CEO turns senior model

The model CEO

It's never too late...

Parsley Box is on a mission to find those people who are challenging stereotypes and we are pleased to introduce our readers to another example of someone who isn’t going to let age get in the way of his plans.

Steve White’s career has always been subject to meteoric success – whether working as a top-level manager or a senior model.

Straight to the top

Starting out as an apprentice plumber, it didn’t take long before he was running large-scale organisations. By the time he was 30 he was managing teams of over 1,000 people and budgets in excess of £30m within a large London council.

Changing career in later life has brought a new perspective to Steve’s outlook.

He moved from local authorities to managing large housing associations, taking on roles as CEO to turn round companies that were failing on financial and HR levels – all with exceptional results.

However, a family crisis and need to care for his mother turned his life inside out – forcing him to evaluate how he was living.

Family crisis

I had been working 16-hour days for 30 years and loving it,” he said. “It wasn’t work for work’s sake, our teams were always aiming for the best possible outcomes for clients and creating good things for the people we served.”

Steve White

Thirty years of trouble shooting at the highest level, turning moribund and loss-making organisations into thriving enterprises, releasing people from straightjacketed thinking and processes, all gave Steve personal pride and joy.

I was hardly at home, staying in hotels and eating late in restaurants most nights

Work/life balance

It was only when he stopped that he could see his work/life balance was skewed very heavily in one direction.

“I have always thought I was working hard to look after my family, which was true in many ways. Then my mother was diagnosed with dementia, having survived breast cancer and living with MS and osteoarthritis. I had to think carefully about what caring really meant.”

He called this time an ‘eye-opening reinvention’ as he resigned from his position as CEO of a large residential care home group in Scotland and committed his time to looking after his mother.

“It meant I had to take time out for the first time in my life,” Steve said. “I soon realised I’d become set in my ways. I thought the world I was in had everything in it but I couldn’t have been further from the truth.”

Watershed moment

What he described as a ‘vacuum’ in his life was initially hard to navigate. Between care home visits and seeing other members of his family he offered free business advice and started building a social media network.

His daily motivational messages and inspiring thought-leadership soon brought large numbers of followers – in excess of 5,000 on Facebook with similar engagement on other platforms.

“I was getting messages from people all over the world,” he said.

Steve is candid in admitting it gave him the recognition he was missing from being in a fast paced work organisation where, as the boss, his opinions mattered.

Friendly suggestions

What he wasn’t ready for were the comments about his photos – suggesting he should be a model.

“I thought they were taking the mickey, that people from my past were winding me up.”

But it seemed that wasn’t the case and in line with the ‘Re-fire not retire’ aims of our Parsley Box customers, very soon he was being approached by agencies who wanted to put him on their books..

Unfortunately during this initial stage of his new career, lockdown was imposed and Steve was forced not only to curtail his modelling but also his visits to his mother.

“It was a hellish time and one that created yet another vacuum as I couldn’t get to see my mum in her home.”

CEO turns senior model
CEO turns senior model

Thankfully she was well looked after but she succumbed to Covid during its early stages of the pandemic, despite having survived so many other health issues.

Devastating news

“It was devastating.  This was right at the beginning with no vaccinations or PPE. We couldn’t visit the home and we only had limited people at the funeral, all separated and unable to meet afterwards for a celebration of mum’s life.”

It was through this period that Steve continued to build his connection with other people through online messages, supporting others and gaining new contacts as he did so.

Once restrictions started to lift he was offered a number of modelling opportunities that took him to Germany and across the UK.

“It was a very interesting experience as I am used to telling others what to do, but with modelling,  everyone else decides everything from how you stand, what you say and where you need to be. It also takes a certain strength of character to put up with the rejections and uncertainty to put up with the highs and lows of the industry.”

Now he is part of what he calls a ‘jigsaw economy’ where he picks and chooses what he can do and who he can do it with – including his ‘pretend wife’!

Steve regularly works with his ‘pretend’ wife on a variety of different projects

“I had a number of [modelling] jobs as a single man but often older couples are needed. Therefore I put some messages out on Facebook and Instagram and was soon connected with Denise (Waterman) who is also a model and offered to work with me.”

The power of social media

Such is the power of social media, he has had to explain many times that Denise isn’t his real wife – and that it is all acting. Particularly as a few of his recent roles have involved taking part in dating shows such as First Dates and Celebs Go Dating, where he was paired up with Ulrika Jonsson.

Steve was paired up with Ulrika Jonsson on the Celebs Go Dating TV show for C4

However, he has no plans on changing his current status, marital or otherwise. The appearances have all been part of his new career.

Don’t put up barriers

“Everything has come together to bring me to a new point in my life where I can mix up a variety of interests and use my skills in different ways. At one stage I had fallen into a trap of thinking I’m too old to start something new and then I found I had to listen to my own advice. I’ve been telling people for years not to be restrained by their thoughts and there I was putting up barriers for myself. I never envisaged that I would have to take a taste of my own medicine!”

Do you have a story to tell about changing your career in later life? We’d love to hear it.