From educator to influencer
Lyn Slater a.k.a. the Accidental Icon, has given a fresh new face to the idea of ageless beauty. The 66-year-old who has collaborated with mega brands such as Apple and Go Daddy is a super influencer with nearly 700K followers on Instagram. When many women are attempting to turn back time, Lyn has embraced aging with grace and panache.
A native New Yorker raised in the suburbs, Lyn doesn’t just turn heads on the streets of New York, she stimulates minds in the classroom as a Professor of Social Work at Fordham University. I caught up with Lyn to chat about her iconic role as an influencer and living the life of an accidental entrepreneur.
“I am a pragmatist and a realist–you are aging from the moment you are born and it’s inevitable that that will continue.”
How did you become an Accidental Icon?
I have had a lifelong habit of following my curiousity. This has led to many re-inventions both large and small. I was interested in jewelry-making and learning to sew. This led me to take classes at a fashion school. While there everyone kept saying I should start a blog as I had great style. So I did.
How do you balance your rigorous schedule with your work as a clinical associate professor of social work at Fordham University?
It has been challenging and stressful in good and not so good ways as whatever I do, I do it full-on. My Dean was supportive as she understands the power of social media and technology to make change which is consistent with my field. However, this last semester I decided to retire from academia and do this project full-time.
How have your students reacted to you being an internet sensation?
My students really are more interested in who I am as a professional than as an influencer. They view me as innovative and creative as a social worker and professor because that is how I approach everything I do. It inspires them to be innovative in how they see doing the work of social welfare. Students from other parts of the University seem to be more excited and enamored about the internet part.
With so many women trying to turn back the clock, how have you been able to embrace aging so gracefully?
I am a pragmatist and a realist–you are aging from the moment you are born and it’s inevitable that that will continue. I use the same approach as I do to any challenge: how can I respond in a creative and interesting way? Accidental Icon is my performance of aging.
How has being an influencer and entrepreneur changed your life?
Ironically aside from allowing me to generate income in a different way that is more entrepreneurial and meeting new people it is not that much different than it was before, as I have always been up to something new, so to speak.
“Many of the thoughts people have about what being older means are negative stereotypes of disability, segregation and a retreat from life. Many people are not aware that this is the stereotype in their mind. So I try to deconstruct and offer an alternative.”
You had a fun ad campaign with Apple, what are some other major brands you’ve worked with?
It wasn’t really a campaign, it was an event that I really liked because I got to engage with people around how to go out into the street and shoot and edit photos. I also got an Apple Watch which I am obsessed with. I have worked with Kate Spade, Bally, Perricone MD, GoDaddy, CVS, Maison Margiela, Mango, Facebook and Uniqlo.
Have you encountered ageism, if so when and how did you handle it?
Of course, as fashion is still very youth obsessed. I use my skills as a professor and ask questions that might lead the person to think about being older in a different way. Many of the thoughts people have about what being older means are negative stereotypes of disability, segregation and a retreat from life.
Many people are not aware that this is the stereotype in their mind. So I try to deconstruct and offer an alternative. I think my generation who were challenging all societal defintions in the 70’s is also leading the way in creating new ideas about what it means to be older today. At the age of 66 I am fit, well, privileged for sure and because of this see myself contributing and engaging with all generations for many years to come.
What advice do you have for other aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Since there is always risk involved, always make sure you do your cost/benefit analysis which can include intangibles like personal happiness. It also makes you see you can actually do it. I started slowly and had a safety net of being a professor. I told myself when I had exceeded my academic salary I could make the jump and so I have.
Can you share a tip for women of all ages to be comfortable in their own skin?
Actually for me it was knowing and acknowledging my shortcomings or traits I was not so happy about, but were probably just going to be part of who I am that made me really comfortable and free.
What is next for you?
I can’t predict as I don’t know where my next bout of curiosity will take me. I do keep coming back to the idea of some kind of online magazine and am interested in showing the process of creativity rather than only the outcome which is the case on social media.
For more information on Lyn, visit accidentalicon.com.