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Supermodel to Front (BUGABOO)Red Campaign to Help Generate Funds for the Global Fund

Posted May 12 2010 12:00am

Supermodel Natalia Vodianova is fronting the (BUGABOO)RED campaign, shot by Mary McCartney, to raise awareness and help generate funds for the Global Fund, an international organization dedicated to combating AIDS in Africa. 

Since last autumn, Bugaboo has an ongoing commitment to contribute 1% of all its revenue to the Global Fund - and this campaign, with its symbolic red silk, takes the positive message to the world.

Launched in 1999, Bugaboo is renowned for its innovative and groundbreaking designs and is the first of the (RED)TM partners to contribute 1% of total revenue to the Global Fund, helping to fund AIDS programmes in Africa.  Bugaboo feels passionately about encouraging and facilitating mobility all over the globe, from mothers and children in Europe to Africa.

Natalia Vodianova Interview, conducted by Oliver Bennett, London March 12th 2010 

Natalia_Bugaboo It is like some glorious Renaissance painting bought to life. Yards of billowing red silk draped over Bugaboo strollers, several naked gurgling babies on the fabric, celebrity photographer Mary McCartney making sense of this cheerful chaos - and in the centre, as serene as Venus rising from the waves, supermodel Natalia Vodianova.

Fresh from successfully completing her first half-marathon in Paris, Natalia is enjoying herself immensely at this special shoot for Bugaboo (PRODUCT)RED™ - the collaboration between  Bugaboo, the mobility company, and (RED)™, the initiative established to help eliminate AIDS in Africa. “Actually, it’s a bit dangerous for me,” she jokes. “I’m always broody around children.  They’re so cute and adorable.”

At 28, the Russian model has one of the most bankable faces in the world, commanding glossy covers worldwide for her other-worldly beauty. But this shoot departs from the normal glamorous run: Natalia is fronting the (BUGABOO)RED campaign, launching on International Mother’s Day on 9 May, to raise awareness and help generate funds for the Global Fund, an international organization dedicated to combating AIDS in Africa.  Since last autumn, Bugaboo has an ongoing commitment to contribute 1% of all its revenue to the Global Fund - and this campaign, with its symbolic red silk, takes the positive message to the world.

There’s a reason why Natalia chose to be involved in the (BUGABOO)RED project (for which she is unpaid): she’s a devoted mother of three children. “If I can support children worldwide, of course I want to help, “she says. “It’s a real pleasure - and Mary is lovely.”

Mary McCartney, no stranger to shooting some of the world’s most famous faces, is like Natalia herself a busy working mum of two sons.  Neither mothers have brought their kids onto this set, but both dote on the babies in attendance.  

Natalia’s excellent Russian-accented English is the result of her powerful drive to make something of her life. Indeed, she has been on an extraordinary journey from her home town of Nizhni Novgorod - Russia’s third largest city - to England, where she now lives contentedly with her family. One day might find her playing with the kids on the rope swing in their country garden; the next criss-crossing the world on top photo-shoots.

Under these gilded circumstances, some might find it easy to forget about the thornier side of life. But motherhood has driven Natalia’s sense of destiny and purpose. “It changes your life,” she says. “You become more aware and responsible. When you give childhood to your own children, it’s very sad to see other children suffering.”

One of the greatest injustices of HIV/AIDS is the way it can pass from parent to child. “It makes children very vulnerable, “she says. “HIV/AIDS is a very smart enemy of the human race and the fact that children are born carrying this enemy makes me feel sick.” As a result the (BUGABOO)RED campaign is, as she puts it, “a wonderful, intelligent collaboration”.

Natalia is no Miss World figure, offering platitudes without the benefit of experience. From an impoverished background in Nizhni, hers is an astonishing rags to riches story that the press has found irresistible. Indeed, although she remains gracious, Natalia is “bored to repeat it“.

“I come from a very poor background, bought up by a single mum, with a little sister who is mentally disabled,” she says. To alleviate this hardship, Natalia worked at the family’s market stall from the age of 11, continuing to work on the family’s behalf after moving out at 15, before being scouted at 17 and moving to Paris to become a model.

This tough upbringing has given her a perspective on her success, and she brushes off any suggestion that juggling modelling and motherhood might be difficult. “Humans are very good at adapting and surviving, particularly if you’ve had a childhood like mine,” she says. “You don’t look for the easy road.”

She misses her three children - Lucas, 8, Viktor, 5 and Neva, 2 - when she’s not with them, but brings them on assignments as often as possible. Natalia laughs as remembers them: “The older boy is very sensitive, the little boy is the cheeky one, and my daughter is a princess who gets away with everything.”

Indeed, according to Natalia, supermodel parenthood isn’t so unusual any longer. “Models like Angela Lindvall have children about the same age as mine, “she says. “I think the fashion industry is a much healthier, more normal industry these days.”

And more compassionate. Take (RED), which is extremely visible in today’s fashion world. “You can’t really miss it, “says Natalia.

“There have been several successful collaborations including this one with Bugaboo.  I was keen to work with the company as they feel passionately about helping mothers and babies around the world and this is a powerful message to tell on International Mothers Day.”

How does a glamorous shoot like this actually help? “Well, people love to look at beautiful pictures,” says Natalia. “If an image is very powerful then it captures their eye, and they get the message. “ It’s a way, she says, to “attract people who might not normally engage”.

Campaigns like (BUGABOO)RED also testify to a new mood of global responsibility. “There’s something really positive happening in fashion,” says Natalia. “These days, if you don’t take a socially responsible position, you’re out of the club. If you’re going to have a multi-million pound party, you should have a very good reason to do it, attach it to a charity; give back to the community.”

Natalia has been involved with charitable projects before, as founder of the Naked Heart Foundation, which builds urban playgrounds across Russia - it has completed 40 so far. “Play is very therapeutic to children, and brings happiness to their lives,” she says. “But I don’t get involved with every charity that comes my way. (BUGABOO)RED is particularly worthwhile as AIDS is humanity’s biggest enemy.”

Africa is the worst affected continent for HIV/AIDS and despite being well-travelled, Natalia hasn’t been yet. “My husband wanted to take me on a honeymoon to South Africa which unfortunately never happened, “she says. “But I know a lot of people who work in the countries that (RED) has been involved in and they tell me about the immense challenges as well as the progress.”   Since it was created in 2006, the Global Fund has become the dominant financer of programmes to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and malaria, with $19.3 billion for various programmes.

International Mothers Day is a cause of great celebration in the Vodianova household. “My children always make me little cards and cakes, and give me gifts,“ she says. “They’re so excited and it’s very touching”. Her ideal Mother’s Day would be spent with the children: reading, playing on the swing and singing songs to them. “I don’t sing well but I try,” she laughs.

So, what next? Natalia has started acting, including a part in Roman Coppola's film CQ with Billy Zane. “Recently I was Medusa in Clash of The Titans,” she says, adding that she had a computer generated Medusa hairdo. Still, this departure is “not the most important thing to me. It’s fun, but I don’t like to speak about things that are not set in stone.”

Rather, Natalia’s looking forward to pleasures both simple and charitable: seeing her own children grow, becoming involved in more projects like the partnership between (RED) and Bugaboo - and perhaps running a full marathon next time. 

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