Natalia Vodianova is a Russian model, tech entrepreneur, and philanthropist, who now permanently resides in the United Kingdom. She has achieved considerable success as a runway, editorial and advertising campaign model.
Born in Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod) in the Soviet Union in 1982, Vodianova grew up in a poor district of the city with her mother and two half-sisters. Vodianova helped her mother sell fruit on the street and later started a fruit stand with her friend to help her family out of poverty.
At the age of 15, Vodianova enrolled in a modelling agency, and she signed with Viva Models and moved to Paris when she was 17. Since then, Vodianova has walked in more than 400 runway shows for U. S. and European-based designers, appeared on the covers of countless magazines such as Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vogue, and been photographed by prolific photographers like Steven Meisel, Mario Testino, Annie Leibovitz, and Peter Lindbergh.
Photographed by Steven Meisel, she appeared the first time on the cover of American Vogue in September 2004 as one of the “Models of the Moment.” As of May 2009, Vodianova has appeared on the cover of British Vogue seven times, the first being in September 2003. She made her first solo appearance on the cover of American Vogue in the July 2007 issue of the magazine.
Vodianova is founder and president of the Naked Heart Foundation, a philanthropic organisation that creates play parks for children in Russia in urban environments. Inspired by her own experience of having nowhere safe to play growing up, Vodianova wanted to give less fortunate Russian children the safe and fun experience she never had. She was inspired to create the charity after visiting Russia with her son Lucas and finding there were no suitable places for children to play. The organisation built its first play park in 2006 in Nizhny Novgorod, Vodianova’s hometown. The Naked Heart Foundation has since built 38 more.
In 2015, Vodianova launched Elbi, a smartphone app that allows users to donate small amounts of money to good causes and interact with the people and organisations behind them. Elbi’s advisory board includes Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, Arianna Huffington, and designer Diane von Furstenberg. Vodianova presented on Elbi at the One Young World 2016 Summit in Ottawa. She has served as a Counsellor in the past at the 2012 summit in Pittsburgh.