Janice Cosby Bridges is a head turner.
The Michigan woman carries herself with a confident air and wears her strikingly gray hair with pride.
Although she brushes off being described as beautiful, Bridges recently earned first place in More magazine’s 2012 beauty search for women who are aging with grace. She was selected out of nearly 1,500 other entries to be one of two first-place winners. There also was a grand-prize winner, and Bridges was the oldest of all three.
Bridges, who turns 56 this month, is featured in the magazine’s October issue on stands now.
She entered the competition at the urging of her hairstylist, who’d been trying to get her to enter the 3-year-old contest from its beginning.
We chatted recently with Bridges, who’s not just a pretty face. She’s corporate vice president of marketing and communications at St. John Providence Health System, married and the mother of two adult sons.
“There are a lot of beautiful women,” Bridges says. “And there are certainly women who are much better looking than I am who entered the contest, so it’s really about life and how you feel about living this life.”
Here are excerpts from our conversation. Q. What is your secret to aging gracefully?
I eat well. I eat a pretty clean diet and I exercise a lot. I’m an exercise junkie. I do Pilates. I walk. I run. I lift weights, I bike; I do kick-boxing, spin — I do a little bit of everything. I mix it up. I love it. I would do it every day for three hours if I could.
Q. Describe what you mean by a clean diet.
When I eat eggs, I usually eat egg whites. I eat a lot of berries. I stay away from (flour and sugar). I don’t eat corn, I rarely eat potatoes. I only eat French fries if it’s on somebody else’s plate on the table. I try to keep it out of the house. I tell you what I do eat — I am a chocoholic! That’s my weakness above anything, that and good red wine. I’m a cabernet kind of girl!
Q. You’ve said that inner beauty comes through to the outside. Explain the inner beauty.
The internal part is about enjoying life and understanding that life is very precious, and really appreciating what’s important: friendships, family. My mother died when I was 11, so I learned at a very, very young age what it means to lose somebody who is special. My mother died when she was 36, and it was a very difficult birthday for all of us — my siblings and I — when we turned 36. We thought our life was going to be over. So once I got past the 36, I made a vow that I would really celebrate life. Enjoy life every day. And I think I’ve really stuck to that.
Q. How would you describe your style?
I would say classic with a flair because I’m pretty basic most of the time. I think it’s the hair that throws people off because it’s different. I love dresses. I love skirts; pencil skirts. And I collect white blouses. I have a huge collection of white blouses.
Q. A lot of people would color their hair to not show gray. But you choose not to. Why?
This is my natural color; I’ve never colored it. I had gray strands when I was in elementary school. It just grayed gradually. By the time I was 35, it was salt and pepper. It runs in my family. I never thought about coloring it. My hair grows very, very fast, so it would look bad. I’d look like a skunk. I’d have to get it colored every week.
Q. What advice do you have for women who are concerned about their looks?
What do I say to myself every day? I think everybody can be the best that they can be. And I can’t compare myself to you or anybody else. You have to find your own style. I found my style with my hair. This works for me. This may not work for you. You just have to find the look that you’re comfortable with.