Maye Musk Is Unstoppable
By Melinda Fulmer
Seventy-one-year-old supermodel Maye Musk walked into the recent #BlogHer20 Health event looking glamorous and confident in her black faux leather leggings, high-heeled boots and a sparkly beret as bloggers almost a third her age clustered around trying to snap selfies.
This confidence has been hard-won, built on years of struggle as a single mom to three kids (including son Elon, founder of Tesla and SpaceX) and decades of moving around and starting over as a model and registered dietitian, which she chronicles in her new book “A Woman Makes a Plan” (Viking December 2029).
But now after 50 years in the modeling business, she’s approaching the pinnacle of her career— having walked in New York Fashion Week, landed a contract as a new face of Cover Girl cosmetics and toured the globe on speaking engagements.
I sat down with Musk to get her best advice after seven decades of adventure, struggle and success.
On taking chances
When it comes to starting over, Musk is an expert, starting in her childhood when her parents jumped on a cargo ship to go from their then-home in Saskatchewan (a Canadian province) to Pretoria, South Africa. Their family motto was “Live dangerously, carefully,” she says in her book, and they went on wild adventures in a small canvas airplane that most parents today wouldn’t consider.
Perhaps because of these adventures, Musk says, she was more prepared to start over when she had to, moving to nine cities in three countries for her career, family or to escape a mentally and physically abusive husband.
While each move was scary at the time, Musk says she told herself that she had the options of going back to a “situation that was mediocre or abusive” or moving ahead and struggling through the new challenges to build something better, which it usually was. Her rule: Give any new place three years before you make any final judgments.
“If you have a good attitude and you make a plan and take a chance, even Mars is possible,” she says in her book. (You can see where Elon gets his sense of possibility.)
Musk says her positive attitude was key to building her career, even during the difficult years. “I was always optimistic that today things are going to happen and go well, and if nothing went well and it didn’t happen … well, then tomorrow it will happen,” she says.
Musk says that even when times were tough during her middle years, her business was struggling, and she had gained weight making the modeling jobs she depended on scarcer, she wouldn’t allow herself to worry about self-image. She had three kids to feed. So she kept putting herself out there.
“I never stopped marketing myself and networking,” Musk says. Her mantra was, “If you reject me, that’s OK, I will just move on until someone says yes.”
Eventually, she pitched herself as a plus-size model, working fashion shoots in larger sizes for about a decade and eating whatever she wanted to maintain that size, while still taking on nutrition and weight-loss clients from doctors. “It was like do what I say not what I’m doing,” she says jokingly.
After five decades in the modeling business, Musk says she has learned that while women often internalize failure, “half the time what’s happening to you isn’t your fault.” She writes about having a top New York agent who refused to book her for nearly six years, shooting down inquiries and referring other models. She had no idea until a few designers told her, and once she dumped the agent, her phone started ringing again.
“If they don’t think you’re good enough, then it’s time to move on,” she says.
On later-in-life fame
Maye Musk is clearly having the time of her life in her new role as a top model, running from hair, makeup and stylist sessions to photo shoots and events, posting on Instagram and traveling around the world to promote her book.
When asked where she gets her energy, Musk says that she’s just having so much fun, she can’t imagine slowing down.
“I’m very excited by it all,” she says. “I can’t believe I’m in demand. I’m so happy. I get a lot of women saying you give me hope to start all over again.”
Video & photo credit: Maye Musk