Known for her cutting-edge style and dramatic sunglasses, 64-year-old Lyn Slater has attracted a loyal following with over 225,000 Instagram followers — most of them young people inspired by her artistic snaps and nonconformist message.
“I think I’ve always been this way,” Slater told NBC News. “Always experimenting and envisioning different aspects of myself. And clothing and fashion have always been a big part of that.”
After decades of working as a professor and social worker in New York City, Slater came into modeling came unexpectedly over two years ago. The name of her blog, “Accidental Icon,” inspired after photographers mistook her for a celebrity outside of Lincoln Center.
“My friend comes upon this scene and says, she’s laughing of course and I’m laughing, you’re an Accidental Icon,” Slater said.
“I want people to know that you do not have to accept the box that society puts you in,” Slater said. “And you don’t have to be angry about it and you don’t have to have a big fight about it. Be creative about it. And reinvent yourself the way you want to be.”
Despite Slater’s new-found popularity, she says she never intended to become a new example of aging.
“To be 100 percent honest, when it first began to happen I was not happy about it,” Slater said on growing older. “But I’ve always been a pragmatist and I realized it’s inevitable. There’s nothing that anyone can do to stop it.”
Even with the modeling contract, she has mixed feelings about being photographed.
“Until I started doing my blog and even now I have never liked to be photographed,” Slater said. “And people are very surprised by that. But one of the reasons that I wear sunglasses a lot is that I am very ambivalent about it. So one part of me does want to be seen, but one part of me doesn’t and so the sunglasses was actually a way that I could allow myself to sort of be this persona in the world of fashion.”
But at the end of the day, Slater says it’s being authentic that makes a person attractive, not what he or she is wearing.
“I’m kind of an ordinary woman,” Slater said. “I am, you know, not traditionally beautiful as the fashion world defines it. I’m a mom and a grandmother and a professor and so I think that’s how people look at me and they say wow. You know it’s okay to just be who we are and I think that’s an amazing thing.”
For more, watch tonight's NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.