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Your Life Calling

Dawn Nakamura-Kessler Is a True Model of Perseverance

Heart condition doesn't stop her from modeling at 50

How did it feel to be modeling at this stage in life?

It was scary because I thought, what if I don't remember how to model, how to pose. I thought, I'm going to have to cover my dark circles or lines. Then I started thinking, well gosh, they've got to know somebody my age has dark circles and lines. Then, I wasn't too sure I was ever going to get booked. When they called me for my first job, they said it was a magazine cover for a national magazine. They said, "they have just about narrowed it down that they want to use you, but they want to see you in person." And I thought, oh God, what happens if I show up and they think my pictures are better than I look? I walked in; it felt like I had to walk about 10 miles to get to the art director. And I get up to them and they said, "Oh my God, you're even more beautiful than your pictures, we'd love to use your for our cover." And I said, "Yes, that would be great!"

What do you think the modeling agency saw in you?

I think it was that I'm incredibly fit and I'm really exotic. They always comment on my smile and say I have "great hair." Also, in photo shoots, they can blend me in with other people, whether they're white, Hispanic or African American.

The modeling world has changed a lot during your lifetime. How have you seen this personally?

When I was younger I would have loved to model and I did a little bit, nothing significant. But I had buck teeth, kinky curly hair, big brown eyes and a brownish-black face. I was not the perception of beauty in the mainstream world. It was a very Christie Brinkley, blonde hair, blue-eyed world back in the late '70s. Now it's a whole different ballgame for me. I mean, people look like me in ads, and the market is older.

So what does your son think about your second act?

I think he's proud, until somebody says something like, "oh your mom's hot." I think that makes him feel uncomfortable. But I think overall he's really proud and he's really happy that I'm doing something for myself.

What's your outlook on life at this moment?

I'm living life. I just hadn't planned on living. So now I'm at this, "now what am I going to do?" And luckily, the thing that I have the interest in doing is modeling, and I'm doing it.

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