'Women over 40 are dead': Model Kathy Jacobs, 57, proves doubters wrong with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit spread

Kerry Justich
·3 min read

Kathy Jacobs may be 57 but the model and actress is still embracing her title as "rookie" when it comes to her spread in the 2021 issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit.

"I'm the oldest rookie that I've ever even known for anything," she tells Yahoo Life. "But I feel like that inspires people."

Kathy Jacobs is making her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit debut at 57 years old. (Photo: Instagram/Sports Illustrated)
Kathy Jacobs is making her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit debut at 57 years old. (Photo: Instagram/Sports Illustrated)

Jacobs likens herself to Robert De Niro's character in the movie The Intern, simply by breaking the mold of what or who people imagine a rookie to be. Instead of allowing that perception to deter her from achieving her goals, however, the Texas-native explains that society's limiting ideas of older women have never really limited her own beliefs in herself.

"When I was 40, I remember I went into an audition to a commercial agent and the agent looked at me and said, 'Women over 40 are dead.' And I was taken back a second. I'm like, I feel very much alive. And he goes, 'No, women over 40 are dead. Nobody wants to see them,'" she recalls. "So, I definitely felt it that way from other people, but I just never believed it myself. ... I've never really had that feeling of 'I'm so old' or 'I'm not relevant,' even when people around me would tell me that I was."

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In fact, Jacobs has seemingly always chased dreams that were just out of reach — pointing out that her most difficult obstacle to becoming a model was her height at 5 foot 3 inches.

"I was trying to get petite models on the map, to get short girls on the map and to get equality for the short girls over almost 35 years ago," she explains of her time as a model in New York. "People see me as breaking molds because I'm old, but the short thing for me is way worse than being older. I mean, I even tried to contact my old agent from New York and they're like, 'You're too short, clients only want tall girls.'"

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But with a new Los Angeles agency on her side, campaigns and commercials booked and a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue under her belt, Jacobs realizes that it's the adversity that she's faced and overcome that makes her both relatable and inspirational to those seeing her work. She also recognizes that it's powerful to know that her inclusion in the publication at the age of 57 isn't a comeback, but instead it's a new beginning.

"You're not too old and it's not too late," she says is her motto. "I'm just a regular person who rose up from the ashes and just wants something and is still trying to do something to better her life at this age. And I think that makes it really relatable to people."

And while she hopes that more doors will open for women of all ages to chase their dreams in any industry, she also encourages them to believe in themselves.

"It's just a matter of believing in yourself and seeing other people do it and then it makes it sort of okay for you to go along and do it too," Jacobs says.

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