Liza Ostanina’s unusual, striking beauty — wide-set, icy blue eyes, fair skin and soft freckles — has made her a favorite on the runways of Gucci, Prada, Jil Sander, Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Alexander McQueen. But her whirlwind career still takes her completely by surprise: “Sometimes, I look in the mirror and I can’t believe I’m a model,” she said. “I just sit in bed and think, ‘What am I doing? What’s going on?’ Most people who are 17 still live with their parents.”

 

This story first appeared in the June 29, 2016 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

How did you start modeling?

My mother agency, StarSystem, found me on social media back in Russia — from a couple of really bad photos. I was just walking in the street and my friends took a picture of me when I was 12 or 13. I couldn’t believe that my mother agency said they liked me from those pictures! I deleted their message…I forgot about it. I thought it was a joke. My sister was like, “Are you stupid? That’s a good agency! You need to meet with them and sign a contract.” I told my mom, and she said, “You should try. It could be fun.” I never believed I could be a model. Everyone commented on how tall I was, but I was like, “I’m not beautiful at all.” I didn’t like my nose. I guess it’s normal to have those thoughts.

Do you have any stories from the recent runway season?

I went to the fitting for Marc Jacobs and I was scared about the dresses. I was told they had a lot of long dresses, and I was scared I would step on the dress and fall. And I got a long dress, because I’m taller than a lot of girls. There were also these crazy boots — everyone was so scared to fall down. They were really high. And then you finish and you’re, like, “I didn’t fall! I didn’t fall!”

You’ve shot for Vogue Italia, Numéro, Interview, Harper’s Bazaar…

I like shooting for magazines. I really like doing some [indie] magazines, too. You do some weird poses. Once, I had this shoot for Dazed & Confused where I smoked fake cigarettes with my legs. It was fun. Sometimes, it [comes in handy] to be sporty. But other shoots are more ladylike. Growing up, I watched “America’s Next Top Model.” You only dream about these things.

How are you adjusting to life in New York?

Now it’s much easier because I have friends in modeling. One of my best friends is Odette Pavlova — we live together. I’m friends with almost all [the] Russian models.…It’s like a little Russian mafia [laughs]. If I’m lazy, I like to sit in the apartment and watch some movies. My friends and I like to go to walk around, go to art museums, weird stuff. We really like to walk around Brighton Beach. It’s like a Russian village…with really nice Russian food.

What do you hope to accomplish?

I am really focused on modeling right now. But I live in real-time — I try not to dream.

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