Beginning a Modeling Career in her ‘50’s.

Growing up in Canada, it was inevitable that I would embrace outdoor activities in all seasons, however, in the dead of those long winter months, when frigid temperatures prevented any sort of outdoor fun, I immersed myself in another childhood passion, playing dress up.  As the years went on and I was in my teens, I became fascinated by fashion magazines, spending hours perusing cover to cover and wondering “what if that were me” modeling the beautiful clothes, or even being the latest “cover girl”?   Growing up as a painfully shy child, always doing my best to please others and avoid conflict in a tense family environment, the hours spent dreaming of a glamourous modeling life was a wonderful way to escape to another world.

A very excited 6 year old flower girl in a deep green velvet gown.

Embracing the Conventional

As often happens, my life took a more conventional path.  I attended college, with the aspiration to eventually attend law school and practice as an attorney, but I was steered towards a teaching degree and a respectable, stable career in the footsteps of my mother.  By the age of 23 I found myself married, teaching elementary school and the mother of a baby boy.  I embraced motherhood and loved my little boy.

Proud mom, age 23
Proud mom, age 23

My marriage was toxic from the beginning. My husband was an alcoholic and our relationship was a sad saga of emotional abuse, infidelity and degrading comments about my body and looks.  This all wounded me deeply, since for years, I suffered from low self-esteem and anxiety.  My marriage exacerbated issues that were a result of a chaotic family life and a self-imposed sense of perfection during my childhood.  I grew more self-conscious, resentful and full of shame for not being enough.

Seven years after the birth of my son, a beautiful baby girl came into my world and I hoped she would fill the void of love in my marriage.  It was a high-risk pregnancy and the miracle birth of my daughter gave me great joy, gratitude, and inspired me to do more with my life.  This experience rekindled the desire to pursue a career in modeling. Filled with excitement, I drove a hundred miles to a casting call and, to my surprise, I received a call back.  Slowly but surely, self-limiting beliefs of doubt began to creep in. Fear and anxiety took hold and I did not follow through.  The excuses were plentiful; it was too far away, my spouse and family were not supportive, it was risky to leave my stable teaching job, the kids were too little, and on and on.

With my dream put back on hold, I continued teaching and going through the daily motions of life.  As I had always done, I built up a facade of being productive and happy in my life, while underneath I was crumbling.  All the while, the pull was still there, in the back of my mind, that there was more.

My first official headshot! 

My parents raised their children to be tough and we were expected to do well and see things through. However, there were conflicting messages which led to the very self-limiting thoughts, “Don’t think too highly of yourself. Know your place. Who do you think you are?”  Further complicating my life was my relationship with food and body image.  For decades I struggled with food issues, from fad diets to bulimia, and excessive exercising.


The death of my father capped a period of mounting sadness in my life.  To deal with it all, I began working with a counselor.  I gained the strength needed to end my marriage and to eliminate other toxic people and relationships from my life.  Slowly, my family adjusted to the fact that I was leaving my marriage.  I had the support of my children before I had the support of other family members. While I found the strength and courage to set a new course, I had not dealt fully with my eating disorder.

A dreamy job on the beach in Malibu.
A dreamy job on the beach in Malibu.

Once I began to get my life back in order, I found a new love.  I met my second husband on an online chat room and we maintained a remarkable long-distance relationship for seven years before we married.   There was a magnetic pull that neither of us could deny even though I was in Canada and he was in Texas. He waited for me while I finished raising my daughter through high school and tending to my ailing mother.  His unconditional love for me never wavered.  Just before our marriage, my husband relocated to Los Angeles.  I packed up my belongings, retired from teaching and set out to start a new life in LA with my daughter and new husband.

While I was eager to get started doing things in my free time in LA, a city where there was so much opportunity, I was stuck with no direction. I muddled through, but I still didn’t feel complete. Missing the daily interaction with students, I decided to go back to teaching.

Season’s Greetings in Holiday red.
Season’s Greetings in holiday red.

Suddenly, and unexpectedly, my sister passed away which left me in a state of shock.   She did not get the chance to grow old, to retire from nursing, to spend more time with her beloved grandchildren.  I still had that privilege and I set out to discover how best to honor it.

A Model Life

Fortuitously and timely, I read a book called, The Goddess Revolution, written by UK author, Mel Wells.  The book focuses on forgiveness to abusing and shaming your body, ditching diets or fads, learning to eat and exercise intuitively in a healthy balanced manner. My daughter (who had food issues since childhood) and I enrolled in Mel’s online academy and worked through the course together.

I also enrolled in Mel’s new course, The Sisterhood, comprised of a small group of women from around the globe, skyping in to discuss life on a more spiritual level.  This course dug deep in to my inner self which led me to open up to the true passion burning within me, to truly identify what I really wanted to do. I needed to empower and embrace who I wanted to be.   Through a great deal of journaling, self-reflection and tears, something magical began to happen. I began to give myself permission to live a bigger life, to step into who I was meant to be.  I began to understand my self-worth and confirmed that what I had always wanted to pursue was modeling and, if I was to pursue it, it needed to be now.  I was finally confident and comfortable in my body size and shape, and as a mid-life model, I didn’t need to be a size 0.

Barbara Holmes achieves lifelong ambition of becoming a model:Representing an empowering women’s brand of tee shirts.
Representing an empowering women’s brand of tee shirts.

At the age of 57, I finally realized a lifelong dream and launched a new career as a model, signing with an agent. I’ve broadened my horizons by taking acting lessons.  So, I guess you could say I am officially a model and an actress!   I’ve been very busy auditioning and booking all sorts of interesting jobs.  Walking into that first audition was one of the scariest things I have ever done.  The auditions are not easy, but I look to them as a source of excitement and fun.  I feel that I’m finally living an authentic life, doing what feels right in my heart and soul.

Both of my children offer a great deal of support, always wanting to know what I’m up to, what auditions I’ve been to, what jobs I’ve booked. My daughter has calmed my nerves, communicates with me daily, and always has something nice and supportive to say.  My husband, remains a pillar of unconditional love and support, is my biggest cheerleader, best friend, and partner in crime.  I am blessed to have this wonderful family. I feel vibrant and young at heart yet privileged to have a wealth of new life experiences giving me perspective and wisdom.



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Karen Catapano: A Career Transformation from Nurse to Goat Farmer!

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5 Responses

  1. What a great article! I have had the privilege of watching Barbara grow and realize her dream. I have seen and felt her power rise as she changed her life and influenced the lives of others with her amazing spirit. You cant help but love her! She lifts my spirit each day! This life chapter is so much fun and I am very lucky indeed to be in it with her! Way to go Barbie, your big guy loves you!!

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