Royce-Smithkin was interesting before she met Cohen on the street two years ago. She spent most of the 20th century as an acclaimed painter with illustrious subjects such as Tennessee Williams and Ayn Rand. But it wasn't until the last five years that she truly came into her own and became comfortable with herself, she says.
"I'm no longer a little mouse," she said. "I'm much more into fashion now, I can dare to be extravagant."
For the last decade, she has been wooing audiences in Providence, Rhode Island, with songs by Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich in her annual "Eyelash Cabaret."
The attention she's earned as an Advanced Style muse has further catapulted her into the limelight, she says. Through the blog, she earned a modeling gig for a cane company and numerous admirers who call her for the secret to vitality at 92. There's also a fair bit of interest in her fake eyelashes, which she makes from her own red hair (daily cleanings are part of maintenance).
A small woman with a sweet accent that recalls her eastern European youth, she says she has become more aware of colors with age and is willing to take greater risks. A silver coiled letter organizer crawls up her wrist in a nod to her habit of "rescuing clothes." She has created scarves from umbrellas and a jacket out of a teddy bear. To her, it's all part of being true to herself and waking up each day with a smile.
She finds beauty in small things, like a tree dancing in the wind outside the window of her tiny West Village apartment, where she has lived for 58 years.
"Young people are too quickly in older life, they have no childhood. It's like speeding up strawberries to grow," she said. "They look great, but there's no taste."
In the case of some women, it can take a lifetime to figure out who you are. But if you're lucky, you'll make it to 100, like Ruth Kobin.
Her style hasn't changed much over the years, she said, but it's just as important now as ever to look classy and elegant. Even when she was in the hospital in early April for stitches on her arm, she always wore lipstick to give her face some color: "you never know who you'll run into."
A former stage actress who appeared in Hollywood movies in the 1940s, she never grew into the idea of pants or blue jeans and hates to see women in bare legs. She still favors a minimalist approach of buying quality goods that will last and gets rid of items that she hasn't woarn in two years.
To keep her mind sharp and her body fit, she relies on a steady routine of daily pilates and weekly private sessions. You're only as old as you feel, after all.
"As people get older they drift into a lassitude that certainly is not good," she said. "The older I get, I don't dwell on it."
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