"I started modeling when I was 21—I was a late bloomer. I was studying classical music in Poland, where I’m from, and in the States, and modeling was the last thing I could have ever imagined doing. But I’m glad I started late, because it was at the point where you either make it or you don’t. You already look like you will look—it’s not like a 14-year-old who will develop into someone else. And I got picked to work with Jil Sander, who used to take in a lot of new faces... I’m 36 now, and I guess I’ve maintained relevancy because my look is classic, but not too pretty. I can do a campaign for H&M or Alexander Wang, and I can do weird stuff with Steven Klein or more commercial work. I think success in modeling comes down to your look, luck, hard work, how professional you are, and, let’s face it, how well you manage the business side of things.
I’m back in Paris now—where I’ve lived with my nine-year-old son for three years—but I just came back from getting married [in Italy]! The wedding was on a little island off the coast of Positano that had belonged to the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. It was like a dream fairytale—super intimate, only 80 people. And, actually, Azzedine Alaïa fitted my vintage Alaïa wedding dress. I bought it online through 1stdibs, from Rare Vintage in New York. It arrived in such a tiny box, because the fabric was so fine, and needed some fixing. Azzedine did it three days before the wedding. It was so nice of him.
For my hair and makeup on my wedding day, I didn’t really want too much. My hair was kind of hippie-ish—messy and natural. I didn’t wear a lot of eye makeup because I knew I would be crying, and I didn’t want anything on my lips because we were kissing like crazy. My skin was still nice and tan from the summer, so we just used a little taupe on my face to match my deep-set eyes. I put black eyeliner on my top waterline—it doesn’t look good on me on the bottom lid—and I didn’t use mascara. I like to pretend I have eyebrows with Chanel Sculpting Eyebrow Pencil in Blond.
On a day-to-day basis, if I ever wear makeup, I just use something brown for my eye, like Bobbi Brown Eyeshadow in Wheat, which is a gray-ish beige. And I also have a Chanel Le Crayon Yeux in Brun. Generally, I don’t wear mascara because if I’m wearing makeup, that usually means I’ll be out late, and I hate taking mascara off when I get back. I’m just lazy. [Laughs] It’s horrible, but it’s true. I like a little something on my cheeks, too. When I started modeling, it was the age of Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, and I still use it. Otherwise, I don’t feel like myself. The one thing I don’t ever really wear is lipstick, because you have to pay too much attention to how you eat and drink when you wear it.
I try to always brush my teeth and wash my face every night before I go to sleep. I’m quite disciplined about it. The only toothpaste I use is Arm & Hammer Extreme Whitening Toothpaste—it has the best scent. And to take my makeup off, I use La Roche-Posay Respectissime or Bioderma Créaline. I like makeup removers that aren’t greasy. So far I’ve been very lucky with my skin, but I’m getting to the age where I need to start paying more attention to moisturizing. My skin can get dry, so I use Eucerin DermoDensifyer Day Cream and La Mer The Eye Concentrate. The eye cream smells just like cucumber—it’s refreshing. And I really like Joelle Ciocco Cerat Aux Fleurs. It’s a milky, yellow oil, almost like a moisturizer, that I use for toner.
I think your skin is a result of your lifestyle. For me, I eat well, don’t drink too much, and don’t smoke, so that’s already a big advantage. When you don’t take care of yourself from the inside, you have to make up for it with products. I’m not too strict, though: I drink a little bit... I think people should enjoy life. Stress is one of the worst enemies of beauty. When you are relaxed, it shows. Right now I’m very happy and Zen, so I don’t feel like I need to wear much. I also don’t do 20 fashion shows in a week, because that just kills you.
When I got pregnant, I started treating my hair better, too. I cut it really short and stopped coloring it. Now I haven’t dyed my hair in 10 years. I think that’s the key. I don’t really have to do much with it now, because I like to have clean, baby hair. I wash it every day out of habit. I know it’s not good for your hair, but it wakes me up. I take a total of five minutes in the shower and use Klorane Chamomile Shampoo, which is good for keeping it blond. I also use David Mallett L'Hydratation Shampoo and Conditioner, and sometimes the Kiehl's Amino Acid Shampoo, since I like the coconut smell. But I don’t do anything to 'style' it, really. I love life—I don’t want to spend two hours getting ready in the bathroom every day. There are so many other things I would rather be doing. If I want a little volume, I'll maybe spray in Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray. But it’s not too good for my hair because it dries it out. When I have split ends, I put a little Moroccan Oil on the bottoms, which weighs my hair down, but it smells nice. I also love the smell of Frédéric Malle Bigarade Concentree—that’s my fragrance.
I wish I could say I worked out a lot, but I don’t really. I believe in an active life. I swam every day this summer, I walk a lot, and I ski in the winter. There was a time in my life where I was working out and going to the gym, but not anymore. I like to have energy, though—I’m not a couch potato. Skiing and swimming are great exercise, if you can fit them in. But, then again, talk to me in two months when I’m not in good shape. [Laughs]
The older I get, the more I feel like myself. It’s like I don’t have to pretend anymore. I have a child and a family, and every year I become more comfortable with my own face, body, and character. I think that actually shows on your face. Even people who are very beautiful, but are jealous and mean, have this kind of grimace on their face all of the time, or they will say something ugly and the charm is gone. Now that I’m happy in life and in love—I’ve never been happier—there’s a kind of serenity that people respond to. There has to be some kind of bone structure change or something. [Laughs] But happiness really makes everyone look their best."
—as told to ITG
Malgosia Bela photographed by Emily Weiss in Paris on October 1, 2013.