Marie Helvin on modelling at 71: I’m always going to feel sensual in my own skin

Model Marie Helvin has said she will “always feel sexy and sensual” in her own skin after undergoing a mastectomy.

The 71-year-old model, who was married to famed fashion photographer David Bailey for a decade, revealed in 2022 she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy.

Her cancer was detected early as she got a lump checked out after discovering it while exercising, which meant she did not have to undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

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Model Marie Helvin has spoken about always feeling sensual in her own skin (Ian West/PA)

Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, she said: “This is why it’s so important for me to talk about it.

“I thought I was the healthiest person I know – then I found a lump.”

The model said her mastectomy was the “easy part” as she experienced “very little pain” which she found “extraordinary”.

“The most painful part of the whole experience was the biopsy,” she explained.

“They gave me several shots of anaesthetic, but boy they sure didn’t work, I was howling.”

She has also had breast reconstruction surgery, saying: “It’s amazing how it looks, how it feels – they can do fantastic things today.

“I mean, it’s not perfect. I don’t have cleavage on one side, I now travel with a ‘chicken fillet’ to all my photoshoots.”

Helvin first began modelling as a teenager and later posed in many photoshoots for British Vogue and her former husband Bailey.

Now in her 70s, she is still working, recently featuring in a campaign for lingerie brand Bluebella.

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Marie Helvin recently featured in a lingerie campaign (Yui Mok/PA)

Reflecting on the project, she told the newspaper: “I’ve always just taken it for granted that it doesn’t matter how old I am.

“I’m always going to feel sexy and sensual in my own skin.

“It’s something that I just never thought will disappear or die as I get older. I took it as a matter of fact.”

In order to maintain her physique, she still attends the gym regularly but has altered her routine after her surgery.

“I cannot lift the weights I once lifted, because I don’t have the upper body strength I once had,” she said.

“Now I go for 40 minutes four times a week and I don’t use the heavy lifting machines, I focus more on cardio.”

She also concentrates on floor exercise to maintain a trim torso.

The model also revealed she has not eaten any red meat for more than 50 years but does eat fish and practises intermittent fasting.

However, she said her weakness is for sugary snacks, particularly gummy bears and licorice.