MAYE MUSK & IVAN BART

MAYE MUSK & IVAN BART

FADE IN:

EXT. IMG MODELS ROOF DECK, FLATIRON DISTRICT, NEW YORK CITY – LATE AFTERNOON

As a summer rain stops and the clouds break, models and agents gather on the roof deck at IMG Models’s Manhattan office to take in the skyline view. IVAN BART, in a crisp blue shirt, greets client MAYE MUSK with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

CUT TO:

IVAN and MAYE retreat to a secluded corner furnished with comfortable patio chairs. As MAYE admires some roses in bloom, an assistant places a spread of cheese, meat, and fruit on a nearby table.

IVAN
So tell me. Why do you, a Canadian, have such a thick South African accent?

MAYE
I was born in Canada. When I was two-years-old, my parents moved to South Africa. I grew up and lived there until I was 42, when I returned to Canada.

IVAN
You sound so familiar to me because my partner’s family is South African. I find the accent to be very charming. I love that you kept yours.

MAYE
Because I’m now living and working in the States, [in Southern drawl] I took classes to learn an American accent.

IVAN
That’s really good! I must say, I’m obsessed with you as a model.

MAYE
Signing with IMG Models was the most exciting thing that’s happened to me. In my 50 years working, I’ve never met such wonderful people in the business.

IVAN
You’re making me emotional! I’ve been in this industry since 1986 and with IMG since 1994. It’s very exciting for us to see you work and flourish.

MAYE
I’m telling you, I’m flourishing! Sometimes my agent will tell me I didn’t get a job and I’ll say, “That’s ok, they considered me. They met me. They put me on hold.” It’s huge to even meet these people. I’m on their radar.

IVAN
What was fashion like when you first started modeling in South Africa, in the 1960s?

MAYE
Trends are always six months behind in the Southern Hemisphere. Growing up, I’d see magazines featuring bell bottoms and tent dresses, but those styles weren’t available in stores where I lived, so I’d make them myself to wear on test shoots. There was one time when I wore bell bottoms that were half black and half white. I was about 16 years old.

IVAN
The sexual revolution was happening in the States then, and clothes, like mini-skirts, were reflecting the new-found freedom. Was that occurring in South Africa?

MAYE
Yes. I wore very short skirts, but with bloomers — full panties — underneath. We didn’t have thongs like we do now, thank goodness!

IVAN
How do you feel about women’s clothes today?

MAYE
They’re wonderful. Designers are putting their whole hearts and souls into their collections. I get excited by what I see, and by finding what works for me. I have a stylist with a good eye who helps me, too. She found this pink top. I like to wear what’s appropriate for the occasion. For example, when I walk my dog, I wear my sweatpants with Prada sneakers.

IVAN
I’m sure.

MAYE
When I attend go-sees and castings, I have to dress the part of what the client is looking for. If it’s a granny, then I try to look like a granny. It’s quite fun dressing up.

IVAN
I love the length of your hair. It’s very flattering, and probably so easy to deal with. Although, I do think you would look fabulous with long, silky, silver hair, like a very chic hippie.

MAYE
I had mousy brown hair in my teens and early twenties. Then, I went completely blonde until I was 58. I spent a good 30 years coloring it, but as I got closer to turning 60, I decided I didn’t want to maintain it anymore — even if that meant I would never model again. It grew out, I cut it short, and my career took off! Within a few months, I had a Target billboard in Times Square, a Verizon Wireless billboard in Madison Square Garden, and a Joe Fresh campaign.

IVAN
You’ve been shooting a lot lately. What was that process like in the ‘60s?

MAYE
I had to do my own hair and makeup, and bring my own accessories and shoes. Everyone would wait a long time for the contact sheet, and then later, the polaroids.

IVAN
You’re reminding the new generation how easy it really is for them today. I’ve spoken to models of different ages, and many of them say that they miss the freedom and the flow of doing their movements and angles as the camera just clicked away. Now, everybody on set stops to stare at the monitor.

MAYE
I like that the photographer and the creative team check to see what’s working best —
they’re the ones who have to decide, after all. Being on a shoot is much nicer now. I just
turn up with a handbag and my phone so I can check emails and do social media.

IVAN
I follow you on Twitter and Instagram, and you post and engage a lot. You’re really adept at it, like a duck to water.

MAYE
Well, don’t forget that my three kids — Tosca [Musk], Elon [Musk], and Kimbal [Musk] — have always been really advanced in the technology world. We always had the newest computer. As a dietician — my other profession — my interns always have said that I’m more technologically advanced than them, which is surprising. I’ve found that social media has allowed me to promote myself without being too pushy, but it’s important to have a sense of humor. Otherwise, it’s all “me, me, me!”

IVAN
By being engaged, you’re creating opportunities to be discovered, and to get more work. IMG Models represents women and men half your age who can’t even, won’t even, don’t even. They’re not comfortable with it.

MAYE
Let me share this piece of advice: You better work. I’m not lucky — I’m constantly working.

IVAN
When I first introduced you to the IMG team, I said, “This is somebody who likes to work.” At what point did you switch gears and become a dietician?

MAYE
Well, I was always juggling the two things at once. When I started modeling at 15 years old, I was told to study because there was no way I’d model past 18. But at 28 years old, as the oldest model in South Africa, I was suddenly in demand. So I maintained both careers. When I got divorced, my children and I moved to Durban. There, I signed with the Lee Downing Agency right away and established my private dietician practice. When I wasn’t seeing clients, I’d model. We then moved to Bloemfontein, so I could get my masters of science at Afrikaans University. I taught modeling classes to help fundraise for the school, and when the course was over, my students insisted on modeling in Johannesburg. I brought their photographs to an agency there, but I ended up signing with them instead. At that point, I was 34 and writing my thesis. I packed up my family and my practice, and we moved to Johannesburg.

IVAN
Do you think that your children inherited your work ethic?

MAYE
Definitely. But it’s not just me — my parents were like that, too. It’s a family thing.

IVAN
What was the catalyst that made you leave South Africa and move back to Canada?

MAYE
In 1989, when Elon was 17 years old, he told me he wanted to go.

IVAN
Oh, so he’s the one who led everybody there?

MAYE
Elon was going with or without us. His goal was to get to Silicon Valley as soon as possible. He told me that I needed to regain my Canadian citizenship, so that he, Tosca, and Kimbal could get theirs, too. I did, and three weeks later, Elon went to Canada for university. Then, Tosca, who was only 15, told me that she, Kimbal, and I had to move, too. I decided to do my PhD there — I was 42 — so I visited programs all over the country and every modeling agency I could find, with my portfolio in hand. When I came back to Johannesburg, Tosca had sold the home, the car, and the furniture. She said, “We’re leaving now,” and I said, “Ok.” Kimbal joined us in Toronto — the epicenter of Canada’s modeling industry, and where I decided to study — as soon as he finished high school.

IVAN
I want to talk a little bit about age. I recently saw a photo of you at your fiftieth birthday party. How did it feel to turn 50?

MAYE
Every year I feel better.

IVAN
You never had a crisis or a doubt?

MAYE
No, because every year really has been better than the one before. You can let the young girls know that. They’ll also go through some very bad stages, pain, and suffering, but they’ll work their way through it and carry on. Time will heal.

IVAN
Which milestone birthday is your favorite?

MAYE
I think my seventieth will be!

IVAN
To feel your best birthday is in the future is very powerful. What are your goals now?

MAYE
I’m completely focused on my modeling career. It’s so exciting and thrilling. I just want to see how far a woman my age can go. I want to travel the world, and I’ll go wherever the work is.

CREDITS

Photography byMax Dworkin

Conversation moderated byMichelle Rizzi

Maye Musk is a dietician and model based in Los Angeles.
Ivan Bart is the New York City-based president of IMG Models.

Did you see? Friends Naeem Khan & Linda Fargo talk their decades in fashion together, agent and model Jenny Shimizu takes The Thick Questionnaire.

THE END