Where ever you are, I hope you’re experiencing cooler temperatures and the leaves are changing from their familiar green to a cornucopia of reds, oranges and yellows. Today, it’s time for me and my friend Cindy to bring you our Ageless Style series where we each interview a different woman.
Seventy-three-year-old Danish model and actress, Pia Gronning, has always been an ageless beauty. Whether she was runner-up in the 1969 Miss Denmark pageant, discovered in the early 70s by famed modeling agency executive Eileen Ford, or had the leading roles in several Scandinavian films—she also appeared in The Two Jakes, the sequel to Chinatown with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway—Pia’s classic style has always been her trademark.
BRENDA: You stopped modeling when you were young and then resumed it at the age of 52. What’s changed about the industry from the 1970s versus now?
PIA: It’s very different. Now, you don’t have to be beautiful or a classic beauty. It’s more about being an individual. They have rings in their noses and tattoos all over and pink hair. And of course, there’s the gray hairs: 50s, 60s, sometimes 70s. I’m lucky I’m still working, not as much as I used to, but it’s a whole different thing, and I like that. It makes the young people not want to be these perfect human beings like we were then. You had to be perfect. Perfect legs, perfect body. Things have changed 360 degrees from then.
BRENDA: How do you see yourself now as opposed to then? It sounds like it must be a relief not to be perfect.
Photograph by Jan Rickers @janrickers
PIA: Oh, yes! Wow! They still give me compliments for my age. I think I still look decent, but you don’t have to be so perfect. I remember times when you would do a job and a whole row of clients would be standing there, staring at you while you were on set. You always thought they were talking about you. They probably were not, but you’re insecure. When I finally stopped and moved to LA and got into design—I had my own interior design company for 13 years—I realized that my self-confidence was nil, and I had to build that up which is why it was so great to be praised for something else aside from the way I looked.
BRENDA: Then you started modeling again at age 52.
Pia at the Miss Denmark pageant, 1969.
PIA: Yes. Do you remember Cindy Joseph?
BRENDA: Yes. A few years ago I did a commercial for her makeup line, but it looked so awful on me—no foundation but they used the same purple cream stick on my lips, eyes, mouth and cheeks—I asked them not to use it.
PIA: She was probably the first model with gray hair. She did J. Jill. I started seeing her and I thought I should see if they’d want me again, so I went into an agency in LA with my old portfolio, thinking they’d never want me, but they remembered who I was. It’s funny. I never had aspirations to be a model. Never, ever, ever. For me it was a job. A way of making money. I never aspired to being famous.
BRENDA: How do you approach aging?
PIA: When I’m working and I see pictures of myself, it’s sometimes a little hard because being a model for so many years, you’re very critical of yourself. That can be a little tough. I have a husband who adores me…I don’t look anything but beautiful, so that makes it a little easier. But looking at myself in the mirror and seeing the wrinkles and the loose skin is hard, but I’ve lived a fabulous life. The wrinkles I have I feel like I’ve earned them. I’m going to age as gracefully and healthy as I can for as long as I can. I don’t plan on doing anything.
BRENDA: I always thought I would do something, but I’m not doing anything other than coloring my hair. There’s an upcoming event in Dallas, and I’ve been asked to interview model, Paulina Porizkova, in front of an audience about her memoir. Paulina’s not doing anything either and wants to age naturally.
PIA: She’s what? 56?
Pia and her husband, David Meffert. Photo by David Meffert, @meff_art_studio
PIA: I got married to my husband when I was 56, and I look at pictures of myself then, and I looked pretty darn great. I didn’t have any wrinkles. So sometimes those women in their late 50’s who say, ‘We don’t want to do anything,’ I want to say, just you wait. LOL! I’m sure you understand what I’m saying.
BRENDA: I do. I look at pictures of myself 10 years ago, maybe a picture I didn’t like at the time but now I say, ‘You looked great.’ What do you do to take care of your skin?
PIA: My sister got me hooked on a brand. It sounds French, but it’s a Danish brand. Beauté Pacifique. They have a line for mature, more dry skin, and I am addicted to it. Once a year I go to the dermatologist for a checkup. They have a retinol cream. It’s way too strong for me unless I mix it with Cetaphil, and I use that some nights. I don’t know if it’s doing anything for me…I’m not one to slather myself with sunscreen. I hate it. I don’t sit in the sun like I used to in the old days. Like when you booked a bathing suit job in Bermuda, and they sent you down there three days before so you could get suntanned. I’m an outdoor person, and I have a dog I walk about 10 times a day. I like a little color in my face. I drink a lot of water, but that’s all I do. I try to eat as healthy as possible, but I love chocolate, and when I go to Denmark, I eat a lot of pastry and candy. LOL! I want to live! No, I’m not the same size I was when I came to NY, but that’s okay.
Pia wearing @benedikteutzon, a Danish brand. Photograph by David Meffert, @meff_art_studio
BRENDA: I think that’s probably a good thing. As my doctor reminds me, we need some extra reserves if we get sick, and I know that to be the case.
PIA: Also, as we get older, when we get thin, it shows in our face. You get sunken in cheeks. That’s not a good look for a 60, 70-year-old woman…Sometimes I think I should lose five pounds, but as long as I can fit into the clothes they give me I’m okay.
BRENDA: How has your style evolved over the years?
PIA: It hasn’t really changed that much. I’ve always wanted to be comfortable. I’ve always been a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl. When I lived in NY, I wore a lot of vintage clothing. I would pair old ski pants with stirrups with a jacket or a sweater. It’s pretty much the same. I went to H&M yesterday and bought a pair of cargo pants and a sweatshirt and a t-shirt. It’s what I’ve always worn.
Pia wearing @benedikteutzon Photograph by David Meffert, @meff_art_studio
BRENDA: Do you have any go-to pieces in your closet?
PIA: Not really…I just want to be comfortable. I used to buy a lot of Zara tops and wear them over jeans, but now I wear them with cargo pants. I’m attached to my clothes, but if I lost them all, I wouldn’t cry. I don’t like to spend a lot of money on clothes.
BRENDA: What about jewelry and accessories?
PIA: Same thing. I have my diamond studs…and I never take them out. I have some rings. One is from David’s mom when she passed away. I have three necklaces. One is a little peace sign I got from David and a little diamond that was my mother-in-law’s I wear all the time. I also have a longer one with a Danish cross my mom gave me. It’s a heart, a cross and an anchor. In Danish it means love, faith and hope. For me, jewelry is sentimental, so I don’t buy jewelry for myself. I’m grateful I’m still here to live and talk about things. Think of all the people who are no longer here.
I feel blessed I’m as healthy as I am, but I also want to live and enjoy certain things, and that’s my chocolate!
BRENDA: You can tell from the expression on your face that you have a joy for life. I’m wondering, who inspires you?
Pia for Catherine Robinson Cashmere, @catherinerobinsoncashmere, photograph by @dittechemniz_privat
PIA: My husband. We met late in life, online. He’s my best friend. We laugh every day. We balance each other out really well. He’s my biggest inspiration. He was a graphic designer and now he’s taken up painting…I don’t follow the modeling world. I never did, so I can’t say they’re my big inspirations. I’m a very normal, down to earth Danish girl. LOL!
BRENDA: And I love that about you. What would you say is the best part about being this age?
PIA: For me, having found my person in life. He’s my soulmate. I’m grateful I’m still able to get a job here and there and make money. I’m grateful for the good and the bad in my life, and I’ve had some really bad experiences, but I’m here. I survived them all.
BRENDA: You have a great mindset.
PIA: It’s hard when you’ve had fame. I know women who are having a hard time aging and a hard time realizing they should find something else to do instead of hoping for a little modeling job here and there. It’s a tough world, and for a lot of us it was just right then and there when it happened, and it’s important to realize that…but there are some of us who can’t move forward. That’s sad.
BRENDA: I don’t envy fame at all.
PIA: When I modeled back in the day, I would do my job and come home and wash my face and be a normal person. I was never impressed with the whole bit. I’m still surprised they want me to model.
Being discovered and modeling and doing a few movies is not important. Doctors who save lives. That’s important.
BRENDA: You have such a great attitude about life. It’s been such a treat to visit with you.
PIA: Thank you, Brenda!
Thanks for reading Ageless Style with Pia Gronning. Please leave me and Pia a comment, and don’t forget to visit Cindy’s blog and discover who she’s featuring this month on her Ageless Style interview.