NZ Woman's Weekly

Sexier in my sixties

Her SuperGold card is due to arrive in the post, but 1960s Kiwis beauty queen Sue Pellet will need more than a free bus ticket to get her through her adrenaline-filled bucket list.

Fed up with people expecting her to take up knitting and join the local bowls cub, Sue (64) decided to take a leaf out of a famous hexagenarian’s book, and prove to everyone – and herself – that getting older doesn’t matter.

“When I saw [Dame] Helen Mirren in that red bikini, I thought, ‘Good on you,’” the Tauranga nurse says.

“People seem to think that as you get older, you’re supposed to let yourself go and not care any more, but it’s just simply not the case. And how amazing does Helen look?”

Racy in red, Sue was inspired by Dame Helen.

Despite the fact that Sue is a former model and beauty pageant winner, taking the titles of Miss Horowhenua 1968 and Mrs New Zealand 1985, she has no fear of ageing.

In fact, she loves getting older and is determined to make the most of the wisdom that comes with it.

“I’ve never thought, ‘Gosh, I shouldn’t be doing this and that because I’m old,’ or ‘I shouldn’t be wearing a bikini because it’s not age appropriate,’” Sue laughs.

“I’ll live my life the way I want to, thank you very much. I’m not going to stop enjoying it because there’s a number next to my name. It’s crazy to let a number rule your life.”

As Mrs New Zealand, she made the top 10 at the Mrs Women of the World Contest finals in Hawaii.

A former nurse of geriatrics, Sue says she used to feel for her patients, who believed they were “past their use-by dates”, and vowed never to think the same way.

“They thought they should be thrown on the pile because they were too old. But you can’t let yourself get into that state of mind,” says Sue.

“I also remember my mum – she and her friends always seemed so much older than they were, purely because it was what was expected.

Sue with Miss New Zealand Racing Paula Ryan, who is now a magazine icon and successful clothing designer.

“They didn’t have much of a life after bringing up the family. Sure, she belonged to the Country Women’s Institute and baked sponges, but I don’t think she got to do a lot of things she wanted to.”

Indeed, the mum-of-two and grandmother-of-two has decided that wing walking is next – the act of moving across a plane’s wingspan while it’s flying. And before her 65th birthday.

Modelling for Australian jewellery brand Oroton.

“As I’ve got older, I’ve become much more of a risk taker,” she says.

“Maybe it’s because you start to realise that there’s not a lot of time left and you just have to start getting out and doing things.”

Although she looks incredible for her 64 years, Sue hasn’t had any work done and has no beauty secrets, but admits a lot of it is related to fantastic genes.

The only strict lifestyle creed she follows is to stay active and busy.

Catching the eyes of the judges at the Miss Horowhenua contest in 1968.

“I’ve never been on a diet or anything like that, and I’ve never been able to walk past a doughnut shop without buying one, but I’ve always been on the go, so I guess I just burn everything off,” she says.

But it also comes down to having the right attitude, Sue adds – and although she’s had her hang-ups over the years, she’s found more body confidence now than ever before, even when she was modelling in the 1960s and 1970s.

“I think we worry about getting through life, instead of actually living it,” she says.

Sue (second left), pictured here with her sisters Liz, Jan and Rob, credits good genes for her lasting looks.

With an action-packed few years ahead of her, including driving a car rally, Sue has no plans to slow down.

“Sitting at home with a book and doing nothing would be my worst nightmare,” she says.

“You need to make the most out of every day. The way I see it, life is like a laboratory. Each day is a new experiment!”

Kelly Bertrand Photos: michelle hyslop • hair & make-up: kate smith • stylist: Tamzyn Elliott • P32 (main): sue’s seafolly swimsuit from hot body. P33 (main): Sue’s suit from andrea mMore, shirt from trenery, shoes from mi piaci, necklace from diva

About Kelly Bertrand

“I started at the Weekly after a two-week internship in 2011, which was part of my journalism studies. Basically, I hung around and annoyed people long enough to land a job as a staff writer, and I’ve been here ever since. I’m lucky enough to get to write stories ranging from the Kardashians through to the Queen, but my real passion is telling the stories of New Zealand’s sporting stars. Sometimes I can’t quite believe it’s my job to hang out with All Blacks and Silver Ferns! I absolutely love working at the Weekly, and feel really privileged to be part of this 83-year-old Kiwi institution. I’m also fond of Instagram, coffee and animals dressed as humans!”

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