“I don’t focus on being beautiful.” It’s a confession one seldom hears, made all the more surprising coming from one of the world’s most interesting models today. All icy blue eyes, ridiculously sharp cheekbones, and sculpted platinum locks, Maye Musk is at the peak of her career at 74 years old, and it was, ironically, her decision to let go of traditional beauty standards, that propelled her to superstar status.
In a world where youth—or the appearance of it—is prized by millions, the dietician, model, and author initially decided to embrace her natural hair color as a way to put her life in the public eye to rest. “In my late 60s, my agent told me clients didn’t want to book me,” she tells me in a candid chat. “I was coloring the roots of my hair blonde every four weeks. This was really annoying. I thought, ‘It doesn’t matter what color my hair is as I’m not modeling anyway’. I grew it out and cut it short. My agent then said I would never work again.” A prophecy that was proven wrong when Musk booked her first New York Fashion Week show in 2016. “I left the agency—and my work exploded!” shares the model, who has now walked some of the most prestigious runways in the world, including those of Dolce & Gabbana, Philipp Plein and Christian Siriano, to name a few. The transformative story came with its own share of life lessons too. “It seems that clients did want to book me even when I was blonde, but my agent had told them I was never available,” she continues. “You really cannot trust people who pull you down all the time. Please make a change quicker than I did.”
Flipping challenging situations on their back and walking away with the best of learnings seems to be a talent for the Canada-born, South Africa-raised Musk, who spent her childhood flying across the globe in a prop plane, and exploring the desert in search of the Lost City of the Kalahari. “The biggest lessons I learned from my parents was to be adventurous, independent, punctual, responsible for my choices, polite, considerate, and kind,” she says with pride. “My favorite memory from childhood was dinner at 6pm with my parents, two brothers and two sisters. My parents worked all day from 7am to 6pm, next door to our home. We walked or rode our bicycles to school, did after school activities and homework, but always were ready for our family dinner.”
It is, perhaps, this family-first foundation that makes Maye Musk such an endearing personality. Yes, she’s a working woman who never misses a beat on the red carpet, but she’s also a proud mum-of-three (“I would tell people I have a genius son!” she says when asked about her son Elon Musk), and grandmother to 14. As she graces the pages of Vogue Arabia decked in some of the season’s most stunning sparklers—and the region’s favorite labels, from Zuhair Murad and Elie Saab to Taller Marmo, we sat down to get to know more about the silver-haired vixen who is making a strong statement about inner beauty, aging with grace, and most importantly, staying true to herself.
From dietician to model to best-selling author, you’ve got more than a few feathers in your cap. Which role would you say is the most special to you?
Being a dietitian was always the most special and most reliant for a steady income, now I would say being an author worldwide has taken over. Also, modeling was a side occupation, and that has taken a huge part of my work now. We are not just booked for a speaking engagement, it often includes a photoshoot as well. All are special.
As a globally-renowned dietician, you’ve always been vocal about your own struggles with weight loss and living a healthy lifestyle. What are three key tips you’d like to share with the world on living their healthiest life?
I love to share my healthiest tips, as I changed many people’s lives by helping them with their diets. Of course, I apply these principles to myself, otherwise, I gain weight and am very quickly in poor health with low energy.
1. Follow science, not fad diets. Evidence shows that the Mediterranean diet and variations of this diet are the most effective to reduce the risk for chronic diseases.
2. Eat only when hungry.
3. Plan your meals and snacks.
Instead of age-defying beauty, you have helped women all over the world embrace the notion of loving themselves at every stage of life. What is one thing that makes you feel beautiful every day? Tell us about your beauty routine.
I don’t focus on being beautiful. I focus on eating well for good skin, confidence, and energy, and also to fit into my clothes. My daily routine includes getting up in the morning, washing my face, and moisturizing with Dior Beauty products. Then coffee, give my dog a treat, and take him for a walk while wearing a hat to avoid the sun. At night, after I take my makeup off, I moisturize my face well.
From the Met Gala to fashion weeks, your style has always been bold and cheeky. What are your go-to essentials? What are your top three favorite red carpet looks?
As a nutrition scientist and speaker on health issues, I wear conservative suits. For female empowerment talks, I use stylists to dress me in the most amazing ways. This is so much fun. My go-to essentials are jeans, white shirts, jackets, and sneakers. My three favorite red carpet looks are probably the last three I’ve done. They get better and better with every event.
Coming to motherhood, you are the proud mom of three kids, each of whom has built very different, distinct paths for themselves. For each of your children, Elon, Tosca, and Kimbal, what is the one thing you’re most proud about?
I am most proud of my three children who are doing good for the world, in their own ways. Tosca has changed her role in the film industry by making romance movies on her own streaming platform, Passionflix. Her stories are based on strong women who are not victims. Actresses are the leads, the directors are female, and the stories have happy endings. Women need to take a stronger position in their professions.
Your son Elon Musk is one of the internet’s most intriguing personalities. What was it like raising the man who would become one of the world’s most influential individuals?
That is definitely in my book. I would tell people I have a genius son. They would look at me like they look at every mother who says the same. Well, I was right. Fortunately, he wasn’t a genius who hid in the basement. Instead, he changes the world and the universe. Our large family is very proud of him.
Finally, as an empowered global citizen, what do you think you can learn from the women of the Middle East? Do you visit the region often? What is your favorite thing about Arab culture and its people?
I have met women in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Istanbul, Marrakech, Jerusalem, and Beirut. They have been welcoming, polite, generous, considerate, and stylish. I always enjoy learning more about different cultures. My parents flew across a lot of the Middle East in their propeller plane and told us how they loved the people too. My favorite thing is the kindness and smiles. We need more female leaders and more kindness in the world.
Photography: Tim Verhallen
Style: Amine Jreissati
Hair: Ilham Mestour of Balmain Hair Couture
Makeup: Jamie Coombes using Dior Beauty
Style Assistant: Gaby Cambero
Manicure: Nelly Ferreira using Dior Beauty
Producer: Sam Allison