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Beautiful at any age

By Jane AndersonStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / February 3, 1983

At 52, Rose Indri is as amazed as anyone that she is a sought-after model working for one of the most prestigious agencies in the business. ''It isn't anything I dreamed of doing. I never expected to do anything like this at this time in my life. I always took pride in my home and family. Sometimes I have to sit back and think about what's happened,'' she says.

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Mrs. Indri's modeling career began four years ago when a friend, a beauty salon owner, suggested to her, ''I think Clairol would love to see you.''

''I told her, 'You've got to be kidding,' '' says Mrs. Indri, little realizing at the time that the comment would be prophetic. ''I was always so quiet and reserved.''

But the idea stayed in the back of her mind. One day, without telling anyone, she got ''all dressed up'' and went into New York City from her home in West New York, N.J. She went to a bookstore, asked for a book on modeling, and went to the first agency listed.

''[The agency] picked me up immediately,'' she says, and her career snowballed.

Two years later, after she signed on with the Ford Models Inc. in New York, her first assignment was in fact with Clairol. Since then she has done many jobs , including catalog and advertising work, television spots, and most recently, the January cover of Fifty-Plus magazine.

Mrs. Indri is an exception in the highly competitive modeling industry, where newcomers are pounding the pavements for a break and young women are hitting stardom at age 15 and under. But over the past few years, opportunities have been opening up for more mature and gray-haired models.

''A lot of women wouldn't think of modeling as they grow older. Those that do can get a lot of work,'' says Tina Sutton, a prominent fashion consultant in Boston.

Rose Indri admits that when she started in the modeling business, she had no idea her gray hair would be an asset: ''Although I went gray at an early age, I always kept my gray hair - I just never gave it another thought. There aren't many naturally gray-haired women in the business. Once they get to know you, they keep calling.''

It isn't always so easy. Some older models who were prominent in the business during their younger years find it difficult to contend with new ''go-see'' jobs , where they must ''try out'' rather than be chosen on the basis of previous work and their portfolio. Others who don't fit the ''gray-haired lady'' image can have a hard time finding work.

One slim, fashionable, 48-year-old model with auburn hair says: ''My problem is, I look too young to be an old model and too old to be a young model. I'm hanging in there, but it's tough.''

Still, progress is being made. Five years ago, for example, the Ford agency in New York opened its ''classic women's division'' with 10 older models. Today the division has expanded to 30 models, ranging in ages from 35 to 65.

Although demand for the older models is still not as brisk as the agency would like, ''We've made incredible gains,'' says Claudia Black, who heads the division. ''The groundwork had to be laid.''

She says many of the models in Ford's older women's division were top models in the late '40s and early '50s.

Lillian Marcuson, with three Life covers to her credit from her early modeling days, is back in the business after a 25-year hiatus while she raised a family.