Maye Musk- An Independent Woman

A Woman Makes A Plan- Advice for A Lifetime of Adventure, Beauty and Success by Maye Musk and Conversation at the 92nd Street Y- Maye Musk with Joi Gordon-Director of Dress For Success

If you’re aware of Maye Musk, it’s likely either because of a frequently run Cover Girl commercial at the age of 71 or the fact she sired famous son, Elon. Her book is an autobiography of sorts, the sketch of a formidable woman who made mistakes, repeatedly started from scratch, yet raised three over-achieving children.

Musk managed this by being pragmatic and persistent; taking every job offered as odd-model-out, building a respected practice founded on a Master’s degree in dietetics from the University of The Orange Free State in South Africa and one in nutritional science from the University of Toronto. She has decidedly not ridden on anyone’s coattails.

Today’s Y audience is predictably comprised of women. There are also half a dozen men. I overhear one tell another that his mother-in-law is an age at which the book might be helpful, but he’s here “for me too.” Someone I meet at the box office shares that in reading the book, its author’s extraordinary life/character makes advice hard to personalize. She’s determined to see for herself.

Needless to say, Musk is especially striking. Apparently dressed for 40 years by her best friend (initially having no fashion sense), she showcases understated style, edgy, a la mode hair, wonderful bones, perfect posture, and a ready smile. The author is thoughtful, sincere, charming, optimistic, and principled.

Glimpses of steel rest just behind a brief moment of vulnerability. Asked about the challenges of being a single mother, she literally chokes, “It’s better than being in an abusive relationship when you’re told three times a day how ugly, stupid and boring you are.” While she brags about her children (in person and rather too much in the book), questions referring to other accomplishments merely elicit a shrug.

Born in Canada, raised in South Africa, today’s speaker had two imaginative, peripatetic parents and four siblings. The family often went on adventurous expeditions. Imagine five kids camping in the desert for two weeks in search of the fabled Lost City of the Kalahari.  It’s easy to assume Musk inherited her can-do approach to life. “We didn’t have any fear.”

Two professions evolved hand in hand. An accidental model since teenage years, her slim body was not a constant. She loves the wrong foods and, an emotional binger, has gone up and down 65 pounds several times. What we see is discipline supported by good feelings based in healthy eating.

Musk has been both a plus size and token older model, carrying hairpieces, make-up, and her own shoes. In New York, she stopped coloring her blonde hair, let it grow out, and cut it off. She walked her first New York Fashion Week runway at age 67. Career advice? Put yourself out there on social media.

The same tenacity served her alternate career.  Musk lived in 8 cities and 3 countries, opening successive private practices, beginning again and again. Calling 25 doctors would secure a single client. Everywhere she landed, credit was an issue; finding homes and schools for the kids had to be negotiated. There was a great deal of bean soup and peanut butter on the menu. Her children learned to be as independent as mom.

Like many (most?) women, she often changed for men and regretted it. There are discouraging pages about internet dating. Recommendations include don’t keep tempting food in the house, but don’t constantly deny yourself, move on from adversity, put yourself out there. There are no add-water-and-stir-lessons. At 71, Maye Musk serves as example, living her best life. Her hashtag is #ItsGreatToBe71. Beat that.

A Woman Makes A Plan- Advice for A Lifetime of Adventure, Beauty and Success is filled with simple truths and unequivocal encouragement. It’s an entertaining saga of self-creation. There are no make-up and only a single meal tip.

Dress for Success, in 160 cities and 29 countries, “is an international not-for-profit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.” Maye Musk has been an enthusiastic spokeswoman for the worthy organization about a year.

About Alix Cohen (745 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of eight New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.