By Sheryl Song • November 2021

How to Thrive in Quarantine: Tips from Canada’s Top Model

“All you have to do is get dressed and be fabulous – then life will happen to you!” – Judith Maria Bradley

On a bright, sunny Sunday, I was standing in what seemed an endless flu-shot line at a Shoppers drug mart in Summerhill. I was irritated, bored and aimlessly people watching. Suddenly, an impeccably dressed lady—with bright red lipstick and heels—walked past me.

Her accessory game was unmatched, and immediately put me to shame. “Damn it,” I thought, “I should’ve put on a better coat today!” Who is she? A French visitor? A part of the Royal family paying a visit to the commonwealth nation? Who in Toronto would have that kind of elegance and style…on a Sunday…during a global pandemic??”

I had to find out.

I walked up to her, “I’m sorry to bother you, I just want to say you look absolutely fabulous!” It then hit me, horrified, that maybe I was being like a creepy person, the kind that scouts and approaches beautiful women on the street. Before I had a chance to be awkward and run away, she replied with a big smile. “Thank you darling, that is very kind of you. Funny thing, they made me a model at age 71. We should be Instagram friends!” Stunned and flattered, I immediately followed Judith Maria Bradley.

As soon as I got home, I online-stalked my new best friend.

Judith Maria Bradley—one of the biggest names in Toronto’s fashion scene—has become a city icon. She appears in all the big Canadian magazines and has racked up more than 20,000 Instagram followers since she started modeling. Reading her story was like the energy booster I desperately needed. I said to myself, “I need more Judithin my life.” And with one fell swoop into her DMs, I invited her to coffee. She immediately agreed!

On a beautiful, November afternoon (pre-lockdown), Judith and I sat down at OneCafe in Yorkville. I had the opportunity to learn more about her story. She is a mother, grandmother, and soon to be great grandmother. She could read and write at four; at age 13 she was playing organ and singing “Ave-Maria” at weddings. Her career path is like a jungle gym, from being in a rock band, an entrepreneur of an organic food store (before it was cool), to manage administration for retirement homes. Her most recent addition to this list? One of Canada’s top models at the age of 76. She is the epitome of living life to the fullest!

Lesson #1: Be Positive – it spreads!

The moment she walked into the café; you couldn’t help but notice her. And it’s more than the way she dresses; she radiates such a positive energy that pulls you in. Before we sat down at our table, she remarked, “Isn’t this the most perfect table, and isn’t this the most perfect day?” And just like that, this ordinary day and this ordinary table, became extraordinary!

When our waiter came around, Judith’s infectious energy continued, “Oh, good afternoon my dear, look at you! You have the most amazing red hair and it really goes well with your style.” Even with a mask on, I could see the waiter’s energy perk up and her eyes brighten. And guess what, liveliness is infectious…we ended up getting a 5-star experience!

“The secret to a happy life really is that simple: to stay positive. I have had chronic illness. Life itself is a gift! When you see the glass half full, you find rainbows along the way.”

Lesson #2: Be Fabulous – it inspires!

“Judith, do you always dress like this? Even before you became a model?” I asked.

“Always. Darling, all you have to do in life is get dressed, be ready & stay positive – life will happen to you!”

“So, I really don’t have any excuse to be sloppy then.”

“Darling, you really don’t. Since COVID started, it’s changed our daily life. But remember, when you wear something beautiful, how do you feel? When you see yourself energized and refreshed in the mirror, how do you feel? I was taught to dress well by my mother, she didn’t have much money growing up. Even when she and her seven sisters had to wear the same dress for years at times, she always made sure they were perfectly groomed and had impeccable style. Be grateful for what you have, be grateful for your body and health, be grateful that you are here today, and you have the power to make today fabulous.”

I was floored!

“Judith, being in Canada, where dressing casual is the norm…do you feel you standout?”

“Of course. I remember going to a Jays game when the Yankees were in town. I am a Yankees fan. I had somewhere to go afterwards, and I thought, what’s the point in changing? So, I just showed up in a red Valentino evening gown, at a stadium where a bunch of people were wearing tracksuits. I was cheering for the Yankees, so I stood out even more. A woman in front of me turned around and asked, ‘Why are you wearing that evening gown?’ I said, ‘Because it makes me happy! Why are you wearing pyjamas?’”

After coffee, we took a leisurely stroll around the neighbourhood. I was in such great company, I selfishly didn’t want our time together to end. We walked around for about an hour; I was wearing a pair of 2-inch booties and I was tired. Judith, on the other hand, was wearing 10-inch stilettos, and she was feeling absolutely fabulous! I am 31, and Judith had turned 76. Age really is just a number!

On my way home, I wrote, ‘organize my closet’ at the top of my to-do list.

Thriving in quarantine can be this…fabulous!