top of page

Natalia Castellar Calvani on the truth of the modeling industry & Hispanic representation

Portrait by: Kristina Marie

Interview by: Isabella Vega

I, like thousands of young girls, have always been fascinated with the concept of a "model" - growing up, I toggled between seeing it as a superficial profession and the only real measure of beauty. That changed after I found Natalia Castellar Calvani, a model actively representing nonconventional forms of beauty whilst being a fearless advocate for every cause she feels passionately about. As a fellow Latina, I became obsessed with her authenticity. She is someone I am proud to call a friend, and I had the honor of conveying and sharing her story. We spoke of the truth of the modeling industry, how she was signed, and how she puts authenticity at the forefront of her work.

Isabella: Tell us a little bit about your story and how you started in the agency/got signed!

Natalia: I got acquainted with the idea of modelling when I was 15. My older sister, Bianca, wanted to get into photography and she used me as practice. She got involved in photography because my grandfather was a cinematographer with his own business, so growing up, he always shared his love for film and cameras with us. With that being said, I was very shy growing up, so I didn’t know if modeling and I were going to be good friends. As we began this new venture, I created an Instagram account and uploaded random things. My sister also began uploading her photos of me online at this time, so some went viral on Pinterest and Tumblr, leading to a growing platform. Eventually, top agencies started reaching out and simultaneously declining me when I would share my height (5’7)- they would tell me “let us know when you grow” as if I would magically grow into some majestic being... but Next Models was also very interested and crazily signed me within minutes of going on a Facetime call.

It sounds very movie-like, but it was a very slow process leading to that point and I was still young, so I didn’t have a traditional experience like most models where they travel to a big city and work 24/7. Before being signed, my sister and I would do a lot of creative shoots and get sent things for free in exchange for photos which at the time was amazing, but in retrospect was unfair to us. Many businesses exploit freelance creatives, especially the smaller ones out of paying them.

Isabella: How do you navigate the industry as a Hispanic model?

Natalia: I see the discrepancies between what clients supposedly advocate for vs who they actually want to represent their brand. I’ve gone to countless castings for jobs that are looking for “diversity” but do not show that in any way. I once went to a casting where I could count the number of non-white models on one hand despite the casting call’s brief being amount “diversity”. It’s very unfortunate how brands are quick to market one thing to the public but don’t even follow their own ideas.

Isabella: What’s the biggest misconception about modeling, or something you would tell girls looking to go into the industry?

Natalia: Safety and one’s own well-being is above everything. 99.9% of models are put in extremely vulnerable, often scary situations that no one prepares them for. From a young age I always felt a bit older than most kids my age and modeling definitely solidified that thought for myself. It forces you to grow up quicker than most. Traveling alone to random places, meeting strangers or even living with them (model apartments), handling taxes, being responsible for your safety, making sure you supplement yourself properly, the list goes on and on. Many people fail to comprehend how stressful these things can be on people, particularly younger models or ones who work/live in a different country. The job itself is easier than most, but it can come with a lot of challenges.....

On one occasion, I was shooting the biggest job I have ever booked. I remember being so excited and so grateful the entire day that I let it cloud my judgment towards the hairdresser on set. My hair style this day was down and slightly curled. Basically, he sexually assaulted while sliding his hands down my hair (which was lying on my chest rather than behind my back if that makes sense). He used my hair as an excuse to grab me since it could have been unsuspecting towards others. I remember him doing it multiple times. This had me feeling confused as to why he would linger and touch me so much. I had so many conflicting thoughts on my mind because this was the first time someone had touched me inappropriately on set, so I was very lost. I was very uncomfortable, but I felt too scared to say anything since this opportunity was huge and I did not want to risk it. Fast forward to last year, women began coming forward as sexual assault survivors which made me feel validated and angry all at once....

To read the full interview, with exclusive photos by Natalia's sister, Bianca Castellar Calvani - preorder a copy of Issue 2 - orders open until June 10th.

bottom of page