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Like most children of the early Nineties, Natalie Keyser was an unabashed Backstreet Boys fan. But for the then 13-year-old, an adolescent infatuation turned into a lucky break. While buying some cheesy memorabilia at a 2006 concert in her native Oregon, Keyser was spotted by a scout. “I was on line to get one of those big foam fingers and I got tapped on the shoulder,” says Keyser. Five years later, the Elite-repped looker doesn’t have much time for boy bands. Just this past season, she opened Thom Browne, walked for Betsey Johnson and appeared in a slew of presentations including Wes Gordon and Dallin Chase. With her distinctive smatter of freckles and long copper tresses, not to mention those self-described “mile-long” legs, Keyser continues to stand out in a crowd.

This story first appeared in the April 20, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

When did you first come to New York?
My first visit was to meet with Elite when I was 14. I was in middle school so I was with my mom. I had actually just gotten my braces off.

Did you have an awkward phase?
Oh yeah. I was much taller than everyone else. I was like 5’9” by eighth grade. I had pimples all over my face. I went through it for about three years.

But you were discovered during this time. You couldn’t have been that awkward.
I think [the scout] could see the awkwardness was temporary. I remember she called me a “redhead string bean,” which I guess was a compliment.

How did you balance school and modeling?
My high school was actually really cool with it but it was still difficult. I worked a lot with my school counselor but I ended up missing six months of junior year so I had to do summer school after that, but I graduated with As and Bs.

What’s your greatest asset in terms of your look?
I think I’m really versatile. I have really high cheekbones and I like my legs — they are miles long. They don’t ever have to Photoshop more of them in.

What do you mean?
Oh I’ve heard that a lot of the time they have to use Photoshop to make the legs look longer.

Photoshop aside, have you picked up any beauty secrets or tips for us nontechies?
I don’t usually wear makeup but when I do, I only use mineral makeup because it doesn’t cake at all. It’s really light. And I don’t really pluck my eyebrows but I use hair spray to sort of style them and keep them from going all over the place.

Does your figure come naturally to you?
Yeah, I don’t diet. I mostly eat fruits and vegetables. That’s just how I was raised, to eat healthy. But I mean I do indulge sometimes. I have my fair share of peanut M&Ms. Those are my favorite. And Hot Pockets are my ultimate weakness.

What are your modeling goals?
To become as successful as I can. I also want to perfect my walk. My first season, I was on option for Calvin Klein. Everyone was like, ‘She’s going to be exclusive for Calvin Klein,’ but it didn’t happen because my walk was terrible.

How bad was it?
I worked with Mac [Folkes], the runway coach for Elite, and you can ask him. He told me and everyone else that I was the worst girl he’s ever trained. I’m like a story now. I just couldn’t walk in heels. I was so young that I’d never worn them before. They hurt so bad but I didn’t complain and just worked to get it right.

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