Sunday, April 12, 2015

Natalia Vodianova Inspires a Lot More Than Just Beauty on the Cover of Glamour’s April Issue

Natalia Vodianova Inspires a Lot More Than Just Beauty on the Cover of Glamour’s April Issue:

It’s not #ThrowbackThursday, but it sure felt like it around the Modelinia office today thanks to the unveiling of Glamour magazine’s latest cover star: Natalia Vodianova.

The Russian supermodel looks gorgeous as the glossy’s first solo model cover in four years, fronting the magazine for its annual April “beauty” issue.  Natalia isn’t just a pretty face though: beyond her modeling chops— this season, you’ll find her fronting campaigns for Guerlain, Stella McCartney and Etam—  it’s the model’s off-duty gigs that really deserve the attention here.

As you might recall, Natalia grew up in a poverty-stricken household in Russia with her mother and her little sister Oksana, who has cerebral palsy and autism.  After selling fruit illegally as a child to support her impoverished family, Natalia moved to Paris at 17 to pursue a modeling career only to later became one of fashion’s most in-demand models.  At that point, she reveals that she felt “lost” in her career turned her focus away from the runway. Eventually, she went on to launch the Naked Heart Foundation in 2004 to help children in Russia with special needs get the support, services and acceptance they need. Speaking of the inspiration behind her organization, the supermodel revealed that at the time she felt “lost” in her career, despite being one of fashion’s most in-demand faces.

“There was a point, in 2003, when I was lost,” says Natalia. “I was thinking, Why am I still modeling? When you learn as a child how to fight for the next day, you don’t suddenly go, ‘Wow, I’m 21. I’m going to enjoy all of this because I deserve it.’ At some point I said, ‘What’s next?’ Then Beslan happened [the school massacre in Russia, in which 186 children were killed]—and it sparked this will in me to give back to my country.”

Int he years since, Natalia’s organization has helped schools train teachers dealing with special needs students, built 136 accessible playgrounds around the world, and raised nearly $35 million, all the while chipping away at the stigmas surrounding people with disabilities.

“Looking back on my childhood, I loved Oksana more than anything,” she adds, “but I also realized a lot of [my family’s] struggles were because of her. So when I was setting up my foundation, I was thinking about children with special needs.… I remember cutting the ribbon at the first play park I built, which was five minutes from where I lived, and all these children filling up the park. The sound of laughter was overwhelming. I cried. It was just—the most beautiful moment I’ve lived so far.”

Still, being the beauty icon that she is, Glamour was sure to pull some wise words of beauty wisdom out of the supermodel.  Among one of our favorite gems is her thought on the idea of the “older woman” in France versus the US:

“I think [youth obsession] is a sign of new money—like, I was nowhere and now I’ve made it, so I need the newest car, youngest girl,” she explains. “It’s not like that here. If you meet Catherine Deneuve, you feel the presence of an [older] woman who is celebrated.”

And as for her personal icons: “I watched Soviet films made in the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, because that’s what was on, and a certain kind of light and beauty were part of the propaganda,” she told the mag, adding, “these women had eyeballs that were whiter than snow. Huge smiles. So when everything was tough, what people were seeing on TV were these motivational images; there was always a bit of strength through the suffering. When I discovered foreign films, Audrey Hepburn became my icon. She’s so full of life. I love ‘Roman Holiday,’ ‘Sabrina.’”

To learn more about Natalia’s inspiring life story check out the video below, and be sure to pick up your copy of Glamour, on newsstands March 17.