Pageant queens urge women to be fearless and embrace our age
GOLD Coaster and 2018 Role Model of the Year Suzi Dent wants to help other women "celebrate and embrace being over 50".
The 56-year-old tomboy has undergone a transformation over the past two years, including winning the Australian title of Mrs Earth Health 2017 (and finishing third in the world), and wants to share the positivity she has learned.
"I am hoping to inspire women to stop paying attention to their age number, and be fearless about making changes in their lives, and to celebrate their life experiences and knowledge," Suzi said.
It's a sentiment embraced by her fellow Australian Beauty Pageant winner, Beauty Queen of the Year and Ms World 2018, 60-year-old Robbie Canner, from Sydney, who beat out entrants from 22 countries, aged from 26, to the global title in June.
Robbie, a sports therapist, believes that people "age themselves out of life" by developing negative connotations toward ageing, and is determined to "start a conversation" about positive ageing.
It's not all about looks for either woman, but about health, self-confidence, self-esteem, a purpose and zest for life.
Robbie became involved in the Tour de Cure after her son, Scott, died of non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
She set up the Scott Canner Young Investigator Grant to help fund cancer research by young Australian academics, with more than $750,000 in grants awarded.
Suzi has been involved in Soles4Souls and more recently Friends with Dignity, who support victims of domestic violence.
Despite the seemingly glamorous world in which she worked as a TV and advertising hair and make-up artist, Suzi said her go-to clothes had always been practical, casual and baggy.
She said she felt safer and more comfortable dressed down, avoiding both unwanted advances from men and comments from women.
However, when her soul-mate husband, Don, suffered depression, Suzi knew she had to do something to get herself and her family out of the groundhog day which their life had become.
When she was asked to pose for a photoshoot, she decided to give it a go - even though it did mean overcoming her "frock fear" and practicing wearing high heels in front of the mirror.
"My husband had only ever seen me in a dress twice before that, and one of them was my wedding dress," Suzi marvelled.
That single job drew the attention of the Mrs Earth Pageant director, who thought Suzi would be a good fit for the competition, and the rest is history.
Suzi has since been interviewed by national media, become a motivational speaker and mentor, and next year heads to India for the Women's Economic Forum.
"And it's all because I said 'yes' to the opportunity life dropped in my lap," Suzi said.
"By stepping out of my comfort zone, I've found my true, authentic self which had been hidden away ... and that's a wonderful thing to find in your 50s.
"Now I want to help other women step out too and achieve their dreams."
She believes women, particularly older women, too easily accept the negative attitudes of others in their lives and the subliminal messages of advertising that they are not good enough.
She pointed to the absence of older women in advertising, with women in their 30s and 40s promoting wrinkle creams.
"We have an obsession with airbrushed images - so we are convinced we have to look like this image of perfection ... it's sending the women's movement backwards," said Suzi, who is "a very healthy size 16".
"We need to embrace everyone for who they are, not what they look like.
"I want to see my age represented in the advertising on the walls of shops, and an acceptance that women come in all shapes, sizes and ages."
She also wants to empower women to speak out about improper behaviour by men, and to promote a more open conversation about the wider effects on people's partners and families of depression (which her husband has thankfully overcome along her journey).
Suzi has definitely set her goals high but, talking to her, you get the feeling that changing her own life was just the start for this passionate and positive woman.
Find out more at www.suzident.com or call 0412607691.