Lou Kenny: model and founder, Yoga Grace

MODELLING ISN’T A CAREER THAT MOST COULD PUT ON HOLD FOR A FEW DECADES, BUT LOU KENNY DID. At 59, the Melbourne-based model and yogi is having her time in the sun again. Here she talks self-love, boycotting hairdressers and what keeps her skin glowing—headstands included.

In 1977, a carefree 18-year-old Kenny took a job as the house model for Melbourne-based Jantzen Swimwear. It was an appointment that kick-started a modelling career that served her well until her early 30s, when she decided to go behind the scenes and open her own modelling agency. A decade later, she left it all behind to follow her true passion: yoga. But that’s only part of the story.

A qualified Iyengar yoga teacher with her own studio, Yoga Grace, Kenny was looking to supplement her income, so at 54, she got back in touch with her modelling agent—a casual 20 years later.

Now, the model is busier than ever, travelling to London often for work: “It’s improved my personal style greatly,” she laughs. And while the regained modelling career brings her much joy, yoga and her sunny Ocean Grove home (where she was photographed for The MECCA Memo) is where she finds absolute happiness.

TMM: Has the fashion industry changed over the last four decades?
LK: “Oh, I think about this a lot but I still haven’t settled on an answer. As a whole, everything has changed—technology has had a big impact on fashion—but from my meagre point of view, everything’s still the same. Like at the David Jones show on Monday night, it was the same pandemonium backstage. If I was in charge I’d have two rules: no yelling and no running [laughs]. Back in the day it was the same shenanigans. Both are really, very unnecessary.”

What are the changes you are happy about?
“I am pleased, from a personal point of view, that the industry is expanding diversity on the runway and in campaigns in general. Thankfully it’s something that’s happening for women in many different fields. It’s still taking time, and we’re inching away at it, but I’m very glad to be witnessing this change in my lifetime.”

You’ve just returned from London, do you have any tips for keeping your skin shoot-ready when you’re travelling?
“On my last flight I used a Tatcha hydrating mask on the plane, they are fantastic. I always get a little worried about going straight off the plane onto a job because the flight is very dehydrating, and you’re out of your routine, so I find them fabulous. I even put one on in the cab from Heathrow. I was just sat in the back with my mask on [laughs].”

Don’t wait ‘til you’re my age to feel confident enough to call the shots in your own life.

How has teaching yoga changed you?
“I’ve been teaching now for 12 years. I can’t think of any other way of living. I don’t have to think about teaching anymore, it’s just part of me. Whatever I’m doing or wherever I am, I do yoga, and I can meditate anywhere—including with a sheet mask in the back of a cab [laughs]. When you know how to tap into it, you can do it very quickly.”

What do you think has made you successful in the industry?
“Success is two things: preparation, and opportunity. Whether it’s playing guitar, practicing yoga, whatever it is, if you keep practicing your craft, you’ll develop, and then it’s a matter of being ready. If you’re a jockey and want to get a horse, well, they aren’t going to give you one unless you’re in peak condition. It’s the same as footballers, you have to keep that preparation going all the time, and it’s the same for models.”

And yoga keeps you runway-ready?
“Yoga is my passion, I’ve been doing it for 25 years. It’s a choice I made, not to drive my modelling career, but as a lifestyle choice for my own health and wellness, and it’s impacted on my career, because I’m in pretty good shape—for any age really.”

When did you start practicing yoga?
“I can tell you exactly when, and why. I had my daughter when I was 30, and it was a difficult labour with quite a bit of intervention, so when I fell pregnant with my son, at 33, I decided I wanted to do something to facilitate a more successful and easy delivery. Learning yoga breathing techniques and positions gave me a lot more confidence, and it was a much more successful birth because of it: no intervention, a quick labour and quick birth.“

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Do you have any advice for aspiring yogis?
“Have a light-hearted approach. You can’t get too serious. People can get very serious about yoga. It’s not necessary. Practice with sincerity, but never get too serious.”

What are you currently loving in your beauty regime?
“I’m about ingredients rather than the brands, it’s important to know what’s goes into your skin care and how it’s made. At the moment, I really like African Botanics’ cleansing oil, I usually double cleanse, but with that I find just one works wonders in getting all the makeup off with one wash. Tatcha Silk Cream is really beautiful, and it sits really well under my makeup. I don’t wear a lot of makeup when I’m not working, but I really like Hourglass veil primer on my off days, it gives just a little bit of luminosity which is nice.”

Are there any regimes you attribute your glowing skin to?
“I have to say, it’s yoga. Being upside-down is very good, because all the blood flows into your face. Shoulder-stands, head-stands and handstands. That’s the secret. It’s anti-gravity, and improves circulation, and I really believe that’s assisting my complexion.”

What do you love about living by the beach?
“Living by the beach, being by the sea and regularly in the ocean is amazing for me. I think it’s great for my skin too, but I’m very careful about the sun, not as careful as I used to be, I was diligent about sunscreen when I was younger, but now I avoid it between 10 and 4. I’m often down at the beach at day break for practice.”

Your natural grey hair has become your calling card, when did you stop colouring it?
“This time, about five years ago. I tried a few times, but you get to that inch of regrowth and have an event, and say, ‘I can’t go looking like this,’ and rush off to the hairdressers. I should have just worn a head scarf! A few times I had to colour it for clients. They’d OK the grey, and then change their minds at the last minute. I wasn’t at the point of being able to stand my ground then. Now, I’m a lot more forthright about my opinion, that’s one good thing about aging, you realise you should follow the beat of your own drum. But my advice is not to wait ‘til you’re my age, to feel confident enough to call the shots in your own life.”

What kind of maintenance does it require?
“I put oil through it daily—grey hair is very drying because the colour pigment is drying out, but honestly, it’s a matter of doing less. Hairdressers aren’t my biggest fans, but my hair’s in such better condition now than ever before, and it’s individual, because it’s not out of a bottle—which makes everyone look the same. It takes three or four years to know how your grey hair will present, and it’s like your teeth or skin, everyone’s is different, but if you don’t give it a go, you’ll never know. Plus, it’s a good way to look out for the environment, and we all have to do our bit.”

Photography by Lucy Laucht
Interview by Alexandra Whiting
April 2018


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