Sue was a successful food writer for many years before making an unexpected transition into the arts world. Sue featured in the film Fabulous Fashionistas and was one of the stars of the recent Bright Old Things campaign for Selfridges.
“Ageing is a blessing, of course it is; what’s the alternative? We’re so lucky to be alive – it’s time travel! There is an old lady revolution going on right now and we’re becoming much more visible. People are living longer and living better. A lot of advertisers are using older women and the silver pound phenomenon is helping to change attitudes. I feel I’m a pioneer as I’m very vocal and do a lot of public speaking on ageism. I’m also very active on social media.
I get to make things every day of my life. I exhibit all over the world.
I honestly didn’t register that I was an old lady until I was in Fabulous Fashionistas and realised it was a film about old people. I loved being a part of it. We didn’t know the power it was going to have – but it went viral and it’s given me a cult following. I was also one of the first people to feature on Ari Seth Cohen’s blog Advanced Style, which was later made into a film.
I grew up in Washington Heights, Manhattan. My father was a photographer but my mother was not in the slightest bit creative. She was also an incredibly bad cook – she murdered food. I had no idea it was such a delight until later. I taught myself a lot and made a successful career of it. My parents died before I went into cooking and neither of them have seen my art but sometimes I think it’s just as well. Lots of people don’t understand it.
I have no regrets; everything that’s happened, good and bad, has brought me to this point and I have an amazing life. I met my husband in high school when I was 15 and he was 16. He works in Cambridge and I work in London so we have separate lives during the week and then spend weekends together and go to New York a few times a year. That’s the secret to our happy marriage. He’s a scientist but he is very supportive of my art, as is my son Shawm, who lives around the corner from me here, in east London.
My arts career took me entirely by surprise. Perhaps it was a psychotic break! I was editing my 27th cookbook in my study and my hand picked up a marker and drew a mermaid on a piece of paper. I looked at the mermaid and she looked at me and I suddenly became insanely obsessed with drawing. I turned into a crazy woman. I was drawing day and night. My agent thought I’d lost my mind. My family thought I was mad. Lots of my friends couldn’t understand. I kept it a secret for a long time – I guess I was a closet artist.
I’ve never tried to make my art a commercial thing, but things just seem to keep happening to me – life just keeps falling into my lap. Selfridges gave me the biggest window in Bright Old Things and let me do whatever I wanted. It made history; people flew in from other countries to see it. Whenever I was there I would get mobbed – it was the most wonderful feeling of celebrity. It was once in a lifetime. The creative director of Selfridges told me it was the best window in their history. I got two book offers after that.
I get to make things every day of my life. I exhibit all over the world. I’m in demand as an artist! I consider myself a work of art and every morning, I don’t get dressed, I curate myself. I can’t take my art with me when I leave the house, so I wrap myself in it. I’m a walking collage. Instead of being locked up in a lunatic bin, I’ve become world famous for being a weird old lady – it’s the best thing that ever happened to me!
I believe we are all ageless but we’re not immortal. You have to make every day count. I try my best to take care of myself but it’s also a matter of genes. I don’t believe in botox or plastic surgery. Just be who you are for God’s sake – accept that this is what time does to us.
My life motto? Don’t wear beige, it might kill you!”