Age positive

‘Getting old is not a crime” – so says Smadar Ganzi. In this interview with the Magazine, she explains why and what motivated her to start the campaign and a website for ProAging.

(photo credit: MIRI DAVIDIVITZ)
 ‘Getting old is not a crime” – so says Smadar Ganzi.
At 58, she is a fashion events producer and director, a former model and a fashion editor.
These days, when we are all bombarded by the anti-aging cosmetic and aesthetic medicine industry, Ganzi encourages other women to embrace their wrinkles and simply be happy. As such, Ganzi turned down – on multiple occasions – lucrative offers to remove imperfections and “correct” her face.
In this interview with the Magazine, she explains why and what motivated her to start the campaign and a website for ProAging. 
“We must start with changing the vocabulary from negative to positive, to be age positive,” she declares.
You are a successful woman: you run your own fashion events company. In the ’80s you were splashed across Israeli magazine covers; you used to be the fashion editor of ‘At Magazine,’ ‘Maariv Lanoar’ and ‘Cosmopolitan Israel’ and you used to introduce fashion trends on TV. Your list of achievements is long. Why – having had all that – did you decide to talk about your age and start a pro-aging campaign?
Because I am a rebel. There is pressure to hide women’s age; I am against it. I haven’t done any plastic or aesthetic surgery. I am 58. Sometimes I use lipstick for pleasure, but I don’t use make-up, even when I am on TV. I don’t want to hide my wrinkles. I love myself the way I am and I want to help other women feel this way.
When do you believe thinking about aging begins? At 40, 50, 60?
At 15! The huge problem is not with my age, but with teenagers who start to inject their lips for example, changing their appearance at a very young age. 
Many older women became victims of such surgeries and the anti-aging industry. The industry gave up on my generation and now targets much younger women. I want to reach out to younger women and inspire them to choose natural puberty, to raise their self-confidence. I have a 26-year-old daughter and I find it horrible that her generation is already afraid of getting old.
Models start their careers as teenagers. Looking from today’s perspective, you started your modeling career relatively late, in your 20s.
In the 1980s this was the standard age. Also the standard look was different – we were not so thin, models looked healthier – until the 1990s, when Kate Moss came and changed it all. But also, I did not choose fashion. I wanted to be a physical education teacher. I studied at Wingate Institute; fashion chose me.
Were you discovered on the street? 
Almost. In a bar in Haifa. One night I went out for drinks with my friends, and a beautiful blonde woman started to talk to us. She was a model and was surprised that I was not one. She told me that I should try. I thought it would be a fun adventure and something to tell my grandchildren in the future, so I went with her to a fashion show. She introduced me to a man and told him I was a new model.
To an agent?
There were no model agencies in Israel at that time. He just organized the show. He liked me and soon he gave me lots of jobs. It was fun; the money was great – much better then what I could earn as a teacher. After two years, I was a top Haifa model and I moved to Tel Aviv – the big world. But after a few years, I felt modeling was not enough.
How old were you when you stopped modeling?
Around 28.
Was that a point in your life when you said to yourself: “I am too old to walk the runway in fashion shows?”
No, it never crossed my mind that I am too old for anything! Also I think that now, at 58-years-old (or young). But after years of modeling, I felt embarrassed by it, by the shallowness of the job. For a while, when people asked me if I was Smadar Ganzi the model, I answered no I’m not. I was searching for a way to better express myself. I studied acting at Yoram Loewenstein’s acting studio for three years. I even took an acting part in the Akko Festival. But acting was still not it. I wanted to teach. 
But instead, you stayed in the fashion industry, on the other side of the catwalk.
That’s true, but I used my education to produce and direct shows. The knowledge I gained from movement and dance helped.
You said in one of your TV interviews, “Once a model, always a model.”
Yes, it is like riding a bicycle. When I see a camera, I am automatically aware of the light, the right angle, my body. My girlfriends laugh at me and I immediately go into a model’s pose.
So you are concerned about how you look, even if subconsciously. When did you start thinking about aging?
When I turned 40, suddenly all the PR departments from aesthetic clinics started offering to inject some poison into my face or to perform plastic surgery and be their representative. I was shocked. I asked myself what was the matter with my face? I looked in the mirror, I saw maybe one or two wrinkles, but I did not focus on them, I saw myself holistically and I liked what I saw. That was 18 years ago; the anti-aging industry was just starting its expansion. Botox was invented maybe a decade before. Plastic surgery then was done only on old women.
When you say ‘old’, what age do you mean?
[A silent pause] 80 years old. And I was 40. I was famous, a former model and they wanted my face. Each time I got an offer, I answered: ‘I don’t have to fix myself, I look great. Why should I destroy something that is just fine?’ But with time, I was not 40 anymore... and I started getting wrinkles. During mingling at fashion events people started to ask me: “Why don’t you want to do something about it?” And I still answered: “I won’t do anything; I love myself as I am.” That was the root of pro-aging thinking.
For four years, you were a fashion editor. Weren’t you promoting that young look in your magazines?
This is true… I promoted all kinds of treatments that I would not do today. I did many things long ago that I would not do today.
And today, do you hire older models who are 40, 50 years old?
Yes, if the client agrees.
The anti-aging industry is not just surgeries. At some point we all start to use anti-aging creams, moisturizer; many of us (not just women) color hair; we use make–up. So where do you think the border is?
This is the million-dollar question; where is the border? Each woman decides for herself. I am not a guru. I do not tell other people what to do. Personally, I draw the line before the scalpel and stitches.
I know I will not stop the anti-aging industry, but I know that the pro-aging voice must be heard. We are always under pressure. The anti-aging industry tells us constantly: ‘You must inject, you must lift your facial skin.’
If I were to correct my face; I would not look any younger; I would look like an elderly woman who is trying to look younger. And I would have to fix my neck, and palms and arms. It never ends.
Do you think that the issue of aging refers specifically to women?
No, not only to women. But we suffer more, because we suffer from ageism and sexism. Men, as they age, their value goes up.
And what does ‘aging’ really mean? 
Aging is a lie. The prodigious pressure that comes from ageism is against us. Celebrities, singers, actors, TV personalities – you do not see a wrinkle on their faces. We are not allowed to be seen with wrinkles anymore. I object to the message of the industry: when a woman’s age goes up, your value goes down. Even in the vocabulary used: you are mature, not old. Why? Getting old is not a crime. Anti-aging is the term we must erase from the vocabulary, and be age positive (like body positive) instead, pro-aging.
What is your pro-age recipe? 
Most important is how we think of ourselves. People say to me that I have good genes and I was a model, I am beautiful, so this is easier for me. But it is not. Sometimes I get up in the morning, I look at the mirror and I see myself getting old; I am not blind. But instead of worrying about it, I accept it. I am happy to get old: I am not afraid to say what I think, I do not stay anywhere that is not good for me; I am a single mother, my children are grown up (26 and 16). I can do so many things. I take care of myself. I run six kilometers every morning, I dance, and I eat healthy non-processed food and drink at least a bottle of water a day. I stay age-positive.
Smadar, I must ask, what is the meaning of your beautiful name?
Smadar, is the aroma of grapes. Blossom. It suits me.
It does. Like we often say, something ages like a fine wine. Your philosophy goes well with your name.
I generally did not think about it this way, but I like it.