February 20, 2008 — Tonight marks the grand finale of the eighth annual MORE/Wilhelmina 40+ Model Search, with guests gathering at New York’s Cipriani 42nd Street for a gala fashion show and reception.
The 10 finalists, ranging in age from 40 to 51, were selected from over 14,000 entries in this year’s contest.
Joan Allen (pictured with daughter Sadie, 14) hosts the event — glowing with confidence at 51. For the actress, the evening’s highlight is being inspired by the 10 fabulous finalists: "They’re all beautiful and unique in their own ways," she explained. "They’re accomplished; they have great families; and they all have a radiance about them. This night is really about them."
Newly-named MORE Editor-in-Chief Lesley Jane Seymour, who co-hosts the event, explains, "This year’s Model Search is particularly exciting because we are celebrating our finalists — 10 MORE women — in our 10th anniversary year. They represent a diverse range of occupations, from television host to Pilates instructor to pastry chef. They are all stunning."
The finalists walk the runway wearing looks by designer Heidi Weisel (pictured), who lauds the 40+ models’ poise: "They’re celebrating themselves. They’re happy, confident, sexy; they appreciate fashion and they know what works for their bodies. We’re not fitting 16-year-old models — these women all have different body types, different heights. It’s about them feeling good."
For two days straight, the women receive a crash course in modeling: learning to pose, attending fittings, and on the morning of the event, waking at four a.m. to prepare for their MORE photo shoot. Here, they practice their runway struts before the finals event.
The first name called: second runner-up Julia Jordan, a 46-year-old business owner from Lancaster, New York. "Shocking" is how she later describes the moment. The best part about being over 40, according to Julia? "Now life really begins!" Julia will receive a $5,000 modeling contract from Wilhelmina.
Elizabeth James-Lipscomb, 43, an advertising firm owner from West Bend, Wisconsin, is the next model to walk a runway victory lap. "I felt like a princess at a ball," she says. "I entered a modeling contest when I was 12, and here I am, finally, 31 years later." As first runner-up, she’ll receive a $10,000 Wilhelmina contract.
Finally, the grand prize winner is revealed: Chung Winstanley, 45, a project management consultant from Short Hills, New Jersey. The mother of three will receive a $15,000 modeling contract. "The past two days have been hard work," she says. "It felt like a management training course — a really, really intense one!"