Li Anna (center right), a 64-year-old model from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on stage with her modeling team.[Photo/Xinhua]
URUMQI - Li Anna, a 64-year-old model from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, said it is never too late to feel beautiful.
A retired researcher for a cultural center, Li started modeling part time when she was 36 years old. Before that, she knew nothing about the catwalk.
"I attended a model contest for the first time in 1990. After a week's training, I was fascinated by the feeling of walking on the runway," she said.
Now, despite her advancing years, she said she still believes she can be as elegant and beautiful as a younger model in their 20s or 30s. "The elderly should have confidence," she added.
In the final of China's Miss Tourism International 2015, Li won in the category for women age 40 and over. "It might be my proudest moment," she said. "I showed the beauty of Chinese seniors to the world."
In 2016, Li set up a modeling team for the elderly, hoping to attract more seniors to join the profession.
Last year, China was home to 241 million people age 60 or over, accounting for 17.3 percent of the population. By 2050, that's forecast to hit 487 million and 34.9 percent respectively, according to the Office of the National Working Commission on Aging.
The growing senior population is a sign of the country's health and medical improvements. But observers say the elderly need more choice in terms of social activities to live happy and healthy lives.
"Beauty has nothing to do with age, and the elderly should pursue beauty like young people do," Li said. "But models should always remember that what they are showing is clothes, not themselves."
Li's team now has more than 100 members, with the average age being 50.
Guo Xiaojuan, 51, was among the first to sign up. She said it was the first time she had worn high heels for almost 10 years.
"I once thought that only young people could walk on catwalks. When I stand on the runway, I feel confident enough to challenge them," she said.
Wang Yihua, a fashion designer based in Xinjiang, said Li performs like a top professional model. "She always shows the audience whatever I want to express through my designs," Wang said.
To keep fit, Li said she drinks only yogurt and eats a few nuts for dinner.
"I see being a model as an attitude toward life - keeping beautiful and elegant no matter how old you are, and no matter whether you're on the runway or the sidewalk," she said.