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Model Marie Helvin, 71, Poses in Racy Lingerie and Latex for New Campaign After Breast Cancer (Exclusive)

"I'm not ready to retire yet," the fashion icon tells PEOPLE of the latest (and sexiest!) chapter of her career

<p>Courtesy of Bluebella</p> Marie Helvin for Bluebella

Courtesy of Bluebella

Marie Helvin for Bluebella

No granny panties here.

At 71, model Marie Helvin is entering a new chapter of her career and she's doing it in some seriously sexy lingerie.

For her latest gig, the model stripped down for a Valentine’s Day campaign with intimate apparel label, Bluebella.

“I think, like every woman, I want to wear something beautiful and sensuous," Helvin tells PEOPLE. “Just because you turn 70, it doesn't mean that you stop wearing lingerie and then you're only going to wear big pants."

Helvin, who posed in a racy pieces, including lacy bras and panties, a bodysuit with sheer panels and a whole lot of latex, says people are surprised that she took the job.

“I just don't see that there's any problem with it. Yes, I'm 71, but I love lingerie. I love buying it. I love wearing it. So do all my friends the same age. I don't think age has anything to do with it," she says.

<p>Courtesy of Bluebella</p> Marie Helvin for Bluebella

Courtesy of Bluebella

Marie Helvin for Bluebella

While Helvin has decades of experience in front of a camera, this particular photo shoot was among her most meaningful since it marked her first time posing since she was diagnosed with stage-one breast cancer in 2022. Shortly after, she underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction.

“It really taught me that what you think is fair, what you think you have, it's not always the real truth of the matter,” Helvin, whose mother also had breast cancer, says of her diagnosis. “I thought I was the healthiest person. I don't drink, I don't smoke. I'm in the gym every day. I don't eat meat. I run. And this happened to me.”

Although she considers herself “lucky” for not needing chemotherapy and radiation therapy, she is still undergoing a five-year treatment of Tamoxifen, a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) that is taken after surgery to reduce the risk of hormone receptor-positive early-stage breast cancer from recurring.

Bluebella originally reached out to the model around the same time she received her diagnosis and Helvin asked that they come back to her in a year.

While posing nearly naked might seem like a daunting way to get back in the modeling game, Helvin wasn't fazed. "I'm a model. This is my job. It's the only thing I've ever done really well. So I know what I'm doing.” 

<p>Courtesy of Bluebella</p> Marie Helvin for Bluebella

Courtesy of Bluebella

Marie Helvin for Bluebella

She channels her confidence from “the best period” of her life," which she describes as "a time of great sex, feeling sensual, being in love."

Not only was the shooting the campaign an empowering experience for Helvin, but it was also a reflective one.

She recalls fond memories of her mother dressed up in her “flowing” green negligee she reserved especially for Christmas morning. “It’s just a nice warm feeling of remembering my mom and kind of paying honor to her," Helvin says.

She now has her own lingerie ritual: she buys something for herself "wherever" she is in the world. And thanks to Bluebella, she also has a new stash of items to add to her collection. Her current favorite is the plunging black bodysuit with sheer panels she modeled on set.

Related: Bikini-Clad Celebs Over 50 Who Prove Age Is Nothing But a Number

<p>Courtesy of Bluebella</p> Marie Helvin for Bluebella

Courtesy of Bluebella

Marie Helvin for Bluebella

And those pieces aren't just for special occasions. "Whenever I have to go to see the oncologist, that's what I want to wear underneath my clothes," she reveals. "Just makes me feel so much better.”

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<p>Courtesy of Bluebella</p> Marie Helvin for Bluebella

Courtesy of Bluebella

Marie Helvin for Bluebella

While she's taking on new projects, including a cameo in the upcoming Netflix show, Geek Girl, Helvin is also still recuperating.

Her road to recovery has inspired her to encourage other women to be mindful of their bodies and to get check-ups regularly.

Related: Stars Who Faced Breast Cancer and Shared Their Stories

<p>Courtesy of Bluebella</p> Marie Helvin for Bluebella

Courtesy of Bluebella

Marie Helvin for Bluebella

She is also focused on practicing gratitude. “Self-love is also kindness. It's not just being kind to yourself, but kind to others around you. To show a bit of humbleness, a bit of graciousness."

On the heels of this campaign, Helvin's goal is to keep up her modeling momentum. “I'm not ready to retire just yet,” she says. “So I need to and I want to and I hope to continue for as long as possible.”

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