Several years ago the fate of young Russian beauty Natalia Vodianova illuminated the pages of the German media. Germany groaned with delight for a short time, and then seemingly forgot about this fairy tale story, until the best-selling beauty magazines recently brought it back to people’s attention.
“She was really a poverty-stricken child,” writes Neue Revue, “whose destiny became golden within a few moments. Natasha’s mother Larisa was a fruit and vegetable vendor in the markets of Nizhniy Novgorod, barely making ends meet – she had three daughters, and her alcoholic husband had long ago abandoned the family and disappeared without trace. “We didn’t live, we had to fight to survive,” recalls Natasha. “When I turned 11, as I was the eldest, I started to help my mother, carting 30 kilo boxes around the markets. It was as if I didn’t feel how heavy they were, all my thoughts were focused on how we could get clothes and shoes to wear, and food to eat.”
At 14, a friend literally dragged the tall, graceful girl with enormous blue eyes (incidentally, how did she manage to still be like this after all that hard physical labour?) to modelling classes. “I learnt how to pose in front of the camera, which I really enjoyed, but I wasn’t really thinking that some day I would become a famous cover girl.” Once a representative of a French modelling agency appeared in the studio. He spent a few days closely examining Natasha and then said, “I’m taking you to Paris , you’ll have a good career. Just make sure you learn English in the next three months.” “I realized that a chance had appeared which I could not afford to miss,” says Natasha. And the girl from a poor family, who had never had money to pay for private tutors, mastered English in two months.
Everything turned out better than she could ever have dreamed of. Within a few months she had performed triumphantly at famous fashion shows and graced the front covers of magazines such as Elle and Vogue. Today, six years after having left Nizhniy Novgorod, 23-year old Natalia Vodianova is now a multi-millionairess – how can this not be a Cinderella story? And a prince has appeared. In the restaurant Georges in Paris she by chance met Sir Justin Portman, a 35-year old artist and descendant of an ancient British family. His family owns property in Western England, Australia and has a 45-hectare estate near London. But the couple now live with five-year old Lucas in an enormous villa in New York. Just two weeks after giving birth to her son Natalia went back to work, once again having charmed the most demanding experts, and signed new contracts with all the world’s fashion houses and a cosmetic company L’Oreal.
“Being married gives me security and reliability, my children give me incomparable joy,” admits the beauty. In February they are expecting an addition to the family – they already know that Lucas will have a sister. But Natalia sacredly remembers her own family. She bought her mother a flat in Moscow, regularly sends home money and pays for her sister’s tuition in an English school, and has hired a governess to look after her youngest sister, who has been mentally ill since birth.
Sometimes in the middle of the night in the Portmans’ villa the telephone rings. “It’s my mum asking how I am. Even now she’s scared that our life is just a dream which could evaporate at any moment…”
Translated by James Platt