BY ANGELJEAN CHIARAMIDA
---- — SALISBURY — Last year at this time, Elissa Campbell was a regular 55-year-old woman living in Salisbury with her husband, Robert, enjoying yoga, taking walks and growing flowers and vegetables in the town’s Community Garden.
Today, however, she’s busy modeling and going on auditions while she waits to learn if she’ll be featured in People Magazine’s World’s Most Beautiful issue, which will hit newsstands on April 25.
“I think she’s a little overwhelmed,” said Darlene Sweeney, owner of local talent agency, WSM Talent. “This has all happened in the past few months really.”
Elissa and Robert Campbell contacted Sweeney last fall after reading a Daily News article in which she commented on the workings of the film industry.
“They had done some modeling before through a Boston agency, but they were thrilled to read that there was a local agency around here,” Sweeney said. “What they needed was to have their resumes pulled together and headshots taken.”
Campbell works in advertising, Sweeney said, and Robert Campbell is retired after 30 years with the Boston & Maine Railroad. They’ve lived in Salisbury since 1999. After years in their Harrison Avenue home tending to garden tour-quality ornamental and vegetable gardens, they helped get Salisbury’s Community Garden going in 2012, following their move to a landless condo.
Although Campbell understands advertising, she’s always been on the marketing end of things, she said, and didn’t start modeling until a few years ago. Her husband encouraged her to pursue it after some of their friends commented on her looks.
“I think the comments came because of my (gray) hair and because we’re boomers,” she said.
On a lark, she had some professional pictures taken, a few that included her husband, and submitted them to a Boston agency. But it was when the Campbells found a home with Sweeney’s agency last fall that the tempo picked up and things started to happen.
“It’s really been quite a pleasant surprise,” Campbell said about finding fame as a beauty at age 55. “It is a little sweeter. It give us the opportunity to celebrate that beauty is more than skin deep. That it comes from within.”
Sweeney said after the couple worked with New York photographer Andreas Kuehn, who now lives on the Cape, the suggestion was made that Campbell’s photos be entered in People Magazine’s “Real Beauty at Every Age” contest, a part of its annual Most Beautiful issue.
Then the news came that she was chosen as one of five finalists in the 50-year-old age group.
In the contest, people across the nation voted on which of the candidates best represented what it means to be beautiful in four featured age groups: 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.
The names of the winners in each category are kept under wraps until the issue is published.
According to Sweeney, even though the Campbells are in their 50s, they have a future in modeling that could last for years yet.
“There are people who are attractive and then there are those who have class,” Sweeney said. “Both Robert and Elissa have a lot of class and style.”
For the Campbells, modeling goes well beyond good looks.
“This has really been a creative outlet for both of us,” Campbell said. “It’s given us both a chance to grow and experience new things. It’s an opportunity for people to express themselves. Modeling is not just about beautiful people, it is about all types of people.”
While the Campbells wait to see People magazine next week, they aren’t staying idle. Campbell has gone to New York City on two auditions for commercials, and she and her husband recently were cast in a commercial for a Tunstall medical alert device.
“They handle all this very well,” Sweeney said. “They’re not arrogant; they’re not demanding; they’re gracious and kind. “They’re just the nicest people in the world to work with. I wish I had 100 more just like them.”
”That’s the best compliment of all,” Campbell said.