Natalia Vodianova Glamour Cover
Natalia Vodianova was brought up in a poverty-stricken single-parent household in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Her mother, Larisa, couldn’t work full-time because Vodianova’s sister Oksana, who has autism and cerebral palsy, required constant care. At just 11 Vodianova began selling fruit illegally on the street to help her family make ends meet. At 17 she moved to Paris to pursue a career in modeling, after being spotted by a local modeling scout. In 2001 the 5’9 ½” blond appeared on Marc Jacobs’ runway, and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, more than a decade into her career, Supernova, as she was nicknamed by photographer Mario Testino, is still shining: Last fall Vodianova landed the cover of Vanity Fair‘s International Best-Dressed issue and made Forbes‘ short list of the world’s highest-paid models; this spring you’ll see her in ads for both Stella McCartney and Guerlain.
But her most meaningful successes aren’t professional—they’re personal. Inspired by Oksana, Vodianova is using her clout to change the lives of children with special needs. In Russia, where people with disabilities are still not often considered equal members of society, the Naked Heart Foundation has helped schools train teachers, has built 136 accessible playgrounds, and, little by little, has chipped away at those damaging attitudes. In its first 10 years Naked Heart has raised nearly $35 million, and its founder, Vodianova, has earned many awards—among them, Glamour Woman of the Year in 2014. In short, she’s not just taking care of herself; she’s taking care of thousands.
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