Being Mama: Natalia Vodianova

The supermodel, philanthropist and mother of five, lets us take a sneak peek into her world.

“I grew up in Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia. It’s a very beautiful historical city, but it’s also surrounded by very poor and dangerous suburbs. My sister, Oksana, has cerebral palsy, and for my mother, looking after her was very difficult. My father left when I was little. It was a very tough upbringing. As a result, the charity work I do today is fueled by my experience of growing up in difficult circumstances. It gives me strength to fight to improve the lives of thousands of families like my own, who are raising children with special needs in Russia.”

“Philanthropy is at the heart of my life. I founded the Naked Heart Foundation in 2004, after the Beslan school siege. I wanted the children who had survived to have some happiness in their lives, so we started building playgrounds. Then, four years ago I was on Eurostar train with my digital advisor, Timon Afinksy, when he told me that a silly Instagram post of mine had received over 20,000 Likes in just a few minutes. Instead of being overjoyed, I was devastated! I had posted a picture the week before of an inclusive playpark we had built with Naked Heart, but it had only gotten a fraction of the Likes. I just couldn’t understand it! Knowing that there are over 5 billion Likes clicked across social media every day, I turned to Timon and said if we could turn even 1 per cent of these clicks into something impactful it could make a huge difference in the world. This was the moment Elbi was born.”

Elbi is about doing-good, feeling good and looking good. I’m bringing my worlds together to help everyone become a philanthropist and rewarding them for being a good person. It’s democratizing philanthropy. At the heart of this is the Elbi Score – your measure of goodness and a way to be rewarded for it. You go the Elbi App and see three real projects everyday – you can get creative and do a silly face or little drawing for a child having chemotherapy to cheer him or her up. You see your drawing go to that person and see the reaction when they receive it. It feels good to see that you can make a difference. On the app you ‘love’ eachother’s content and raise money for charities. Each ‘love’ generates a $1 donation to the cause and generates a LoveCoin for the user that can be collected to buy incredible and inspirational items from the LoveShop.”

My children

“I have five children, Lucas, Neva, Viktor, Maxim and Roman – and they are all so different. I like to say that Elbi is my sixth baby!”

“I was only 19 when I gave birth to Lucas, my first-born. His birth was an intense but very beautiful experience. I insisted on a natural birth with no epidural. I think being able to face that pain and suffering made me a stronger mother. I had a lot of sleepless nights during those first few weeks of Lucas’ life, but somehow I feel that the labor made me more prepared for this challenge. Neva had to be induced as she clearly did not want to part with me (we are still very close). With my third, Viktor, I was induced again and panicked at the huge amounts of pain. I asked for an epidural, and for the rest of delivery I read the newspaper and watched football! I never went back to that ‘Mother Nature’ style again, but I was so happy that I got to experience what it was like for women centuries ago.”

“All my pregnancies – except the last one – were fairly easy and straightforward. But Roman, who was born in June 2016, gave us all a real fright. I had placenta detachment three months into pregnancy and had to lay down for a month and a half to keep Roman healthy. Amazingly, he was born a very strong, calm and sweet, smiley baby. I often wonder if he knows or feels how much we all wanted him to be OK and that, with his calm demeanor, he is reassuring us that he is fine and rewarding us for all those months of worry.”

“I tell all new moms to get as much help as they can. Really, don’t be shy to ask, or even demand it from family members and friends! Sometimes we want to show that we are super women and can do it all by ourselves but the truth is that we don’t have to. You would be surprised how much everyone is happy to help, so you can then rebuild your energy and strength. And doing that will make you a more patient mother, wife and friend.”

A day in my life 

“There are no ‘typical’ days for me. When I am home in Paris, I always get the children up and ready for school. Then I spend the morning with the little ones. I work from about 10.30am through to 4pm with my team and then do various activities with my children. We all have dinner together and I try to switch my phone off to have quality time all together. I check my emails again when everyone is asleep, around 10pm, and usually the lights are off by 11.30pm!”

“My life is very busy but I put a premium on relaxing and taking time for myself. It’s important. Leonor Greyl is my weekly treat. I go there for a delicious head massage, silk treatment for my hair and a blow dry. I have a massage at home every Sunday and every week, I have a dance class or Pilates. Most importantly, I try to always be home with my family on weekends. Being with them recharges me.”

“It’s hard to remember what life was like before I became a mom. It was long time ago – my eldest is 15 in a couple of months! One thing I really struggled with as a young mother is lack of sleep. Now I am fine and have no problem getting up five times a night and working during the day, but when you are almost a teenager yourself that lack of sleep really hurts. My children trained me to be the Margaret Thatcher-type, sleeping 5 hours a night max!”

“Motherhood has taught me to be more patient, although I’m not quite there yet. Lucas, in particular, knows which buttons to push to irritate me – he’s a teenage boy, after all! Patience is an ongoing project for me.”

“I want my children to know that, if you work hard and try hard, although you won’t always get what you want, you will feel satisfied that you’ve done everything you can. I haven’t always succeeded but I’m happy that I’ve worked so hard to create a life that makes me happy. Life is not just about finding out what you are best at, but giving the best of yourself to those you love. I’m happy to say that I have five great achievements in life, and their names are Lucas, Neva, Viktor, Maxim and Roman.”

My maternity style

“I never did any ‘special’ shopping for maternity clothes. I just selected complementary shapes and styles.”

My children, in three words

Lucas – brilliant, lazy, big heart.

Neva – caring, shy and a bookworm.

Viktor – a ray of sunshine, noisy, very independent.

Maxim – musical, bright, demanding.

Roman – calm, smiley, strong.