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“I ate dumplings and sold bananas on the street”: Vodianova’s first photographer, 30 years later, revealed the truth about the beginning of her career

Date: March 20, 2023 Time: 18:32:42

It was Alexei Vasiliev who invited Vodianova to Moscow PHOTO: Alexei Vasiliev

Russian beauty Natalia Vodianova conquered the main covers and catwalks of the world. But once, she Natalia was an ordinary girl from Nizhny Novgorod who loved to shop, but she left school to work in the market to feed her mother and her two sisters.

Then he could only dream of a future career, standing behind a banana counter. She got her chance at success when model scout Alexei Vasiliev came to town, seeing a future star in 17-year-old Natasha. It is believed that it was he who discovered Vodianova to the world. On February 28, Vodianova turns 41 years old. For her birthday, Komsomolskaya Pravda spoke to Vasiliev about her first meeting, Vodianova’s love of dumplings, and the secrets of success.

Natalia Vodianova was born in Nizhny Novgorod

Photo: Irina BYSTROVA


Photographer Alexei Vasiliev is a true hunter of new faces in the world of fashion. Through his lens, not only Vodianova, but also the famous Russians Irina Shayk and Olga Kurylenko got into the best magazines. He is looking for future top models even in the subway, but not all beauties understand what a chance he has had when a stranger hands him his business card on the street.

– It was April 1999. Then I was commissioned to find new model faces. I came to Nizhny Novgorod, it was an ordinary casting, Natasha was among the other girls, ”recalls Alexey Vasiliev in a conversation with KP. – And in him I saw the embodiment of “modelling”.

According to rumors, after this casting, the photographer allegedly immediately sent a photo of Vodianova to Paris. But in reality, everything turned out to be much more prosaic and complicated. Moscow had to be conquered before Paris.

Already at the age of 15, Natasha had to leave school PHOTO: Alexey Vasiliev

– In May a talent scout from the famous French agency Viva Paris arrived in the capital. He invited Natasha to the casting, but she was not selected. I remember how I escorted the frustrated Vodianova and Zhenya Chkalova (the owner of the modeling agency) to the Kursk railway station. I told them that I would try to do it myself,” says Vasiliev.

The photographer kept his promise and did not forget about the beauty that is in Nizhny Novgorod. Already in the summer, he invited Vodianova to live in Moscow in order to avoid the editorial offices of local magazines.

– I had a two-bedroom apartment. I lived in one room and my models, including Natasha, in the other. Where else could I go? We went to newsrooms, to auditions. And already in October she starred in Russian Vogue,-notes Alexey.


But even after publication in a prestigious Paris magazine, no one expected beauty.

The girl did not qualify for the Paris agency PHOTO: Alexey Vasiliev

– Then my partner, the model scout Georgy Dzhikidze, said that he was not interested in Vodianova. But if I’m sure of something, I try not to give up. And months after that casting in May, I managed to reach an agreement with one of the Parisian agencies so that Vodianova would go to them for the contest, recalls Vasilyev.

Here, on the path of the future top model, new difficulties arose. Already with documents. The girl was only 17 years old, so in order to work in France, the director of the local agency was required to become Vodianova’s guardian.

– I myself went to Nizhny to notaries, contacted my parents to make documents. But first of all, it was difficult to establish contact with his father, who did not live with them. Secondly, it was after perestroika. The Nizhny Novgorod lawyers were not progressive enough, they did not want to obey Western laws. We decided to wait for Natasha’s 18th birthday, says Alexey.

To go to Paris, it was necessary to arrange guardianship PHOTO: Alexey Vasiliev

On March 3, 2000, the already mature girl Vasiliev said goodbye to Sheremetyevo. Georgy Dzhikidze was waiting for her in Paris. In the competition at the agency, she got second place, but she was not satisfied with this.

– She said: “I don’t want to be where I am second, take me to Viva.” Jikidze took her away. Then Natasha began to work in one of the best Parisian and world modeling agencies, – recalls Vasiliev.


At first, all Vodianova earned was 100 euros a week. The agency allocated this money to models for food, travel, and tights. But Natasha, not used to “chic”, managed to send part of the savings to her mother and her sisters in Nizhny Novgorod.

Vodianova never went on a diet, quite the opposite: she ate dumplings without hesitation PHOTO: Alexey Vasiliev

– I had a difficult situation in the family. Natasha had to leave school at the age of 15 to help her mother earn money. I myself saw her once near the station in Nizhny, when she stood on the street and sold bananas. They had a disco in the area that she liked to go to. I could dance until five in the morning, and then go to the market for goods and work to support my family, says the photographer.

But still, part of the so-called salary that Natasha received in Paris, she spent on new things. In an unfamiliar city, she quickly found small shops where one could dress fashionably and cheaply. Shopping has always been her passion.

Having settled in Paris, Natasha continued to send money to relatives PHOTO: Alexey Vasiliev

– She always loved things very much, she paid attention to this, to steal money. When in 2002 she had a wedding in St. Petersburg, which lasted three days, Natasha managed to change so many dresses … In different places she was always in different outfits: she could change clothes during the day. Very beautiful were her shoes that she was given right after the show, admires the photographer.

At a wedding in St. Petersburg, Vodianova managed to change several outfits.

Photo: Irina BYSTROVA

At that time, Vodianova was already a real star, because her career in France went uphill very quickly. On the covers, she began to appear in the first year of her work.

I ate 27 meatballs at one time.

Now the talent scout and the top model no longer communicate, but once they were even suspected of having an affair. These rumors increased against the background of recent news that Vodianova found a third sister in the United States, whom her mother once gave to an orphanage. The girl is so similar to Natasha and Alexei that fans immediately assumed that this was her common daughter, abandoned by the model at the beginning of her career. Vasiliev himself reinforced these rumors when, in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda, he stated that he had long dreamed of a daughter. So was there really a romance?

– Can an explorer fall in love with a model? Certainly. My wife is a model. Of course, there may be some kind of love. For example, I have a poem dedicated to Olga Kurylenko, I just started writing at that time. But, in principle, in order to build a career, models do not have to start any novels. Even if it’s only with a plastic surgeon. But from an adventure with a scout, the appearance does not change, this will not help in any way. A job scout will promote the model, regardless of the relationship, Vasiliev answered the question.

The photographer assures that far from good connections or patronage helped Vodianova’s career. Appearance and inner charisma are the secret to success.

Vodianova always liked to dress beautifully PHOTO: Alexey Vasiliev

– As for the figure, Natasha always loved to eat. I remember once she ate 27 dumplings at one time. This was before leaving for a shoot in Italy. She never really followed her figure, she ate what she wanted. It is that there are models that have such a good metabolism that they remain thin, says the talent scout.

But it turned out that beauty alone, even in modeling, will not go far … The girl, who left school at the age of 15, had to learn a lot in order to get into people.

– In master classes, I always say that in addition to external data, internal potential is important. When Natasha was in Moscow in 1999, I gave her some books to read, advised her to go to movies. She read John Fowles’ novel The Magus in two days. She was not very good at learning languages ​​in Russia, but during the six months of her life abroad, she was so fluent in English and French that she later spoke fluently. That is, her inner potential has developed so much that she helped her appearance to reach such a level, ”concludes Alexei Vasiliev.

The Moscow magazines of the future top model also did not immediately send a PHOTO: Alexei Vasiliev

Now Vodianova is already the mother of five children: the eldest son is also actively involved in modeling. Beauty herself went from grandiose shows and endless camera flashes to charity, but she can still be found in the fashion world and in glossy magazines.


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Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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