While browsing the bookshelves at Barnes & Noble last summer, Annabelle Tsaboukas caught the eye of a photographer. Two months later, she was walking the spring 2011 runways for 3.1 Phillip Lim, Threeasfour, Imitation, Topshop Unique in London and Vivienne Tam (she closed the latter show), and now she’s readying for her second season of shows. Tsaboukas combines a charming, down-to-earth personality with dark round eyes, alabaster skin, long hair and — perhaps due to her family’s “Italian gypsy” roots — an air of mystery that comes across on the runway.
Height: 5’ 9”
Birth sign: Scorpio
Hometown: New York City
How did you become a model?
“I was scouted at the Barnes & Nobel in Union Square last July. A photographer stopped me in my tracks and was like, ‘Who’s your agency?’ I told him that I don’t model, and he was like, ‘No. You have to model.’ He took test shots of me and…he has connections.”
You’re a native New Yorker?
“My great-grandmother moved here from Sicily. We still live in the house she moved into — it’s 100 years old! It’s falling apart, but it’s awesome. And my great-grandmother is still alive.”
There’s some debate online about your ethnicity.
“They’re like, ‘Is she Greek?’ My mother’s side is Italian gypsy from Sicily and Greek. And my father’s side is Irish, German, Belgian and English.”
How did your first season go?
“Pretty good. I had never walked in heels before, so I went to the agency every day and walked back and forth to practice. It was hard, coming from not wearing heels ever to wearing 6-inch heels. I’m 5 foot 9 and a half, so I never saw the need to wear them before.”
What’s the first thing you notice about other models?
“They’re all taller than me! I just walk in and I’m like, ‘Whoa, is she wearing heels?’ And she’s not! Everyone has their thing. Some have height, but I have other stuff to make up for it.”
What was it like walking Topshop in London?
“That was the first time I traveled — ever — in my life, which was really frightening. There I was, 18 years old, getting on a plane by myself to London. I was on British Airways and I hear the pilot talking. I’m like, ‘I don’t understand English!’ because I couldn’t understand [his accent].”
What are your goals for this upcoming fall season?
“I hope to go to Milan and Paris.”
How would you describe your personal style?
“It’s edgy and a bit masculine. I love clothes that are asymmetric or otherwise interesting to look at — the British punk fashion of the Eighties and Nineties, the early Visual Kei movement in Japan and Gothic Lolita are such powerful sources of inspiration for me. And I might have an unnatural fondness for black leather jackets.”
What about beauty products. Any must-haves?
“I never leave the house without eyeliner. That’s all I need. I don’t care about the brand as long as it’s black.”
What would we find if we looked into your refrigerator?
“A lot of cheese — I love cheese! Cheddar cheese. There’s stuff for sandwiches because I’m obsessed with sandwiches. Don’t take me to a fancy restaurant — take me to Subway!”
What’s your favorite sandwich?
“I can describe it perfectly. Whenever I go to Subway, I order Italian herb-and-cheese bread with turkey and Swiss — toasted — with lettuce, olives, green peppers and mayo. No tomato. It’s all the best flavors.”
What music are you currently listening to?
“I listen to Korean pop. It’s really watered down, but I love it. It’s like Korean boy bands. There’s this band I really love called X Japan. And Irish folk music from my Irish side! I like to pretend I can dance — river dancing! I’m also a techno junkie. European dance — Basshunter, Tattoo.”
“He’s like my hero. He started out as a nobody. He would make his own music on his computer and upload them on his site. He got famous as a DJ. And I’m like, ‘I would like that to be me!’ I like that, too. I like to make music in my free time.”
What kind of music do you make?
“Like dance music. There are some programs on the computer that you can do it on. I like house music, dance, something catchy. I want to get into the music industry sometime — either as a composer for popular music…or it would be really cool to be a pop star in Asia [laughing].”
Can you sing?
“I can sing karaoke. That’s another hobby I have. Before I started working as a model, I was hanging out with my Chinese friends and singing Chinese songs in karaoke. But there are so many Japanese people in fashion, so now I have to learn Japanese.”
You know Mandarin?
“I studied it in school for just three years. Half my friends are Russian and half are Chinese because of the neighborhood I grew up in — Bensonhurst [Brooklyn]. So I have a lot of friends that I can try to speak with, but they all speak Cantonese, and I speak Mandarin. It’s completely different. People say that I have a Taiwanese accent, though, because I listen to a lot of Taiwanese music.”