Midlife Magic: Yorkshire older model and style guru Bernadette Gledhill to give her style tips for midlife women at Goldsborough Hall event
As a teenager, Bernadette Gledhill’s mother sent her to a charm school to improve her confidence and deportment. “I was very conscious of the fact that I was so much taller than my friends and my mother was forever saying ‘stand up straight’,” she says.
A year after leaving school, she headed to London to become a model. “The contrast of being brought up in a small village on the outskirts of Halifax to checking into a new agency in Old Bond Street London was a massive step. I look back now and wonder how I actually did it,” she says.
Bernadette worked as a successful fashion model for two decades, until she gave it up in her late 30s after becoming increasingly involved in the business side. She lives near Huddersfield and has worked as a specialist fashion events organiser for three decades. Her eponymous company runs catwalk events across the north of England, including, since 2002, at the Great Yorkshire Show. But she has also, in her 60s, recently returned to her modelling career.
“During the pandemic, when we couldn’t do events, I missed the involvement of being with people, working in the industry, and I had no idea whether events would ever return,” she says. So she joined the books of Manchester-based J’Adore Models, which launched a Classic division in 2021. She had been noticing a trend towards 40+ models for several years. “It was something that was always in the back of my mind. Quite a few people had approached me.”
As soon as she stepped back in front of the cameras, it was as if she had never been away, she says. She now regularly heads off for fashion shoots and shows across the country, including at London Fashion Week and recently at Manchester Fashion Institute, where she was the only classic model. “I hadn’t done a casting for myself for years. I had to arrive and strut my stuff. I was smiling to myself, because they ask you all the questions - ‘have you had any experience?’
The young models were impressed and fascinated by her longevity in the business which, she admits, is very different now. “I was very lucky, I always worked with great people and I didn’t really encounter anything that was a huge problem for me. The only thing is that it was a much tougher situation then. You didn’t ask any questions, you just did what you were told to do.
"I think it was that era, that time, for whatever career you were in, whereas now, younger models are far more upfront than we were - they want to know everything, how much money am I getting, how many hours am I working? It’s a much freer industry and much better for it.”
Bernadette is often asked by 40+ women to share her style philosophy and experience, which is exactly what she will do when she joins three friends - TV presenter Christine Talbot, body image guru and podcaster, Rachel Peru, and TV personality and model Annie Stirk - for a special all-day event called Find Your Midlife Magic, at Goldsborough Hall in North Yorkshire on October 3. It will focus on navigating the midlife years, covering health, hormones, skincare, style, physical and mental health, and new life patterns.
Actor and writer Gaynor Faye, who sadly lost her mother, renowned screenwriter Kay Mellor, last year, is the keynote speaker and will be chatting to Christine on stage about her experiences of life and loss. Bernadette will be joined by not one but two former British Hairdressers of the Year, celebrity hairdresser Andrew Barton and Robert Eaton, creative director of Russell Eaton.
As well as giving style and hair advice, they will transform two winners of a Midlife Magic makeover competition, with John Lewis & Partners Leeds providing outfits and make-up artistry. Also taking part are motivational speaker Lisa Clifford, campaigner and model influencer Manraj K Sanghera, TV doctor writer and menopause expert Dr Jane Gilbert and celebrity life coach Lisa Clifford.
For Bernadette, wellbeing has had to become her priority, with rest and sleep at the top of her list. In November, she lost her husband of 40 years, Robert, to pancreatic cancer. “The shock was huge and for three months I did nothing,” she says. “I have been incredibly fortunate to have a massive support network of friends, family and colleagues, but work has been my saviour.”
Travel, too, has helped, revisiting the places they discovered and loved together. “I have so many memories now and I am very grateful that, before Robert’s illness, he had enjoyed 13 years of retirement. It is very different for me now but I will definitely continue and work my way slowly around my bucket list. I have returned to Lanzarote, Italy and Spain. I know that Robert would be so proud, and it is exactly what he wanted me to do.”
Bernadette has never dieted. She walks and practises yoga. Her model booker Jess Ludlam at J’adore Models says it is hugely important that models such as Bernie - as she is known on her model card - are seen. “Representation needs to be real and diverse so that consumers feel seen and heard,” Jess says. “We should not be ignoring a huge percentage of our population or perpetuating a myth that women over a certain age are invisible and unimportant.
“We only grow when we are out of our comfort zones and, as a model, you need to embrace that mindset to let clients imagine you for their brand. The more creative we get, the more boundaries we are potentially pushing by broadening the expectations of others.
“Bernie brings class and energy to everything she does and wants to grow for herself - and that's the kind of attitude we love.”
*Find Your Midlife Magic takes place at Goldsborough Hall in North Yorkshire on October 3. Tickets £125, see www.goldsboroughhall.com/whatson/midlifemagicevent. The day will also raise money for the Little Princess Trust, with the main prize a two-night stay at the idyllic Casale San Pietro, not far from Rome in Italy. See Instagram: @bernadette_gledhill and @findyourmidlifemagic @casalesanpietro_hotel
About the event: Midlife women are often referred to as the “sandwich generation” regularly facing the dual pressures of caring for ageing parents while still parenting or grand parenting younger family members – literally in the middle of their own competing life stresses. The Yorkshire Fab Four are on a mission to help change all this and will be joined on the day by a stellar line up of guest speakers, which include the award-winning actor and writer Gaynor Faye who will be talking with Christine Talbot sharing her story of how she is navigating her own journey through midlife as a working mum and daughter.
- Dr Jane Gilbert who is a qualified doctor, graduating from St Mary's Hospital Medical School (Imperial College, London) and now works as a health writer and presenter, in the medical and wellbeing fields. Dr.Jane has a keen interest in supporting women through the challenges of the menopause and other midlife health issues.
- Flamboyant and fun celebrity hair stylist Andrew Barton will also be bringing his expert tips and advice as well as carrying out some transformative makeovers with Robert Eaton and Bernadette providing some style and fashion advice with her trademark flair. The Midlife Magic Day is supported by the Styling and Makeup Team from John Lewis, Leeds. There will also be panel talks with time for open Q&A’s.
Find Your Midlife Magic will take place from 9.30 am to 5pm on Tuesday October 3in the beautiful setting of Goldsborough Hall.