"I try not to worry too much, especially about the small things. Just accept it and go on," she said about her secret to looking good at 99.
A California great-grandmother is bringing new meaning to the adage "aging like a fine wine." Helene Simon—better known as Nanna to her six kids, 11 grandkids, and six great-grandkids—recently became the newest model for her granddaughter Laney Crowell's beauty line, Saie, and proved to be an instant hit online. Talking to PEOPLE about the modeling for the brand, Simon admitted that she had her doubts when Crowell approached her with the idea shortly after her 99th birthday. "I'd seen all the beautiful models, and I was no competition for that," she said.
However, Crowell—who broached the subject with her Nanna after one of her Instagram followers suggested it—remained persistent in her efforts despite Simon's hesitation. "I actually was very strategic about it," the founder of the clean beauty brand explained. "I enlisted my dad, my aunts, my cousins, my cousin's significant others, my husband, I think I even had my daughters—Nanna's great-grandchildren—try to convince her. It took a few weeks. I think the turning point was when I found a photographer who had photographed Nanna's favorite basketball player, Steph Curry. I think that was the tipping point."
Thanks to her family's encouragement, Simon agreed to star in Saie's Keep Glowing shoot. She is now believed to be one of the oldest makeup models in the world. "It's been a big surprise and it's been a lot of fun," the almost-centenarian said. "I was delighted. The shoot was particularly fun. I had lots of my family around and they had all kinds of suggestions and laughs. It was just really a good time. It has been a fun experience and put a little pizzazz in my life. I've enjoyed it — every bit of it."
Simon, who lives in San Rafael, California, added that although she's been soaking up the whole experience, she'd never imagined her life taking such a turn. "It never occurred to me. I liked looking good, but in my early days, I didn't use much makeup," she said. "Now I use as little as possible, but Saie—their makeup just goes on so easily and looks so natural that it's fun to use. I guess I'm thinking more about it now than I have other times in my life." Nanna revealed that her favorite Saie products include the Slip Tint moisturizer, Mascara 101, Dew Blush in Poppy, and Liquid Lip Balm and that she uses all of them daily.
"As an entrepreneur who is running my own business, having my grandmother use my products is maybe one of my favorite parts. It's so cool," said Crowell. "When I went home for Nanna's birthday and I saw them on her night table, I had to take a picture of it because it was such a moment for me of knowing that my grandma was using the products that we make and work so hard on." Although she's been able to experience several exciting moments since embarking on her modeling journey, Simon revealed that her favorite part has been "the newness of it all" and getting glam for the photoshoots.
"That was unbelievable. I could do that every day," she said. "I would also say the response from my six children has been something. This is a mom that they didn't realize they had." Meanwhile, Crowell, cherishes the lasting memories that she has created with the beloved matriarch of her family. "It's been so fun just getting to talk all the time and laugh," she said.
"Seeing her face on her Instagram was really cool, and then I can't even tell you how many messages we got about Nanna's images and this whole campaign being a breath of fresh air. I got a message yesterday from someone saying they bought Saie for the first time because of Nanna's photos. Someone the other day was saying it's just so refreshing to see someone who looks so beautiful and comfortable and isn't doing anything other than just being themselves." When asked about Simon's secret to looking good at 99, she said: "I try not to worry too much, especially about the small things. Just accept it and go on."