York mum of three Deborah Hirzel talks about modelling at 50 and being an ambassador for York Fashion Week

DEBORAH Hirzel turns 50 today and is enjoying a new career as a model.

"I have wrinkles, stretch marks, age spots, veins and grey hair but that’s me at 50 years of age and I think it is OK to show that," says Deborah, who lives in Clifton, York.

"Botox and fillers are not for me and if it means I lose out on a job then so be it. Last year I did a commercial for Latona London skincare products with three lovely young ladies and I felt proud to be the older model representing mature skin."

Deborah turned to modelling in her 40s – while working as a dinner lady at her youngest child's school. Trained as a dental assistant, she gave up work to raise her three children – aged 21, 14, and ten – and had decided to return to work as a teaching assistant, getting a job helping at lunchtime to gain some experience.

"I wore a blue tabard and worked part-time at Clifton With Rawcliffe primary. I did this for about two years," says Deborah.

Today, her job couldn't be more different: dashing out to castings rather than stacking away dishes; hitting the catwalk rather than clearing tables.

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SMILE!: Deborah strikes a pose for a York fashion shoot

She is now on the books of several agencies and also works as TV extra, often filming in Yorkshire. "I’ve been very lucky to have worked on all three series of Victoria, National Treasure with Robbie Coltrane and most recently ABC Murders with John Malkovich. Work usually means very early starts, long days with lots of travelling."

Deborah, who grew up in Earswick and attended school in Huntington, says being older helps her cope with one of the toughest aspects of modelling: rejection.

"There is an awful lot of rejection. When I was young and people suggested modelling to me, I don’t think I would have had the confidence back then to deal with all the rejection. Now I walk out of a casting and think: 'well, they weren’t looking for me' and move on. Because another day, they might be."

Deborah's modelling career began by chance rather than design. "A friend asked me to take part in a charity fashion show. The feedback was very positive and LK Bennett, one of the clothes suppliers for the show, asked if I would model for them in store at their own events."

This led to modelling in She Loves York fashion shows and becoming a regional semi-finalist in Specsavers Spectacle Wearer of the Year.

"I had a bit of publicity from that and a photoshoot in York which led to an interview with Emily at Shine Model Management. To my amazement she signed me and soon afterwards I was working in fashion shows for designers in Harrogate."

Today, Deborah has agents in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and has worked with large brands such as Nestle After Eight and UBS bank as well as for local businesses including Maude and Tommy, Copper and White and Amanda Field Couture Millinery.

Last year, she was an ambassador for the first York Fashion Week, and modelled at many of its events.

For this year's York Fashion Week, she will be hosting her own evening: Deborah Hirzel presents Style Confidence on March 28 from 6pm to 8pm at Debenhams, Davygate, York. Tickets cost £5 from the store and will be redeemable in store on the night and for a limited time after. Besides a fashion show featuring clothes for women and men, there will be style and fashion tips as well as hair and beauty demonstrations and a bra fitter will be on hand. The models will be older too, says Deborah. "One will be 54, another 48 and another almost 62!"

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FIT: Deborah keeps in shape by running, and she cycles too

Deborah, who says she cycles everywhere, is tall and slim, but insists she is far from perfect and has what might be classed as flaws just like everyone else. "I am pro-age; I say I love ageing because it means I’m alive! I don’t diet and I love chocolate though I have been a vegetarian for 30 years and I don’t drink much alcohol.

"I keep fit because I love running. I’ve been wearing sunscreen every day for 20 years. I’m not interested in eliminating my wrinkles as I just want to be natural and keep it real."

Deborah believes the demand for older models will grow. "I look forward to modelling in the 50-plus market. Times are changing and finally we are seeing older people advertising products aimed at the older market. It is about time. I’m just getting started and I’d love to think I’ll still be doing this in my 60s and 70s."

York Fashion Week will run from March 25-31: check out the full programme at yorkfashionweek.co.uk