Modelling at 70, and a life-affirming attitude

  • Runway practice: Sandra Warner rehearsing for the Bermuda International Collections show (Photograph supplied)

    Runway practice: Sandra Warner rehearsing for the Bermuda International Collections show (Photograph supplied)

  • Positive outlook: after surviving breast cancer, modelling in Bermuda International Collections has been life affirming for Sandra Warner (Photograph supplied)

    Positive outlook: after surviving breast cancer, modelling in Bermuda International Collections has been life affirming for Sandra Warner (Photograph supplied)

  • Sandra Warner rehearsing for the Bermuda International Collections show (Photograph supplied)

    Sandra Warner rehearsing for the Bermuda International Collections show (Photograph supplied)

Age no limit

Designer Amir X believes there’s no age limit when it comes to fashion.

He invited ten women between the ages of 65 and 87 to model for Bermuda International Collections. They’ll wear Cup Match, a line by Bermuda Trader.

“It is really important to begin to incorporate seniors into everyday activities,” said Amir, the show’s producer and creative director. “They come to rehearsals and they are exchanging what they know with the youngsters.”

He plans to debut his A Line Collection. Clothes by a third Bermudian designer, Raffine Montique, are also part of the show.

Leigh Schubert, Michelle Ludek and Voila Feel Beautiful Designs are among the international designers taking part.

Bermuda International Collections kicks off at 7pm on Friday at Pier 6. Tickets, $50 general admission and $125 to sit in the front row, are available at Clothes will go on sale on Saturday at Pier 6 from 12pm until 6pm. For more information: 296-2605

Sandra Warner didn’t understand why Amir X was asking her to model for his show.

Granted, the fashion designer was her cousin but ... she was 70 — and had never been on the runway before.

“I said: ‘Me? You got old people in your fashion show?’ He said yeah, he was doing something on seniors.”

Eventually, she agreed.

Mrs Warner is one of ten ladies between the ages of 65 and 87 who will strut their stuff for Bermuda International Collections 2019.

“Five years ago, I never would have imagined myself doing this,” she said, recalling how she thought death was imminent when doctors told her she had an aggressive form of breast cancer.

Her mother, Enid-Rose Augustus, died of the disease at 56. She’d been relieved to pass that age in good health, but at 65 discovered a lump on the side of her left breast.

“I thought, ‘Now what is that?’”

Mrs Warner had a double mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy and radiation at Slidell Memorial Hospital in Louisiana, where she was living at the time.

During treatment there were times when she wanted to “check out”.

“I just wanted to curl up and pull the covers over my head,” she said. “My husband, Austin Warner, wouldn’t allow me to. He made me get up and get out.”

Her church family was also supportive.

When she got the all-clear a year after her treatment ended she felt like she had a new lease on life. It also made her think of friends and family back in Bermuda.

She’d grown up part of a tight-knit community on Friswells Hill, Devonshire. Her stepfather, St Clair Augustus, worked for HM Prison Service while her mother stayed at home.

Her first jobs were as a young teen, picking up tacks in her uncle Charles Webbe’s upholstery shop and folding newspapers at The Recorder. All she ever wanted to do, however, was sing.

“For my first real job I sang with the Holiday Island Revue,” she said. “When Gene and Pinkie Steede left they got a new crew in and I was brought in.”

But in her early twenties she married and had a daughter, Aprille [Choudhury-DeShield]. Mrs Warner and her family moved to New Jersey for a time where her second daughter, Sahima [Choudhury-Thomas], was born. She divorced and returned to Bermuda with the children in 1984 just as Aprille was about to enter college.

Struggling to pay for tuition, she started singing in hotels again.

“It wasn’t fun then,” she said. “It was work.”

It wasn’t her only job. Mrs Warner’s weekends and public holidays were devoted to Eastern Airlines; she was a loan officer at the Bank of Bermuda for 15 years and for a while worked at the Bermuda Housing Corporation.

In 2000, Mrs Warner was singing at a fundraiser for the Council Partners Charitable Trust when she met Austin Warner, one of the organisers.

“We got along really well,” she said. They married on May 25, 2006.

Nine years later, her husband was offered a job in Mandeville, Louisiana with Habitat for Humanity.

“Like anywhere, there is the affluent and those in the middle and then poor, poor people,” Mrs Warner said. “I actually saw how lives were changed with Habitat. They weren’t given a hand out, they were given a hand up. Everyone had to give sweat equity. They had to help to build their home and someone else’s also.”

It fell to her to provide support to new Habitat homeowners once they moved in.

“I shopped around for cheaper insurance for them to keep their costs down,” she said. “I helped with the gardening and taught them pressure washing so they could keep the house up; I did a quarterly newsletter to encourage them to keep the house nice.”

For a while she even organised gardening competitions but in January decided it was time to come home.

“I have four grandchildren and I was missing so much of their lives,” she said.

Sheelagh Cooper, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Bermuda, gave her a job here.

“I’m a consultant for a new initiative to turn the old Pembroke Rest Home into a transformational home for homeless women and children,” she said.

The hope is the home will accommodate ten mothers and 30 children, who will remain there for no more than a year.

In her spare time, Mrs Warner loves to read, particularly self-help books.

“I learn a little something from everything and everybody,” she said. “I also read my Bible. That’s my favourite book.”

Since being back, she’s developed a passion for thrift stores.

“Before I left Louisiana, I got rid of everything,” she said. “Being sick changed my outlook. I have learnt that each day is a gift. I have no time to be negative. I have no time to fuss about insignificant things. ‘Stuff’ doesn’t mean anything to me any more.”

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

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Published Jul 2, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 2, 2019 at 7:55 am)

Modelling at 70, and a life-affirming attitude

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