TODAY | October 17, 2012
>>> we're back now. 8:43 with your life calling today. today contributor jane pauly has been working with aarp which has produced and sponsored the series of reports for us. we're happy about that. jane , good morning.
>> good morning, matt. a top model is said to be aging out of her career when she hits 23, but not only is dawn just getting started in modeling at 50, but she wears a pacemaker. here she is with her life calling.
>> dawn nakamura kesler of denver is a 5'8" stunner.
>> oh, my. that's some dress.
>> every girl should have a red dress once in their life.
>> she's hardly a girl, though it's hard to tell exactly how old dawn is. honestly, how old do you think that woman looks in this picture?
>> she looks like she's 37 and feels like she's 25, that she's got the mind of a 50-year-old.
>> modeling at 50 was a long shot, but dawn's whole life is a story of beating the odds. in her 20s dawn had open heart surgery , twice. a childhood bout of rheumatic fever severely damaged her heart. what did you think your life span would likely be?
>> let's toss in the pacemaker, the cardiac arrest and the two ca cardiac --
>> after she married and had a baby dawn decided to be a full-time mom because she didn't know how much time she would have.
>> so many times when he was a boy growing up i was in the hospital. i was missing things. i couldn't even take him for his driver's license. my only goal was to see my son graduate from high school .
>> just when dawn needed a new goal, a skin caroline launched an ad campaign featuring real women , making the final round was confidence-building.
>> this is my last chance and don't want to be at the end of my life and look back and go, gosh, why didn't i try to model?
>> but her first local go-see was a test.
>> i'm so, so they are vows, and i'm seeing all these gals. they looked like they were between 16 and 20, girls that my son would date. i almost picked up my phone and called my agent is this like the right place and i thought no, no, no, i'm going to do it. i get to the table and the art director is like, oh, my gosh, you're gorgeous. you're perfect for the shoot.
>> don't move.
>> it didn't matter that sometimes she has to cover ugly bruises, a side effect of heart medication.
>> a little bit more.
>> or that she has a scar down the center of her chest. she gets jobs.
>> i think that my smile can distract from the wrinkles. my eyes and my smile just radiate and show really who i am.
>> but her heart condition is very real, too.
>> this is your mitral valve.
>> she works hard to keep fit for her health and career, but it's worth it.
>> this is like a bonus, to be alive, and i didn't think i'd have this time. this is what 50 is supposed to feel like, i'm pretty darn lucky.
>> even her mixed ethnicity is an asset.
>> i'm japanese, danish, spanish, black, east indian . this is what america looks like, and whether it's modeling or anything else, i mean, it just feels like life is beginning and i don't think all of my wonderfuls have happened yet.
>> dawn's age is actually a plus now. marketers are finally getting it, that older consumers still have what it takes, buying power . the reality check. 18 months ago dawn flat lined with full cardiac arrest , but as long as she lives she is determined to live. join me at 10:00 a.m . eastern on my internet call-in radio show at aarp.org/ jane .