Ms. Empowerment

Photography by Bryan Adams

Dayle Haddon: model, author and goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. When you first meet her, you can’t help but compare the ethereal face and elfin body to that other dark-haired beauty and UNICEF spokesperson, Audrey Hepburn. While Haddon made her name in the pages of fashion magazines and not on the silver screen, she carries a similar grace and tranquility.

Born in Quebec, she began her life in the public eye at 13 when she joined Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, before being crowned Miss Montreal at 18. She pursued modelling to earn money for dance lessons, but this secondary career took off in leaps and bounds.

Haddon’s early modelling years had some of the expected — major cosmetic contracts for Max Factor, Revlon, a Sports Illustrated cover — and some of the unexpected — she posed for Playboy and was twice named to Harper’s Bazaar’s “Ten Most Beautiful Women” list. During the height of her modelling era, Haddon worked with some of the greats of photography–Richard Avedon, Hiro, Helmut Newton and Cecil Beaton.

She eventually married and had a daughter, Ryan. But in 1991, her husband died suddenly, leaving her with a 15-year-old to raise alone. In need of financial security, Haddon decided to re-enter the modelling scene — at the time an unthinkable act for a woman over 35. But after she landed her first contract as a mature model for Clairol, the rest, as they say, was history. Haddon went on to sign with Estée Lauder and L’Oréal Paris and helped kick-start the rise of the “older” model.

In 2007, The New York Times wrote that Haddon, who is in her 50s and the face of L’Oréal’s Age Perfect (sales have increased by 50 per cent since she signed 10 years ago), has “shattered age taboos.”

But for a brainy beauty like Haddon, modelling wasn’t enough. Like Hepburn, she became a UNICEF ambassador and travels throughout Africa to help shine a spotlight on the women and children in war-ravaged lands.

She is also the author of two books geared to helping women navigate the aging process: The 5 Principles of Ageless Living: A Woman’s Guide to Lifelong Health, Beauty and Well-Being and Ageless Beauty: A Woman’s Guide to Lifelong Beauty and Well-Being. In addition to Haddon’s books, you can catch her every second week on CBS’s The Early Show, where she is the health and wellness expert.

Judging by these photographs, she knows her stuff.

Hilary Kelley: In your modelling career, you stood out due to your size and stature. Was it difficult to compete with the glamazons of the era?

Dale Haddon: I was going against odds; I was much smaller than anyone else. I had to understand how to make a good picture a great picture, alongside naturally beautiful women who didn’t have to think about that. They were just tall, thin, slim and blond. I had to work harder and try to cheat the pictures into being great. I had to work it, whereas those girls didn’t have to work it; they were flat-out beautiful. I’ve tried to learn from my bad pictures and it’s probably made me like it more.

HK: What do you like best about aging?

DH: Wisdom. First of all, it’s having the idea that all of your life is a gift, and realizing that all of living is a discovery and adventure. And you didn’t lose everything because you’re a certain age. I’ve had a lot of highs and lows, but I feel this is the most interesting part of my life and the most exciting part of my life because I have all the years of experiences behind me that I can choose more easily. I cut to the chase.

HK: Yes, that’s something a lot of women say about maturity — that they can be direct and honest with themselves now.

DH: It’s focusing on where the value is. You have more ability to do that at a mature age. When you’re older, you’re more seasoned, more measured in your grasp of events. You might not like when things are heading south and stuff like that. But it’s very little to pay for what you gain and it’s not a battle you’re going to win. I like to fight battles I’m going to win. You have the freedom of choice in the attitude you take. I always say you can’t control the events that happen to you, but you can control your attitude toward them.

HK: Is there any advice you might give to men about aging? Or is the information essentially the same?

DH: I think that sometimes men are more sensitive about aging than women are. I find that they have less of an ability to cope. There’s a panic that they’ve lost something or they’re losing virility and masculinity. So I would encourage men and women to really embrace their life as a whole, and realize that there are parts to it, chapters in a story. And you have to embrace the new chapter.

HK: What has been your favourite age or decade?

DH: Forty can be bumpy because you’re holding onto your parts, but 50 is phenomenal. Fifty is real, real, real. I call it kick-butt times. It’s one of the best times. Because in the 20s you’re building, the 30s you’re experiencing a little bit more of who you are, the 40s is a breakaway time — I call it the gateway, and it can be bumpy for some people. I think it can be great, too, but it’s bumpy. And really the 50s is where you say, “Wow, I have arrived.”

HK: Do you think that the discipline as a dancer helped you physically mature in a different way?

DH: Yes, I do. I think dancing is a little bit like going into the army. You learn about discipline, you learn about controlling your body, you learn that there is a difference between you and your body. You learn that difference because your body is screaming at you to do one thing and you are saying, no, you’re going to do this and you’re going to do that and you overcome pain. I’ve also been in incarnations that have abused food a lot — you know, dancer, actress, model. And I happen to be able to navigate that very well. I never had a problem with that.

HK: Can you tell me about your work for UNICEF?

DH: I go to Africa to reach out to women in more extreme circumstances. In this last trip, I went to Congo to bring to light the situation there for a group in Washington called Enough. And I hope that you will direct your readers to their website, In October, we launched a campaign highlighting that there is one of the deadliest wars since the Second World War going on in Congo. And it’s a systematic destruction of women through rape and it’s not being talked about. The campaign is called “Raise Hope for Congo.”

HK: What’s next?

DH: I have my work with L’Oréal, which takes me around the country and Europe for Age Perfect. It’s my motto, so it’s perfect for me. And UNICEF takes me back to Africa. L’Oréal and UNICEF work well together because both work with w
omen, too, but UNICEF works in a more extreme situation. Now Talbots has taken me on to revamp their image. They’ve bought my book and will be giving them out to women. I’ll have a chance to inspire women with two principles: look your best, which does resonate to the inner you when you make that effort; doctors have told me that when patients do something as simple as washing their hair, they heal faster. Next, to take care of the outer, we’re healing and inspiring the inner part of ourselves. I’m at an age and stage in my life where that’s where I want to focus my attention and time — giving back.


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