Photography by Kendell.ca
Clothing by Zen Nomad; Jewellery by Rocking Vibe; Make-up by Olivia Ha; Location: Aviva Yoga Studio
You don’t have to do yoga to know who Seane Corn is—or, at least, to recognize her trademark smile and lion’s mane hair. Arguably one of the most famous yogis to date, Seane is the quintessential ‘celebrity yogi,’ having graced the cover of over 30 of the most widely read yoga, fitness, lifestyle, and health magazines since her teaching career took hold in 1994.
Although most models and fitness figures come and go within a few short years, Corn’s longevity of over two decades—as a model, international spokesperson, practitioner, activist, and world-renowned teacher—are unmatched. She is as compelling and relevant today as she was when she first started. But that longevity isn’t without complications or anxieties. That’s part of what we hoped to discuss when we met with Corn last month: Having entered the yoga scene in her early twenties, how have things shifted both externally, with time and a committed practice, as well as internally, in response to mainstream media and the commercialization of yoga?
For better or for worse, when Seane first started teaching at 23 she fit the western concept of yoga: she had the hair, the eyes, the smile, and the body that mainstream media continues to endorse as the perfect image of health and beauty. Corn will be the first to admit that her rise to yogic stardom had, perhaps, less to do with her innate teaching talent and profound spiritual wisdom and more to do with her aesthetic appeal. In an earlier interview with “Illumine” She says, “I realized that I’d be able to make a career out of teaching yoga in a way that most of my peers, and even my teachers, weren’t going to be able to do—and for no other reason than that I was young, strong, flexible, pretty, and white.” Stereotypes are nothing new and, arguably, little has changed since the early nineties, but what is new and refreshing is how Corn continues to capitalize on that marketability, carving out a clear voice of dissonance among the status quo. She offered that voice then, in her twenties, and continues to speak out on sensitive topics today, as she moves into her fifties.
But that transition into middle age wasn’t seamless, and it took Seane a period of silence before she felt confident to speak up again. She took a four month sabbatical from teaching to step back and reflect on what it meant to be entering her fifth decade of life in a culture so fanatical about the myth of eternal youth and so heavily identified with how we look. Despite celebrating and ritualizing this new level of adulthood, she says, “I didn’t want to bypass some of the other things that come up, questions and emotions that are part of that transition”— emotions like grief, fear, or confusion, and questions, including “Who will I be if I don’t look the same way?” “If I’m not as attractive to the world, will that impact my self-esteem”? And, “How can I do this without assuming the perspectives of society, which say that you dry up, you become invisible, you’re less valued?” She says, “I wanted to see for myself, ‘What can I discover about this process’? What can I reclaim, and how can I define the aging process within my own body, mind, and spirit?”
These are questions that most of us have had and would love to know the answers to, especially in a world where the boundaries between real life and Photoshopped social media and print platforms aren’t so clear. From the outside looking in, any woman featured on the cover of a magazine has nothing to worry about in terms of being ‘beautiful,’ but in fact, those star-studded idols often struggle the most with the transition. Corn says, “People have been watching me age for years now, literally, on the covers of these magazines. You can get photos of me online where I’m 27 years old. . . Magazines and other things will grab these pictures and keep them in circulation, so that when I show up, I’m not that body; I’m not that skin; I’m not that hair; I’m not that personality. I’m SO MUCH MORE. And yet, because those pictures might look more mainstream, they keep getting circulated, which is a disservice to me as a human being, but also sends out this message that, as a 50-year old, I’m not as viable or interesting as I was at 27.”
The not-so-subtle message being conveyed is that “women of [this] age are unworthy, unlovable, or irrelevant.” It is a message that Seane refuses to accept, let alone spread: “I’m committed to transparency and disclosure, to being public about my face and my body and all of the changes that are taking place. I’m owning the parts of the process that I’m comfortable with, and I’m owning the parts of the process that I’m not comfortable with, too. I’ve lived a GOOD life. And that life is on my body.” Ferocity of spirit—not eternal youth—is what Corn insists is worth chasing after.
Read the rest of Seane’s story on our digital issue via iTunes or subscribe now and receive our print issue!