’t you?
“I’m am a strong believer in dancing to the beat of your own drum.
“I can’t stand this attitude of, you need to grow up. I have dear friends who say to my face, ‘Why are you trying to act like a 20-year-old?’ or things like that and I think, ‘What? I’m doing what I want to do and if I want to do a cartwheel I’ll do one.’ I’m sorry, I’m not going to change.
“I actually have a thing that after I’ve done a photoshoot I ask the photographer to do one last shot of me doing a cartwheel for my own personal collection. If you stop you lose it.”
Who do you hope you can inspire nowadays?
“It’s only recently that I’m starting to realise I can inspire people. I hope I can inspire everyone. There’s a quote from Ghandi which I love and that is, ‘Be the change you want to see’. It’s a universal quote but it’s so true. It’s what happened to me when I was younger. I’d look at the instructors or others in the class and think I want to be able to do that. I loved their attitude. That they weren’t egotistical, they were calm and cool and no fuss.
“To your own self be true and if people like it and want to know more and want to know more about you then I’m happy to give them all the time in the world.”
What makes you smile?
“I’ll get into trouble for this but definitely my children. They are incredible.”
And they must be so very proud of you too?
“I hope so. But I don’t really know. My son is in a band and tours the world and if I go to any of his gigs he tells me, ‘No dancing, because you dance like a dork’. He’s always convinced he’ll look into the crowd and see me doing yoga. But I know he can’t pick me out amongst all those people.”
You are an inspiration to so many people, but who inspires you?
“As you may have noticed my first yoga instructor had a pretty big impact on me. But if you are talking high profile then Ali Magraw. Also yoga enthusiast Christy Turlington. You look at their journeys and they are inspirational.”
What would you say to someone complaining that they’re too old to start something new?
“I know that feeling. I was feeling it too around 40 and it’s a funny time. But I swear get into yoga and you’ll find the answer. The key to anything is confidence in yourself and yoga can help you find that.”
What’s next for you in your career and is there anything you want to achieve that you haven’t already?
“I’m on option for New York Fashion Week and I’m pretty happy about that. I got into Australia Vogue this year and last and that was a real thrill for me. It only took me 40 years but I got there.
“Outside of my career I love music and while I don’t play, I did learn the piano as a child so I should pick it up again. It’s never too late. I really have an attitude for that and I like to let everyone know.”
Lede image by Heather Favell, hair and make-up by Dina Catchpole.