This 60-Year-Old Model Stars In H&M's Latest Swim Editorial

Photo: Courtesy of H&M.
H&M has consistently made an effort to cast diverse women in its runway shows and campaign imagery — and now, it's done so with a new swim editorial online. Those photographed in the spread include models Nadia Aboulhosn, Alex Cunningham, and Adrianne Ho, plus an eclectic array of non-models, like Natasha James (a raw-food entrepreneur), Rush Zimmerman (ex-Olympian turned photographer), and Starlie and Daisy Clementine Smith (of that Smith family). Also featured in the spread, which is entitled "Cool Girls in Cute Swimwear": Gillean McLeod, a 60-year-old stylist and model who only started posing for the camera a few years ago.

McLeod's entre into the industry was a total accident: A model cast for a shoot that McLeod was styling wasn't up to par, so the client suggested McLeod (then 53 years old) take a stab at it, as she told H&M Magazine in an interview accompanying the imagery.

"I think modeling has been a different path for me, starting so late in life," she explains in the interview, adding that her 50s were her best decade. "I went through all these changes — I got divorced, went through some terrible things, but I got out on the other side. Those changes made everything better."

In the editorial, McLeod poses in a now sold-out bandeau one-piece. She poses in the suit poolside in one shot; the piece is also shown styled with slouchy jeans for post-dip lounging. She's got some solid advice for buying or wearing a swimsuit with confidence: "If you’re comfortable in it, it doesn’t really matter what it looks like." McLeod tells the retailer that she looks for pieces that make her feel good, which usually means a bikini that can withstand a couple sets of laps, "since I actually swim for a bit," she says.

“It feels natural to have a diverse range of women wearing our swimwear since it reflects our values, our colleagues, and our customers," an H&M rep told Refinery29 of McLeod's casting. "This is our reality: H&M is all about inclusiveness."

Despite working in the industry as a stylist, McLeod never really considered getting in front of the lens. "I have always been tall and slim, but due to shyness and poor body image as a young woman, I slouched," she told Who What Wear. McLeod says in the H&M interview that she struggled with bad acne as a teen and turned inward.

The newbie model has had some high-profile gigs in the seven years she's been at it. You may have spotted her in a Super Bowl commercial in 2014, or in Living Proof's Timeless campaign. So, what helped change her mind about modeling later in life? McLeod credits years of Pilates, swimming, and hiking, per Who What Wear, to help with posture.

There's definitely been a fair amount of progress in terms of body and age diversity in media lately, particularly in how swimwear and lingerie are marketed. Sports Illustrated's 2016 Swimsuit Issue, for example, made headlines for its inclusion of plus-size and older women, like 56-year-old Nicola Griffin, who became the oldest model to appear in the swim issue, ever. Granted, it was in an ad for Swimsuits for All (not an actual editorial shoot), but it's still a major platform for body and age diversity. Griffin starred in a campaign for plus-size brand Anna Scholz before her Swimsuit Issue appearance; after the Sports Illustrated cameo, she appeared in a lingerie editorial in the U.K.'s Slink Magazine. On the lingerie front, Aerie has a sustained commitment to not retouching, as part of its #AerieReal campaign, which has resulted in a boost in business.

As for McLeod, being in front of the camera seems to be working out. "I am really starting to enjoy this new segment of my life," she writes on Instagram. And we expect to see many more modeling gigs to come.

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