Monday, November 28, 2005
Annabel Rivkin writes "...By the time was Natalia 11 she was selling fruit and vegetables on the street, often until eleven at night.'My mother was one of the first people - it was a very clever idea - to say,"Why should I sell at the market when I can get to people on the road before they reach the market?" And so we did it, but my mother is no businesswoman. Sometimes we felt very rich and sometimes we had absolutely nothing to eat.' It's an enduring image, isn't it? A small, beautiful girl standing in the snow trying to sell something, knocking down the price, realising that her wares are waterlogged and trudging wearily home.
At 14 she was borrowing a friend,s car to pick up her stock and at 16 she set up a fruit and vegetable stand with a girlfriend and worked fairly happily, even though she admits that her hometown is 'miserable, grey and dangerous'. Mafia-run, with a corrupt police force and its own street code, Natalia nevertheless insists that it was 'dangerous only if you made it dangerous, if you walked at night, for example'. She doesn't talk about the grimmer scenes, but this is a young woman who clearly learned to defend herself early. 'My agency has a Polaroid of me from the day I arrived n Paris and it's frightening,' she says. 'It's a face that say, "if you come anywhere near me, you're dead."'
A Parisian model scout had come to Nizhni Novgorod and Natalia's boyfriend at the time - a male model - forced her to go along. Although the relationship didn't last, she later bought him a Mercedes to say thank you. She maintains that, despite the scary Polaroid, she was at that time more cheerful than she looked.'I was very self-protective, very moody, but I was happy inside. I was fascinated by Paris and by my first plane trip.
Natalia, 23 is one of today's most successful models. In possession of the lucrative Calvin Klein contract (now shot by Steven Meisel) that made icons of Brook Shields in the Eighties and Kate Moss in the Nineties, and the international face L'Oreal, she is nonetheless still and edgy editorial favourite. With the face of a child and the eyes of a lioness, her focus - both professional and personal - is immediately apparent..."
Natalia is Married to Justin Portman and has a three year old son called Lucas.
Orginal article published in the Evening Standard Magazine(25th November 2005).
Photo Courtesy of Style.com