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.”
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.