Jan De Villeneuve, Model


“When I went back to my 30th high school reunion—I’d missed the first two—someone asked to see my nails. They didn’t know about my modeling career, or that I’d had a good scholastic record, but you know, they remembered me for my nails. [Laughs] I was quite shy as a child, I wouldn’t change in the girls’ dressing room. It’s bizarre now because I could change in Trafalgar Square and it wouldn’t bother me. But back then, I was just interested in art. I had gotten a Bachelor of Science in Design from the School of Architecture and Design at Michigan, and then a teaching certificate. When I was 22, I was going to interview for a [teaching] job in the fall. I needed a summer job 'till then, and a friend said, 'Why don’t you start modeling in Detroit, they do all the cars.' I went, and the next day I was working. You didn’t need to have a portfolio or anything, you just had to be able to look OK next to a car.

That was the beginning of ’67, and you would see everyone else’s modeling books and think, I will never get a book like this. But gradually things do happen. I had one page in Mademoiselle, and then I got 10 pages in Glamour. Then, I took a job with British Vogue to Jamaica with Grace Coddington. It was her first job as an editor, and in those days we did all our own makeup, and Grace did our hair. That was great fun.

With modeling, you don’t think it’s going to be a job that goes on forever. I just started out thinking, I don’t know what’s going to happen. And doing so many jobs forces you to face up to the things about yourself that make you anxious. That was good therapy. But I think it’s the wrong message for women to think that they have to look younger. After working in Paris and other places in Europe, I just ended up staying here. At a certain point I remember coming back to New York, in 1995, and thinking, people look so different. And I remember realizing it’s because more people had plastic surgery. And I’d just rather not have to do that. Working with [makeup] artists, it’s fun to experiment and to try things, and you don’t have to spend loads of money. I think it’s important to be healthy, eat well, and do all that. If you can use a little bit of makeup to keep it up, why not? But you shouldn’t have to feel that you have to try to look a certain age.

MAC makeup is probably what I’ve been using for the longest time. During the day when I have nothing to do, it’s just Burt’s Bees Lip Balm. If I’m going to lunch with friends or out at night I do the Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage—that’s great. Or, I use the Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat. My go-to look is usually a bit of shadow on the eye, and I don’t like to be too shiny, so I use MAC Translucent Powder. Then I do a little bit of the Lancôme Color Design Smooth Hold Lipstick. It’s purple-y. Daisy and Poppy just gave me the Chanel Quad in Candeur et Experience, and the blusher is Nars Orgasm. Then this mascara is good, it’s a lash thickening one by Lancôme. My hair’s gone grey and the brows also go white, so I get this Bbrowbar Brow Definer at Liberty. It’s just nice to have a little definition if I can be bothered. I always went for some light pink on the lips, but then someone used a dark lip on me and I thought, this looks fine, I’ll try it. So right now I’m using Chanel Rouge Allure in 56 Rouge Charnel. Usually I put some Nars Lip Gloss over it, too.

I don’t like exercise at all, but I married one of those football players from the University of Michigan when I was there. Big mistake, but he was really into fitness. Since then I’ve always gone to the gym—I do things to keep my heart and body going and to avoid Osteoporosis. I was doing yoga and Pilates for a while, but I’ll walk for an hour if nothing else. I’ve also always eaten really well. I had allergies when I was really young, so I paid attention to nutrition. When I was modeling I didn’t eat bread, pasta, no ice cream. I’ve hardly had any sugar I my life—I actually never really liked those foods. But I’ve always eaten good things, things like salads, every day.

To start my day, I squeeze lemon into water, which I’ve done since 1971. I splash cold water onto my face 25 times in the morning and use this moisturizer, the La Roche-Posay SX Daily Moisturizing Cream with SPF 15. I read something once that the most important things are to brush your teeth, always use some kind of sunscreen—doesn’t matter if it’s cloudy out—and massage your face with a cream for one minute every day. So those are the things I’ve always done, and they’re very easy and cheap to do. For toothpaste, I use Tom’s of Maine. At night, I use the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish to take off makeup. That’s just great. I also love the idea of a mask—when I did that Simone Rocha show they were giving everybody sheet masks, and that was really nice.

At this point, my hair is just kind of vanishing. I should probably go see some Philip Kingsley type of person, but when you’re taking so many pills for so many different things you think, ugh, will there be more pills? So instead, I just get my hair cut by someone in the village near me, and I wash my hair every other day. I’d prefer to do it less, but somehow it looks greasy. Since I don’t have much hair left, I just use the most minimal amount of this Leonard Shampoo. I don’t color my hair, either, but if I did, I’d never go to someone I didn’t totally trust. It’s been Daniel Galvin since 1970. Now I’ve just let it grow. Maybe I could do something to it, but I just think, well, if it works like this, it’s easier not to do anything!”

—as told to ITG