Anyone who's had the privilege of knowing Harriet Dobin knows that at 67 years old, she hasn't slowed down one iota. When she told me in 2017 that she was retiring from the Mandell JCC, I knew it wouldn't last long.
And it didn't.
This fall, she called from Philadelphia, where she moved to be closer to children and grandchildren. "Are you sitting down?" she asked. I was. "You know I've had some crazy ideas in the past, and I have a new one. I want to be a model. What do you think?"
She's attractive, has great hair, and an energetic, outgoing personality. She's all spirit and spunk. "I think that's great."
"Good, because I'm coming up and you're going to take the pictures for my portfolio."
She wouldn't hear that I wasn't really a fashion photographer. "You're the one."
Again, if you know Harriet, you know there's NO arguing once the idea train has left the station.
In her 'former' life, Harriet was well known in Greater Hartford as a PR person extraordinaire. She was the first person I called in July 2008 for advice when I was considering taking a buyout from the Hartford Courant and starting my own business. She was the first person who hired me for an assignment when I went freelance, and through her I worked for the Jewish Federation and the Mandell Jewish Community Center, shooting everything from summer camps to annual meetings, once climbing a ladder onto a hot tar roof in 100 degree weather to get a shot of a crowded pool at the JCC Swim and Tennis Club. I loved her energy, her mile long shot list, and her go-go-go spirit.
Flash forward to November 2017. We had a great two hours in my Easthampton MA studio as she changed from a cocktail dress to exercise clothes to jeans and a red top. She looked great in everything.
She made a promo card and hit the streets of Philadelphia. Reception: warm. It was Thanksgiving Week and she was signed by the Reinhard Agency as a lifestyle model. Gigs: hair and health products on QVC. The need for older women as models was growing she was told.
And then BOOM.
She read an article in Forbes Magazine about ZANDWAGON, a new modeling management and talent casting company that represents models who are breaking beauty standards. Their homepage states "From Queer to Muslim, Cis to Punk, our goal is to bring beautiful faces to spotlight a beautiful future." OUT Magazine writes that the agency is "crushing binaries and promoting diversity of every kind." Founded by Kayvon Zand, an Iranian American Queer performance artist, Zandwagon promotes models who are trans, tattooed, pierced and uniquely edgy in their looks. Not your vanilla, preppy boy. The Forbes article said that calls were coming in for mature models and Zandwagon was looking to expand in that direction. Recognizing the value of older models to the fashion, beauty and media industry, the agency sees “the crucial role they are playing in supporting Zandwagon's core mission of fighting against ageism, changing perceptions of what it means to age and promoting genuine inclusivity in our youth-obsessed society.”
Harriet called. Timing is everything.
After a test shoot in Union Square in NYC, she was signed! No piercings, no tattoos, a Jewish grandmother of 9 is now on the Development page of their website. Check out Harriet's gorgeous pictures by Debora Spencer, (co founder and Creative Director) and her playful bio where she writes that she is 67 but looks 47 and acts 27.
It's funny how things work out. Back in 2008, Harriet was instrumental in helping me take a risk and move into a second career, and in 2018 I got to return the favor, and play a small part in helping her reinvent herself.
GO HARRIET!!!! Break down barriers and show us all about aging with grace, beauty and fun!!!