Supermodel Smarts: Veronica Webb On Owning Your Age & Making Menopause Work For You
7 min read
By Dana Wood | June 10, 2020
As the first black American to score a major beauty contract, and one of the original Victoria's Secret Angels, legendary Nineties supermodel Veronica Webb has long been in the business of breaking new ground. But as she recently told O magazine, getting older has been a straight-up professional challenge. "I was dead in the water," she said of her modeling career. "No one wanted to book women my age, even if you didn't have wrinkles and were in shape. Over 50 meant you were out of the game."
Resourceful, endlessly intellectually curious and brutally honest, she developed Webb On The Fly, a digital platform for showcasing everything she's currently into and exploring, from TruSculpt fat-burning treatments on her hips and belly to her outfit of the day and how she really feels about her changing body at midlife. In an in-depth post with the tongue in cheek title "My Friend Menopause," Webb definitely spills the tea.
Connect the Dots caught up with Webb, who lives in New York City, smack-dab in the middle of the pandemic. But despite all that was going on right outside her door, and with her teenage children claiming plenty of mindshare, she couldn't have been more gracious and present about life at age 55.
Connect the Dots: Do you feel like you were adequately prepared for menopause? Did you know what to expect?
Veronica Webb: I was completely blindsided.
CtD: You hadn't done any reading about it?
Webb: I had, but I really didn't know how much there was to know. It's kind of like the way people don't really read anything about pregnancy until they get pregnant. Then they really get into it.
But nobody really decides to go into menopause, right? It just happens.
Also, you're so far outside of a group setting that would have you talking about menopause. Unlike when you go into puberty, you're in school, and you're with a whole group of people who are kind of doing it at the same time. So you anticipate the education about it, and everyone talks about it, and you know it's happening to everybody else.
And with menopause, you just...don't. You're kind of isolated.
CtD: For me, I found the hardest part to be perimenopause. I just felt super crazy during my late 40s. The mood swings were just extreme.
Webb: I didn't have so much mood swings as I had, like, sweats. I had sweats. I had diminished grip. And I had a lot of dryness. And it happens very fast.
My perimenopause really didn't last very long. And I was kind of caught off-guard because my sisters, who are older than me by seven and eight years, hadn't started to go through it yet.
And my mother...I went through menopause at about 48, and my mother had me at the age of 46.
Webb: I know. So I just didn't anticipate perimenopause. And that's the thing; it's different between sisters. There can be a significant difference between sisters with menopause, unlike puberty.
CtD: So about the "diminished grip" you mentioned earlier...I read about that on your Webb On the Fly blog, too. That relates to the expression "you're losing your grip," right?
Webb: Yes, you're losing your grip because estrogen controls the strength and flexibility of your tendons. Just think about Braxton-Hicks contractions when you have a baby. All of a sudden those big tendons that run down your abdominal wall just lose it because of changes in estrogen.
CtD: Is there anything you can do about diminished grip?
Webb: You can exercise and do HRT.
CtD: Which leads me to my next question: What's your position on HRT?
Webb: It works for me. I'm not someone who is a universal advocate. I'm not an anti-vaxxer and I'm not a pro-vaxxer. I'm not a pro-hormone person and I'm not an anti-hormone person.
Because everyone's body is so different. But as long as you and your physician have control, that's a good deal.
CtD: I guess I'm just wondering how long we stay on it. We can't take it forever, right?
Webb: Well, you have to change it around. There are different therapies, and you need to change it up. Because every five years or so, your body changes. So you'll have to revisit it in five years.
CtD: What kind of doctor do you like to go to for hormone therapy? A GP, or someone who is a little more integrative?
Webb: If you can find an OB who specializes in perimenopause and menopause, that's ideal. Your GP should be able to help you, of course, because they want to make you healthy and well. But at the same time, let me just say that the more interested a person is in a particular subject, the more they tend to know about it, and the more passionate they are about following the issues.
CtD: What have you found to be the biggest challenge of menopause?
Webb: Energy. I just have this huge dip in energy. I think that as we age, our cellular turnover gets slower. And I think for women, our bodies change so much - which is what we're built to do, which is fantastic.
Our bodies change constantly. We go through all kinds of butterfly metamorphoses. Every 28 days we get our period - that's a huge change.
I think when we lose a lot of our hormones, or when our hormones change, that really robs us of a lot of energy.
CtD: So what have you done - or are you doing - to counteract that energy dip?
Webb: HRT is one way. Then I'm also thinking about ways to use my body that are smarter rather than harder. I'm still doing intense workouts, but I'm making them shorter. Like, say, doing Tabata [an HIIT-style workout done in four-minute increments] rather than going to the gym and grinding and shredding. Tabata's very effective and less wearing on my overall energy.
And maybe instead of running as much, I'm adding in walking. And just being easier on myself, and not feeling like I'm inadequate or no good because I'm not doing the hardest, most intense, ridiculous workout and trying to keep up with every 20-year-old in the gym. That just isn't my job anymore.
CtD: What about nutrition? Are you doing anything differently with that?
Webb: Well I gain weight a lot easier now, so a lot of my french fry and red wine indulgences have to be curbed. I do like vulture fasts. Because it's really hard for me, with the changes I'm experiencing with my energy level, to do real intermittent fasting. I used to do intermittent fasting all the time before menopause, but now I'll do a vulture fast.
CtD: What exactly is a "vulture fast"? I've never heard of that.
Webb: Like one day you'll have an avocado, and five or six servings of bone broth. And you do that maybe one day a week.
And you get all the benefits of a full intermittent fast, but without putting so much stress on not eating or so much stress on the body to produce energy without food.
CtD: I know you drink a lot of water.
Webb: Yes. But you know what else is a huge challenge in menopause? Sleep is a huge challenge, and that's also what robs you of energy. You're not sleeping.
CtD: So what do you do for that?
Webb: I go to bed a lot earlier. Sometimes it's good to treat yourself the same way you would right after you've had a baby.
Like I start laying down at 9 o'clock, if I can. And it's about always having a book by the bed, always having water by the bed. Wearing cotton or silk pajamas. Making sure I get up as early as I can, which gives me a better chance of being really tired during the day. So when it's time to go to bed, I'm not restless.
CtD: I've heard you're in an upcoming documentary about menopause. What can you tell us about that?
Webb: It's being produced by WGBH, which is PBS out of Boston.
Dr. Tara Allmen, she's an OB/Gyn who specializes in menopause, was actually the one who suggested me for the documentary. And basically it's pretty much the same questions you're asking me right now.
CtD: So it's an exploration of the topic of menopause?
CtD: What did you think about Gwyneth Paltrow's comment a while back that she thinks "menopause needs a re-brand"?
Webb: Here's the thing: we need to talk about it. People don't talk about it. For me, when it first happened, I thought, "Oh my god, I've lost my mojo." And part of it is how much we value youth and sexiness and sexuality. So we don't think of women who are older as being...
CtD: Sexually viable?
Webb: Or even sexy! I don't think people get as far as "sexually viable." So does menopause need a re-brand? We just need to talk about it. I don't think it even has a brand because no one talks about.
CtD: To me, it seems tied to the whole notion of nobody wanting to talk about how old they are because they don't want to be kicked out of the job market. But our age is the one thing we have zero control over; you don't get a say over when you're born. So why are so many people shamed around it? I don't get it.
Webb: We're shamed around it because we don't respect age in our culture. And it's also because with women, especially, the older people think you are, the more they think you're going to be...tired.
And in some part, that's true. But skill versus energy - sometimes the former cancels the latter out.
CtD: Excellent food for thought! Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us about menopause and staying vibrant and healthy as we age.