Elizabeth Mitchell Is Forging the Path for a New Age of Models
After years of avoiding cameras, this newly minted model discovered they could set her free.
All her life, Elizabeth Mitchell hated having her picture taken. Now she’s 59, and her image has been splashed across Toronto streetcars and appeared in both national and international campaigns for global brands like Uniqlo.
“Modelling has pushed me outside my comfort zone; it’s a whole new territory for me,” says Mitchell, who only got her start in the industry three years ago.
Over the course of her professional career, Mitchell has donned many hats. She’s been a theatre critic and writer for publications like The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and Quill & Quire (and is still freelancing for various outlets); a yoga instructor (which held her in good stead when she was recently asked to do suspension yoga for a fitness app commercial); and a television producer for the CBC. Fronting campaigns and doing magazine editorials was the last thing she ever thought she’d do. But one day while she was accompanying her younger daughter to a theatre audition, someone asked if she had an agent. Next thing she knew, she had landed a Special K commercial, which led to campaigns for Uniqlo, Roots, No Frills, Jenny Bird and Knix.
When she was first approached to do a lingerie campaign, her instinct was to balk. “Inside I’m like, ‘Are you nuts?’” she recalls. “It was top of the charts outside my comfort zone, but I found myself saying I’d consider it.” The more she thought about it, she couldn’t come up with a good enough reason not to do it. “Why not? Why am I not allowed to do this?” she asked herself. The experience turned out to be “so natural and fun” and encouraged her to continue pushing herself.
With silky grey hair that softly frames her face, Mitchell is an unconventional model by traditional standards. But the recent opening up of the industry to a broader swath of races, genders, ages and body types has allowed her to fill a void in the modelling world—something she’s proud to be able to do.
“Twenty years ago, women would come up to me and tell me to dye my hair; now, young girls come up to me and say they love my grey hair.”
“If I can in some way be a positive role model for anyone, including myself, I’m down,” she says. “Twenty years ago, women would come up to me and tell me to dye my hair; now, young girls come up to me and say they love my grey hair.”
How does she, as someone who was never comfortable in front of the camera and suffered from low self-esteem all her life, deal with working in an industry centred around image? “When I was younger, I’d be so critical of myself,” she says. “But I’m trying to be nicer to myself now, and I’m getting much better at it. I’ve definitely loosened up—or let go. I think that’s one of the gifts of aging: letting go of preconceived notions of how people expect you to be and not caring what people think.”
Mitchell hopes to carry on her new career for years to come. “I love the opportunities and experiences that modelling offers me and will continue as long as it fuels my energy and ignites my spirit,” she says. “It’s such a privilege. I’m down to promote expansive views on how we look at women, our environment and the radiance and power within us all.”
See the rest of this issue’s cover profiles here.