"I grew up in Russia, in a city called Perm. I started [modeling] when I was 15—I did beauty contests. It wasn’t really about winning, but more about the preparation and learning how to walk. It was an education. I won a modeling contest and then they sent me to Moscow. It was all so exciting. Then they sent me to Milan and I realized that I didn’t really understand what modeling was actually about. Everything was in English and my English was really bad. But, I worked really hard and learned really fast. I survived. When I went back home, I told my mom I was an adult and that I could take care of myself. I was making my own money. I didn’t want to go back to school, and she got really, really upset with me and told me that I shouldn’t do anything until I finished school. She was worried—I was sixteen. So, I went back to school and I finished. Agents called me everyday asking me to come back. My mom wanted me to go to university, but I didn’t pass my exams. [Laughs] I went to Paris when I was 17 and my first big break was when I went to New York for Fashion Week. It was in February and I started doing shows right away. Then I got picked up for a cover Steven Klein photographed. It was a black and white picture where I posed with a fake horse. I got another cover right after. I went to Milan to do a show for Gucci, when Tom Ford was there, and that was a really big deal because all the supermodels walked in that show. I loved that job—it was amazing for me. I felt like I was achieving so many things, but I was still just a baby.
I learned beauty tricks at the shows. I always loved working with Pat [McGrath] because she always explained things. Her makeup is so beautiful. She did some of the Galliano shows and those were the best experiences. So theatrical and over the top. One season we had fake tears. It was so amazing. Another season she did really thin, high eyebrows. They glued down our real eyebrows and drew them in way higher. It was so precise and totally changed the face. In the beginning, makeup wasn’t a priority of mine, but I learned a lot about it. After a while, I started to really love makeup. I learned so much that now I can do it myself. I think I really learned after doing five seasons of shows. When the Met Gala theme was “China: Through the Looking Glass,” Pat came up to me and said, ‘Let me see your makeup.’ I had done a cat eye look with all these cool pigments. It took a lot of time and I was so nervous because it was the first time I had done my makeup for the Met Gala. She was like, ‘Oh my god, you did really, really well.’ I couldn’t believe she told me that. I have a lot of funny beauty stories from when I was a kid, too. I would steal everything from my mom and grandmother. One time, I was at my grandmother’s and no one was home. She had amazing clothes and beautiful dresses. I would pick out a dress, a perfume—she had the strongest perfumes, like every old lady—and then a red lipstick. I would put the lipstick all over my face. When I would hear them coming back, I would put everything back in the right spots but forget about my face. My grandmother would say, ‘Hi Natasha, did you touch my stuff?’ I would say, ‘No. Why do you say that? I would never touch your stuff.’ She would then tell me to go look in the mirror. [Laughs]
I think I’m still trying to figure out my personal beauty style. I don’t have one specific look. Every time I do makeup something new comes to my mind. I have my easy look where I just cover up with Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage, which is one of my favorites, because it’s drier and it doesn’t move throughout the day. Then I’ll use some powder. The Kevyn Aucoin one is really soft—it’s amazing. I use powder because I always get a bit shiny. Before I step out for a red carpet, I will set everything with powder. I always use a compact because other ones are too messy. I’ll contour with the Anastasia Contour Kit on my cheeks, jaw, chin, forehead and hairline and I’ll do a little bit of eyebrows too. MAC has amazing colors for blonde eyebrows—I use the pencil in Fling. It draws really well and it has a drier texture. Some pencils can be too creamy and don’t stay on. I also use the Anastasia Gel for my eyebrows. That’s a normal daytime look.
But, if I go out, I like to do a little bit of eyeliner. My favorite eyeliner is the Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Pencil. I do it between my eyelashes. It shapes your eyes out and gives them an accent. I prefer to use waterproof stuff nowadays because I don’t want it to smudge. If I want to do a bit more, I’ll use the Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat under my eyes, on the tip of my nose, on my wrinkles, cheekbones and forehead. It’s very light and makes everything brighter. I apply the Make Up For Ever Foundation in 128 with a Shiseido brush–I don’t like to use my fingers. For highlighter, I like the Ambient Lighting Palette from Hourglass. I only use the middle color. I like blush sometimes, but I don’t have a favorite one. I like the Givenchy Healthy Glow Powder in 04 and I’ll do a little on the apples of my cheeks. If I’m going out and it’s just to dinner, I don’t go crazy with my lipstick. But, if it is something a little more fun, I’ll do red. Nars Dragon Girl and Makeup Forever Aqua Lipliner in East Sea—I think those are the best. I also have Nars Cruella, it’s a basic red. I don’t really like pink lipsticks but I do have a lot of nude colors. L’Oreal has really nice nude shades and I like Kat Von D in Bow N Arrow. This MAC Oak is one of my favorite lip colors, but I think they discontinued it. It’s a little brown and it has some pink, but it looks natural. For eyeshadows, I like the Tarte In Bloom palette and the Giorgio Armani Palette in Luxe Is More. I’ll use a lighter shade on the inside corner to highlight a little, and then I use something darker on the outside corner. I don’t smudge–I always blend with a brush. Kiko Milano and Make Up For Ever make good eyeshadow brushes. The 122 Blending Brush by Make Up For Ever is good for a smoky eye. I sometimes use individual fake lashes, but it takes me a long time to take them out. The Ardell lashes are really good. Nars Larger than Life was my favorite mascara but they discontinued it, so now I use the Shiseido one. It’s the best. I like to apply my mascara really close to the roots. Whenever I find a mascara I like, I stick to it, but then when they discontinue, I have to start looking all over again! For scents, I like Eau De Sisley No. 2. It’s strong and very clean. I used to always wear Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue. I like drier smells—kind of citrusy, but nothing too sweet.
My skin used to breakout all the time, especially when I was doing shows. My mom taught me to always take off my makeup and use a toner. She was obsessed with toners—it was very funny. Throughout the years, I started to clean deeper with scrubs and the Clarisonic. I use my Clarisonic every other day because it’s a little too strong to use everyday. I use the Chanel Gentle Bi-Phase Eye Makeup Remover to take off my waterproof mascara and eyeliner. I don’t rub my skin too hard when I’m taking off my mascara because it gets so red. To cleanse, I use the Aesop Fabulous Face Cleanser. I like the way their stuff smells. I also use their B & Tea Balancing Toner. Then I use the Odacité Beautiful Day Moisturizer and I just started using their Night Time Antioxidants Repair Serum. The other Odacite serums are also good. I mix them up with a cream. I’ll usually pick which serum I use depending on how my skin is feeling. They have a Vitamin C one that I use in the daytime. I also have their Eye Contour and Youthful Glow serums. Whenever I need something stronger, I’ll use the Tracie Martyn Resculpting Neck & Body Serum. It gives a really nice glow. Also if I apply makeup on top of it, the makeup doesn’t move.
The Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask is another favorite. It plumps everything up and it’s very quick. I like the Sisley Black Rose Infusion Cream too, but I find that it’s a little strong so I only use it sometimes. I also like the Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing Foaming Mask—it’s very nice and light. I don’t wear SPF everyday, but I do when it’s sunny out. I like Biotherm, and I always use it in SPF 50. It’s very moisturizing and it’s not very white—and SPF 50 can definitely be very white. [Laughs] I like to try different beauty products every year or so because I feel like the skin needs an update. It gets used to the products you use, but it’s also just fun to try new things. In Amsterdam, where I live, there is a really great store called Skins. They have the best perfume, candles, creams—everything.
My favorite hair products are from Aesop. I wash my hair everyday with the Nurturing Shampoo because now I have my natural roots and when you have natural roots your hair gets dirty quicker and I hate that. I use the Nurturing Conditioner too. It smells so good! I don’t use conditioner on my roots, just the ends. I let it dry naturally because it recently crossed my mind that I have such big natural waves and I like them because it makes me feel fresh and young again, like when I started modeling. I use the Rodin Oil on my hair. It’s really moisturizing and smells amazing. I’ve been blonde for ten years. My natural color is kind of ash dark. I go to Christophe Robin for my color and I like his style because he can do very cool highlights and make you look very sexy. I’ve known him for years. I kept on bleaching it for the Gucci campaigns and my hair really started freaking out. It wasn’t a disaster though, because I knew I was in good hands. Christophe was always really careful. He makes a mask for colored hair that you have to warm up in hot water. I’m so bad at styling my hair. I don’t understand how people can do a blow dry themselves. I used to use the Batiste XXL Volume Spray. It gives a cool, kind of Kate Moss messy look. I don’t really cut my hair anymore. Next time I see Luigi Morenu I’ll ask him to do it even though he doesn’t [cut hair] anymore. For me he will. I love him!"
—as told to ITG
Natasha Poly photographed by Tom Newton on Monday, September 11, 2017.