Don’t be afraid to network. I used to shy away from this until a couple of years ago and have made some amazing connections which have led to some fantastic opportunities. When I hosted the 13 hour live interview day I was blown away by the willingness of women involved, who I know have very busy lives, but through networking I’ve built up a connection with a wide and diverse set of women. Don’t let your fear of rejection hold you back. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone will say no politely, or they won’t bother to reply but that’s all ok because you’ll then come across someone who says yes or that you really connect with.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Peru.
Rachel Peru is a silver curve model, midlife body confidence coach and activist, influencer and host of the Out of the Bubble podcast. Championing women over 40 to become more visible and to step out of their comfort zone with confidence to embrace midlife.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I live in a beautiful small village In Yorkshire in the U.K and have lived in this area all my life. I have three children who are all older now (22,21 and 18) and getting on with their own lives which is great to see. After getting divorced at 40 I had to dig deep and start to discover who I was again which was both a scary and exciting time. I’m now happily married to my husband Mark and feel truly lucky to have found love again later in life. I left school after completing my A’ levels at 18 but didn’t really have any clear career direction that I followed. Looking back I can see how my lack of confidence and self-belief really held me back right up until my forties. I used to dream of being a backing singer in a band which makes me smile because now I would say I would want to be the lead singer!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for”. I’m a huge fan of Oprah’s and think this quote is just so true. It wasn’t until I started to believe in myself and put myself fully into the world that I saw real change happen in my life. I had let the fear of failure hold me back but once I found the courage to try new things and say yes more, new opportunities came my way.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- I think authenticity is a key quality. Staying true to yourself and your core beliefs because people will eventually see through you if your faking it. I use my social media platform to show all side of my personality and open up conversations with people.
- Determination. Not giving up at the first hurdle. The model industry is full of rejections and for every 1 job I book I could have faced 10 rejections before. I think if you find a real passion for something then it’s so much easier to find the determination and motivation to keep pushing forward.
- Keep an open mind. Starting a podcast was never on my radar but once I’d started to connect with all these amazing women on social media that were inspiring me with their stories of reinvention over 40 and starting new adventures it encouraged me to learn the new skills to create Out of the Bubble podcast.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter? And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
When I left school until my late 20’s I worked in retail management which paid the bills but it certainly wasn’t my passion. I stopped work when my three children were young and that time was very precious. As they settled in to school fully I worked a nursery teacher, I enjoyed the school environment and the hours suited my young family. After getting divorced at 40 I decided to go to university and gained a 2.1 Education Studies degree where I loved becoming a mature student, so I thought that teaching was going to be my new career until I retired.
Unfortunately my eldest daughter became ill and so she had to be Home schooled which resulted in me leaving my job and being back at home full time. This was a really difficult time for the whole family and it had a huge impact on my own confidence.
During this time a friend had volunteered me as a model for a charity event and although I was very nervous, I came off the runway feeling empowered and couldn’t wait to do it again. I’ve modelled for the same charity for the last ten years and it is a special event to be involved in and a place that helped me build more confidence again. After 6 years I was encouraged by other people involved in the event to try modelling and I’d got to a stage where my youngest was 13 so less dependent on me and it seemed like a good time to try something just for myself. I thought that if I picked up some local work then it would be a great ‘hobby’ for me but once a London agency wanted to represent me I knew I had an amazing opportunity to level up and take it seriously.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
I think having worked hard at university to gain my degree and having mapped out my new teaching career which didn’t work out I became more conscious of how life moves so fast and I didn’t want to waste any more time not trying things. I had lots of anxious wobbles when I started modelling and the imposter syndrome definitely reared its head, but I knew if I didn’t go for it, I would always regret it and wonder what if. I could see that my children were growing up quickly and would soon be fleeing the nest so I didn’t want to left at home with a big empty void in my life.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
I never imagined I would have learnt how to embrace my body after years of struggling with body confidence issues. I’ve always been curvy and big chested since my teenage years and never felt like my body was good enough. To the point where I booked to have a breast reduction at 30 because I thought that would make me feel happier, I’m so glad I decided against it at the last minute.
When I started modelling I never imagined it would be in swimwear and lingerie campaigns but they’re now some of my favourite jobs. When I came back from the SwimSuitsForAll shoot with Ashley Graham so many women of my age group got in touch and said how great it was to see a woman they could relate to. I think representation really does matter and can have a huge impact on our mental well-being if we can’t relate to any of the images we’re bombarded with on a daily basis.
Once I’d seen the response to this campaign It really motivated me to do more lingerie campaigns with brands that you wouldn’t normally see older women and my confidence just keeps growing. I’m now passionate about helping other women in midlife find their own body confidence and embrace the bodies they’ve got because I know how debilitating it can be without it.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
The last 12 months gave me time to assess how I can move forward with my body confidence work so I’ve gained my Life Purpose Coaching qualification and have created an online Rediscover You body confidence course that people can join and self study at home. It feels good to be able to reach more women and I will keep pushing the lingerie and swimwear brands to become more inclusive in their ages, change is starting to happen albeit slowly. You can find the course on my website www.rachelperu.co.uk.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband Mark has been so supportive in everything that I do and I’m sure he must dread the words…
“I‘ve had another idea!” because my head is full of them. He never shows any doubt at my ability to see the ideas through and I think having someone support you like that makes all the difference to whether you succeed or not.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Working alongside Ashley Graham and Lizzo in the Bahamas , modelling swimwear at 47 years old is definitely one of the biggest highlights so far. It was in my first year of modelling and I had no idea what to expect but I learnt a lot from being around such positive body confident women.
I’ve also just completed a 13 hour ‘Midlife Inspirathon’ interviewing 22 women over 40 live on Instagram , raising over £1400 for 2 womens charities. I was so nervous but loved every minute talking with some incredible celebrities and women from all walks of life to shine a light on women over 40.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
I think even the most confident people in the world have moments of doubts when starting new projects but the more you do it the easier it gets. I’ve done a lot of self-development work in this area as it held me back so much when I was younger so I was determined to change my mindset. I now carry a notebook in my handbag with a list of everything that I’m proud of achieving, it acts as a great quick reminder if a wave of self-doubt hits me.
Visualization really works for me too. If I’m nervous about doing anything then I’ll spend time imagining that I’m already doing it and place myself in that moment with a positive outcome. After having nearly a year off from modelling during the pandemic I booked my first big shoot last week and used these tools to overcome last minute nerves, I’m sure this last year has affected lots of peoples’ confidence.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I have a very small group of friends that I’ve known for years who I can always rely on . It’s also good to have some new people in your bubble that see things with a different perspective without the baggage that older friendships can often bring. I’ve found huge support through networking in this past year as I’m starting to move forward with new business plans. You often find those closest are less positive about new ideas because they’re initial reaction is to protect you, protect you from possible failure and stress and they might be scared of the change this new direction might bring too.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
I seem to spend most of my time pushing myself out of my comfort zone because I know it’s where I grow the most and I’m determined not to let any fears stop me. For my 40th I booked a tandem sky dive and jumped out of the plane at 12,000ft even though I’m terrified of heights. I knew I wanted to start the next decade feeling braver and that really set the tone for the next ten years. Whilst it didn’t cure my fear of heights it helped me build a new memory bank of feeling brave and when I did have any wobbles I could remind myself of that. This then led me to travelling to Uganda and India to volunteer in orphanages there and all these things really helped build my confidence. I think you always have moments of fear when you try something new, even when you are more confident, it’s how I deal with those feelings now that have become much easier to manage.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- To own what I stand for much sooner, I think I fumbled around a bit in the shadows because I was new to this work and was worried about other peoples opinions of me , whereas now I stand by everything I’m doing with more confidence.
- You can build a business around your personal brand. It’s taken me a few years to see how I can build myself a financially successful business around my own personal brand and incorporate all the different aspects of the work I’m doing.
- That you need a lot of patience and you have to keep taking small steps forward even when you might get knocked by. There’s been times that I’ve lost out with working with a particular brand and felt like I didn’t stand a chance of working with them, only to get booked by them a year later.
- It’s ok to ask for advice and help. I’ve learnt so much from other people about the modelling world, business and podcasts because we don’t know everything and people are generally keen to help others on the way up. Finding the right mentors and coaches is invaluable.
- Don’t be afraid to network. I used to shy away from this until a couple of years ago and have made some amazing connections which have led to some fantastic opportunities. When I hosted the 13 hour live interview day I was blown away by the willingness of women involved, who I know have very busy lives, but through networking I’ve built up a connection with a wide and diverse set of women. Don’t let your fear of rejection hold you back. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone will say no politely, or they won’t bother to reply but that’s all ok because you’ll then come across someone who says yes or that you really connect with.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
For women to embrace midlife and not be scared of life after 40. We have so much to offer society as we become older and all life experiences can help build something really special. We need to show the next generation behind us that there’s nothing to be scared of and that you don’t have to become invisible.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
Ashley Graham because watching her career has inspired me so much and I have lots of questions I wish I’d asked her, knowing what I know now. She has pushed so many boundaries in the fashion and beauty industry as well as becoming a strong minded and focused businesswoman.
Edward Enninful, head of UK Vogue. because I love the diverse and inclusive direction he is taking the magazine and I’d love to know his thoughts on the lack of older women’s representation in the fashion industry.
I guess like most people Oprah would be right at the top of my list too, what a woman!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!