Jenny Shimizu didn’t look like what many people expected when they thought of a “model” in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Lanky Kate-Moss types were ubiquitous back then, and yet the gay Japanese-American — with her shorter stature, more muscular build, and androgynous looks — succeeded on her own terms.
Now 50, Shimizu continues to break boundaries and live by her own rules. You may have seen her explain how she does just that in Allure’s PSA to the beauty industry, which calls for the end of the use of the term “anti-aging.”
“I never felt my age, I still don’t feel my age,” Shimizu told us in a one-on-one interview. “I can’t really explain why I’ve always felt that way, but it seems experience and growth are more of the way I count my age.” She adds that as a 26- or 27-year-old model, people were already urging her to lie about her age. “That’s when they started telling me to always say I’m 25,” she recalled.
The modeling industry was one thing, but Shimizu says she was lucky enough to have supportive parents who let her do what she wanted and explore who she wanted to be, revealing that her mom was the one who helped her cut off her hair when she wanted it gone. “There was a certain sense of freedom that led me to be able to live my life,” she said of growing up in her parents’ household.
What’s more? Shimizu could care less about what she refers to as the “unwritten age structure” — a.k.a. the notion that one is supposed to hit certain milestones by certain ages in order to be considered successful by society’s standards. “What guided me, really, was a self-will,” she said matter-of-factly.
She might not feel her age, but there’s no doubt Shimizu has learned a thing or two over the course of her years, including how to feel comfortable in her own skin. Empathy is another: “Now that I’m older,” she says, “I can relate more, I can understand more.”
Check out the video above to hear more about Shimizu’s journey (plus why she believes calling a woman “handsome” is one of the best compliments you can give her).
Featuring: Jenny Shimizu
Director: Maya Margolina; Written by: Amber Schaefer; DP: Anna Stypko; Editor: Sarah Laties; Gaffer: Ines Gowland, Alex Sablow; B Cam: Mary Evangelista; PA: Brittany Von Hess
Makeup: Sandy Linter
Hair: Beth Shanefelter
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