Natalia Vodianova, 29, was born in Gorky, now Nizhny Novgorod. She is one of the world’s most successful models, and the founder and president of the Naked Heart Foundation, which provides safe play areas and family support centres for children in urban Russia.
What was your earliest ambition?
To have enough money to have essential matters like food and clothes taken care of.
Public school or state school? University or straight into work?
State school. I missed quite a lot of school because I was working from the age of 11. I was praised by the teachers. They knew I was not a stupid child, I just couldn’t perform to my abilities. The children were not very nice to me because my sister is disabled and my family was very poor. When I was 16, I attended modelling school – a complete rip-off, you don’t need to go to school to be a model! I ended up with an agency in my home town and one day there was a big casting; I went to that, then to another in Moscow, and I was taken on by an agency in Paris. The contrast between where I grew up and Paris was pretty strange, in the most wonderful way.
Who was or still is your mentor?
A few very close friends.
How physically fit are you?
Very healthy, but always tired. I’m devoted and hard-working; I don’t have much time for myself.
Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
If you are ambitious you can have a moment of glory but it will most likely be temporary. But talent always finds its way out.
Have you ever taken an IQ test?
How politically committed are you?
Do you consider your carbon footprint?
Do you have more than one home?
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
What’s your biggest extravagance?
An amazing catering company I often use at home and Buccellati jewellery.
In what place are you happiest?
At home in Sussex.
What ambitions do you still have?
My only ambitions are for the Naked Heart Foundation to improve the social system in Russia. The foundation was born in 2004 following the Beslan tragedy. I was in Russia at the time so I followed everything very closely. I thought it was the biggest cruelty that ever happened in my country. I thought what could I do for the children that survived. I went back into my childhood to see what I missed and realised I didn’t have anywhere to go with my sister and escape from everyday life. So that’s when the idea of a play park came. We have now built 60 all over the country and have started a programme to provide support to families in need.
What drives you on?
My childhood and desire to fix the issues that came up.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
My beautiful, good-hearted, well-mannered children.
What has been your greatest disappointment?
I learnt early to have little expectation so I protected myself from ever feeling greatly disappointed.
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?
“It will be OK.”
If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?
Find the right solution and move on with grace.
Do you believe in assisted suicide?
Do you believe in an afterlife?
I believe in reincarnation of the soul.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?