Modelology: What’s Supermodel Natalia Vodianova Up To?

Supermodel Natalia Vodianova, who celebrated her 28th birthday yesterday, was “discovered” at age 15, around the same time she was selling fruit on the streets of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia to make money for her poverty-stricken family. I say “discovered” because the ambitious young girl had actually enrolled in a modeling academy, where she became conversational in English—at the request of a model scout—in under three months. At 17, Vodianova signed with Viva Models in Paris, pursuing a career that would come to include contracts with Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton, and Yves Saint Laurent. Aside from occasional red-carpet appearances and ad campaigns, what’s she up to now?

Aside from contracts with L’Oréal, David Yurman, Marc Jacobs, Pepe Jeans, Diane von Fürstenberg, Chanel, and Guerlain that reportedly earn her around 5 million dollars a year, Miss Vodianova has also made a quiet transition into acting, most recently in the 2010 remake of the film Clash of the Titans (she’s the CGI-enhanced Medusa), and landed her first leading role in a film adaptation of Albert Cohen’s 1968 novel Belle du Seigneur, scheduled to be released in 2012. Her still-vibrant career, her role as a mother of three, and what many call a fairy-tale marriage to British property heir Justin Trevor Berkeley Portman (although rumors of divorce have recently been circulating) are all rounded out by her passion for charity. “I have done it. I have everything I want,” she told AskMen.com “I have made enough money to secure my family, and that is all I care about.”

She founded Naked Heart Foundation, an organization that builds playgrounds and parks for the children of Russia. She started the charity after visiting Russia with her son Lucas, noticing that there wasn’t anywhere for Lucas to play with other children. To date, the organization has built 38 playgrounds in urban areas around Russia. Natalia is also an ambassador for Hear the World, a campaign that raises awareness about hearing loss, and a spokesperson for the Tiger Trade Campaign, an alliance that aims to conserve wild tigers by stopping the trade of tiger parts and products. Last November, she won the Harper’s Bazaar Inspiration of the Year Award in honor of her philanthropic achievements. “I give probably fifty per cent of my time to charity,” she recently told Vogue. “The work is quite addictive. It’s really hard to stop after you feel you’ve made someone else happy. We started a new program where we give away grants and support to organizations that improve childhood for orphans and the disabled.”

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