By now you’ve hopefully seen the gorgeous photos from lingerie brand, Lonely, featuring the stunning 56-year-old model Mercy Brewer. But you may not have heard from the woman herself.
Brewer came from a rough childhood with few career prospects. She became a hair dresser at a career adviser’s suggestion and ended up working for Irvine Rusk, who told her to consider modeling. She got her foot in the door as a model in London in the 1980s, eventually working with the best in the business from Kate Moss to Naomi Campbell. She moved to New Zealand in the early 2000s and focused on being a mother, taking odd modelings gigs and designing clothes including costume art, before getting on the catwalk again at New Zealand’s Fashion Week last year.
You’d never know it from the images below, but this was Brewer’s first work modeling lingerie. On choosing Brewer to be the face of their latest campaign, Lonely says, “Lonely felt Mercy perfectly embodied the the Lonely spirit that celebrates strong, confident women who challenge societal norms and aren’t always represented in mainstream media.”
We asked Brewer a few questions about body positivity and the modeling industry. Spoiler alert: She’s a badass.
SheKnows: You’ve had a hugely successful career in modeling. How do you feel about modeling’s history of focusing on a narrow range of body sizes? Do you see the body positive movement as an important one in modeling?
Mercy Brewer: Ancient Egyptians depicted a narrow range of body sizes, everyone was portrayed as eternally young and we are transfixed thousands of years later. Ancient Greeks ditto and the film industry. That’s thousands of years of ‘Behold, this is beauty and the rest of you can toddle off.’
Designers have every right to show their clothes on models they perceive will show their talents to the best advantage. They have a collection that can make or break them. From the first sketch of pen on paper in design school the body is represented as young, long and slender. The model is then sought to bring that vision to life. Voila.
SK: Do you think fashion’s attitude toward age is changing? (We loved the Céline ad featuring Joan Didion a few years ago.)
MB: The millions of exclusions from this halcyon wonderclub are now standing up to be counted, and rightly so. To be excluded causes damage and low self-esteem whether as a child in the playground or as an adult who’s value is decimated by being completely ignored. The fashion wheel is turning and it’s eyes and arms are opening to embrace a more diverse and therefore more interesting and inclusive beauty than hitherto.
It is an extremely important, indeed an essential movement forward. Everyone deserves and has the right as an intelligent human being to feel celebrated, catered for and as valued as the next person.
SK: Lingerie ads very rarely target demographics older than, say, 30. Did it feel important to you to be part of something that acknowledged the sensuality and attractiveness of women past that age?
MB: I’ve never gotten down to my underwear in print before now. Despite not knowing the reception of the campaign, I was determined to back up Lonely’s mission of giving everyone validity and value. If people didn’t like it I was resolved to take a bullet for the team. As it’s turned out the response so far has been phenomenal and extremely positive. That’s a wonderful and encouraging reflection of the eyes and mindset of the times.
SK: Would you say that modeling helped you to feel comfortable in your body, or was it a barrier? Do you consider yourself body-confident now? If so, how did you get there?
MB: I was a clothes horse, so modelling underwear was unfamiliar territory. Age and life’s lessons, not modelling has made me feel comfortable in my body. I am a woman, I’ve loved men, I’ve borne children, I am enough.
SK: What was your favorite piece to wear from the shoot and why?
MB: There is a stone white set Lulu, when I slipped it on, my grey hair shone like the moon. I was reminded of a poem by Byron.
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
That’s us older women right there. Not the mainstream beauty, but beauty none the less. Thank you Lonely.