Philanthropist, mother, supermodel – we chat to Natalia Vodianova about her fourth pregnancy and what’s next
There are all the telltale signs of a new life: boxes from Bonpoint, bunches of white roses and a photograph of a newborn foot on the mantelpiece. Natalia Vodianova’s son Maxim was born six weeks ago, her fourth child, after Lucas, Neva and Viktor, and the first by her new partner, Antoine Arnault (chief executive of Berluti and heir to the LVMH luxury conglomerate). Perhaps it’s inevitable that when a supermodel has a baby, the rules are different. Vodianova sits on a white sofa in her Paris apartment dressed in slim trousers and heels. She doesn’t just look as if she’s recovered well from birth, but as though she’s never given birth at all. “Thanks, Mum!” she laughs, grateful for her genes. Anyway, in Vodianova’s world, six weeks is a lifetime. Ten days after Maxim was born, she hosted a fundraising event for her charity Naked Heart Foundation at the Grand Palais in Paris, wearing a red Dior trouser suit with a tiny waist. “I was like,” she fist pumps the air, “yessssss!” Leading a charity is Vodianova’s other occupation, when she’s not designing an underwear range for Etam or modelling for global brands. She set up Naked Heart Foundation ten years ago to support children with special needs in her native Russia. Vodianova grew up in the toughest of circumstances: her father walked out when she was two, her sister had cerebral palsy, her mother struggled to feed her children. “Seeing someone you love being absolutely helpless,” she says now, “not being able to do anything for your mother… It’s really hard.” Her initial idea was to create play areas for children, but as she has divested more and more energy into her charity so its mission has expanded. Naked Heart Foundation works with specialists in children’s health and development and supports centres where children with special needs can go during the day so that their mothers can work. “All the normal things we take for granted,” she says.
Four children, an international career, a growing charity, ambassador for the Sochi Winter Olympics, Etam designer: it’s a lot for one person. She has help, but she also has “priorities. This is how it works… I have to balance my days.” Modelling is straightforward: she can pick and choose the jobs she wants and has cut down her time spent doing it to about two months a year. Naked Heart Foundation demands far more of her energy, planning fundraising events, talking to her team of twenty who do the day-to-day running of the charity, and planning its long-term vision. Of course, the two complement each other. Vodianova is able to use her contacts in the fashion industry to help her fundraise. As she puts it, grinning, “It’s a win win win win situation.” And in the centre of it all are her children. “My god, I love being pregnant.” She means it. In a hectic life, pregnancy “is the only time I allow myself to take care of myself.” Her favourite thing? A Leonor Greyl hair treatment at the salon which involves a lengthy head massage. “I think during my pregnancy I did that almost every week; it’s the most incredible thing.” She swears by Mama Mio products – body butter and lotions – for her skin. Oh, and Agent Provocateur bras. They’re not officially for maternity wear, but they work. As for exercise, she used to be a yoga fanatic, but stopped when she started going out with Arnault “because it was getting in the way of romantic mornings in bed!” Now she’s given birth, she wants to try something new to keep fit – possibly pilates, or Bikram yoga. When it comes to exercise, as with everything else in her life, she’s both obsessive and militant: “I don’t waste time; if I’m going to spend one hour on something I want to feel the impact.” As for her wardrobe, Vodianova acknowledges that she’s fortunate in her access to a wide range of brands and designers. She never wore maternity clothes (“no way!), preferring items that she could make work with her bump: Alaia dresses “because they’re so stretchy”, Vuitton, Dior, Acne sweaters. The idea of Nine in the Mirror excites her, being able to get everything in one place. “I’m looking forward to it for my next pregnancy,” she jokes. For Vodianova, having children and being able to provide for them is a privilege she will always be grateful for. And being pregnant is the greatest pleasure of all: “You feel so whole… so complete with the world, raising another little baby, another little person.”
In Her Words
Hide the bump or show off the bump?
It depends. Not hide, but no nudity. No crop tops!
Nine long months or nine joyous months?
Nine long joyous months.
Are you a go-home-and-collapse-on-the-sofa pregnant woman, or a hyperactive-yoga-superbusy pregnant woman? (Or both?)
Hyperactive superbusy pregnant woman!
What do you miss when you’re pregnant?
Sleeping on my belly.
What couldn’t you do without?
What’s your favourite pregnancy brand?
A Russian friend of mine, Ulyana Sergeenko, who makes buttoned up dresses that are super loose in chiffon, very very cute and easy to wear.
Most surprising pregnancy fact?
The belly button popping out.
Top tip to other pregnant women?
Alcohol – women usually go for champagne, but babies really hate bubbles apparently, so if you are having a sip of something it is better to have red wine.
Boy or girl?
If your partner could carry the baby, would you let him?
Definitely not! Antoine… if he gets a little fever, it’s like “I’m sick, I’m feeling terrible”, he’s under all the blankets with a scarf around his neck. I cannot imagine him pregnant, I’d much rather do it myself!
Words by Sophie Elmhirst
Photography by Mathieu Cesar