I am very proud of our Ambassador series of interviews. As an older woman myself I often feel huge frustration at the dearth of positive role models to inspire me. There are a handful of ‘poster girls’ for our generation and we can all name them very quickly because we see them ubiquitously whenever someone wants to signal ‘attractive, sexy older woman.’
I am talking about women like Helen Mirren, Joanna Lumley and Judi Dench. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for all of these actresses who are the epitome of fabulousness at an older age. However, I suspected that there were scores of women with a much lower profile who were quietly getting on with their lives and were illustrating that getting older doesn’t have to mean invisibility and irrelevance. For instance Sandra Howard, our very first ambassador, had been a top model in the 1960’s before marrying four times. However she has completely reinvented herself as a successful author at the age of 65, an occupation which she loves and which now brings her great personal satisfaction.
Another ambassador, Janet Ellis, has taken a similar path into becoming a novelist after a long career in television presenting, most memorably on Blue Peter when my girls were children.
The theme of reinvention is also true of our ambassador, Nicola Griffin. Spotted whilst queuing in a bank by Jayne Mayled of White Hot Hair, Nicola has now carved a successful new career as a plus-sized older model in her fifties by being open to the possibility of such a profound change of direction for her life. Two of our ambassadors were customers of Look Fabulous Forever and so we contacted them that way. Annette Badland is a wonderful character actress who, when I interviewed her, was looking for new opportunities having just been ‘written out’ of her very strong storyline as ‘Babe Smith’ in Eastenders.
And Lady Justice Anne Rafferty is an Appeals Court Judge who has combined a legal career at the highest level with the birth of four daughters, one of whom tragically died aged 2 years of age. Then Elizabeth Bessant told us how she became a couture dress designer when her young son was diagnosed with autism. Working on the clothes at home meant that she could combine the demands of mothering with making a living to support them both.And Clarissa Farr who has just retired from her position as High Mistress of St Paul's Girls School in her late fifties in order to pursue other interests, including writing a book about educating teenaged girls.
And now we have a new Ambassador to inspire us all! Gillian Wheeler is 66 years old and runs The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers.
Gillian had no experience of business having worked all her life in academia as a lecturer in flower design. At the age of 56 she took the very bold step of pouring her creative talents into a business which would offer courses to teach (mostly) women how to work creatively with flowers. This has been very successful and now Gillian and her team, which includes her daughter Fleur, offer a wide variety of courses both in Covent Garden in London and Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire.
I do hope you enjoy my interview with Gillian in which she talks about her life, the flower design courses and also her husband Alan, who has Parkinson’s disease.
I loved meeting Gillian who is a very gentle soul. Her studio in Covent Garden is a truly delightful space, embodying her philosophy that working with flowers helps the people who attend the courses to ‘bloom.’ I do hope that you agree that Gillian is an excellent seventh ambassador for LFF as a woman who demonstrates very powerfully that ‘it’s never to late.’ She loved her ‘warm-toned’ makeover with LFF makeup and we all agreed that she looks truly fabulous!
Gillian has kindly offered to give one lucky person the opportunity to attend a three day taster course at The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers. To find out more and to enter click here.