Peter Beaumont never thought he would be swapping food for fashion when he retired as a chef and became a model
But a chance encounter a few years ago now means he’s more likely to be seen on the catwalk than in the kitchen. He never expected to be a model over 50, but fate had other ideas in store.
Ten years after taking early retirement at 55, a stranger approached Peter Beaumont on Peckham High Street and asked if he would consider modelling. Wearing old jeans and an anorak, Peter says the question was unexpected and shocking. Yes, Naomi, Gisele and Moss kickstarted their modelling careers after being spotted by scouts. But they were leggy beauties in their teens!
Peter was 65 with the looks and cynicism that come with age
“We’re all familiar with the patter,” grins Peter, who spent 37 years working as a chef at St Thomas’s Hospital in the shadows of the Houses of Parliament.
“Someone flatters you into thinking you can make it as a model. You pay £500 for a portfolio, then the agent disappears. But I thought it only happened to teenage girls. I don’t have the traditional looks of a male model, which was even more reason to feel sceptical,” he says.
Peter told the man to p**s off. But they exchanged contact details anyway and he smiled to himself as he anticipated a record number of laughing emojis from friends and family once he’d shared this encounter on his WhatsApp groups.
However, it didn’t end there. Peter received an email from the man he’d met, asking him to attend a casting to see if he was suitable to join his agency.
Still suspicious, Peter decided to check it out anyway. With his free bus pass, an old A-Z of London and nothing better to do that day, Peter travelled from his home in Brixton, South London, to the location of the casting. When he got to the address in Hackney, East London, he wasn’t impressed.
“It looked like a rundown old garage and there were around 100 others queuing at the door.”
The photographer took a series of shots and his measurements were noted
“I left thinking that if I never heard from them again, I had enjoyed my day out.”
But once again, it didn’t end there. The agency photos resulted in his first modelling job on 26 July 2019. Precisely 37 years after he started his professional life as a hospital cook. It was a fashion shoot for Buffalo Zine, a high-end fashion and lifestyle magazine. Peter was a natural. He wasn’t just a model over 50, he was a model over 65!
“I think photographers like me because I don’t know better than them, or claim to. I enjoy myself and I just do as I am told. When you’re the model, you are plasticine; chin up, chin down, turn, twist your hips. I never complain, even when I had to wear underpants, flip-flops and a towel for an outdoor shoot on the coldest day of the year. My hair has been dyed pink, I’ve been dressed in very expensive women’s clothing. And I even do nudity if that’s what they want, but I draw the line at pornography.”
“There must be something about me that these fashion people like. But when I look in the mirror, I don’t understand it.”
The start of his success as a model over 50
Since that first shoot, Peter has modelled for Vivienne Westwood, Harrington Jackets, and Clarks Shoes amongst others. And he has also appeared in a couple of pop videos. Once for the artist Silas Armstrong for his song Deluded, and another time for Celeste’s Little Runaway.
“I was shortlisted for an underwear shoot in New York this year. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t someone who was better suited in the whole of America. All my jobs to date have been in London, so I’m glad I didn’t get the New York gig, as I don’t enjoy travelling.
“Another time, Gucci wanted me in Milan but I had promised to cook for a charity dinner and a promise is a promise. My agent was furious with me.
“When there’s a group of us on a shoot, I am always the oldest model. And now that I have been modelling for four years, I’m sometimes the most experienced, too.
“On a recent shoot the stylist gathered everyone around before we started and said, I want you to take the lead from Peter because he has been doing this for a number of years and he’s such a professional. Apparently, I was paid more than the others, too.”
Otherwise, Peter says he is not treated any differently from the younger models
“I don’t have any age-related aches and pains. Go to the gym every day, swim most days. And I have a healthy diet after a heart attack 12 years ago. I don’t know how a 70 year old is supposed to feel. I have never been 70 before.
Peter says the phone doesn’t ring every day but he gets regular bookings and the money’s better than his old job. As a model over 50, his best paid bookings have been two for Vivienne Westwood when he received £1,000 a time.
He used the money to treat five friends to a holiday to Tenerife earlier this year and he took three of his 40 godchildren to Menorca in August.
“I’m single and live a simple life. I don’t have lavish tastes. So what else am I going to do with the money? I can’t take it with me.”
And the glamorous lifestyle? Does Peter find that addictive?
“There’s no room for divas. I often have to wear clothes – samples – that have been worn multiple times before without being washed. You can tell because of the smell! It’s the opposite of glamorous.
“We are there to show off what the client wants you to show off – clothes, shoes, glasses – not for you to show off.
“I have met some wonderful people – they are nothing like the characters you see on TV. My friends think the fashion world is made up of models and editors who turn up for a shoot in nine inch heels and fabulous designer clothes. But they’re more likely to be wearing a cardigan and trainers and arrive straight off the tube or a bicycle.
Peter’s random encounter on that South London street has led to a retirement side hustle that’s not just brought fun to his life but also to those closest to him.
“If my agent got rid of me tomorrow or said they would only keep me on the books if I had a nip and tuck, I’d simply come off the books,” says Peter
“I still find the whole thing pretty crazy. I never ever thought I would spend my retirement modelling but I am very grateful and honoured whenever I am chosen.“
Four decades of fun, writing on music, beauty, fashion and interiors is how Zena Alli describes her writing career. She interviewed pop stars for Smash Hits magazine, gave readers magical makeovers for Woman’s Own, and edited Perfect Home, a cool, contemporary homes mag, before joining Daily Mirror as Homes Editor for 11 years. She continues to surround herself in subjects that bring her joy.
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