Now Casting: Valerija Kelava


“A friend of mine was working for a fashion company in Paris and asked me to go over and help him out during the summer holidays,” recalls Slovenian model Valerija Kelava of her chance discovery in 2009. “While I was there I got scouted, so I prolonged my stay and by September I was booked to walk for Prada!” Since that fateful trip, Kelava has been photographed by Steven Meisel, Juergen Teller, and Paolo Roversi, walked for everyone from Valentino to Rick Owens, and fronted campaigns for Céline, Balenciaga, and Givenchy. When she’s not modeling, she enjoys motorbike trips around various far-flung corners of the globe, yoga, and turning the camera around on others. Meet Valerija:

What was your first memory of fashion?

“My first memory of fashion was being in kindergarten and drawing dolls wearing dresses. I always thought that I was going to be a fashion designer. I actually went to school for fashion, but I only really found my voice by being a model.”

How were you discovered?

“When I was at fashion school, a Slovenian designer asked if I would model for him. Then a friend of mine was working for a fashion company in Paris and asked me to go over and help him out during the summer holidays. While I was there I got scouted, so I prolonged my stay—by September, I was booked to walk for Prada!”

What was the first runway show that you walked in?

“My first big break was when I opened for the Christopher Kane show in London in 2009. It was a truly surreal feeling because I grew up looking at models and admiring the collections and then, suddenly, I was in one. I was happy, nervous, and euphoric all at the same time.”

Favorite designers?

“I love so many and they’re all really different. I really like what Dries van Noten does, as well as Givenchy, Rick Owens, and Ann Demeulemeester, but I’m not a one-brand fanatic. I can find pieces that I like from each one. For me, it’s more about the craft and how it’s designed than the label.”

What’s been your favorite modeling career moment so far?

“Shooting with Steven Meisel for the cover of Italian Vogue was really magical. Working with Paolo Roversi was very special. It’s like he goes into the depths of your soul and captures it through his lens.”

What is the best piece of modeling advice you’ve ever been given?

“I know it’s going to sound cliché, but the best advice that anyone could ever give you is to stay centered and true to yourself. There’s no point in trying to be something you’re not or to try and copy other models. My approach is to dig deep and find the stuff that makes me unique and then deliver on it.”

What is your personal approach to beauty?

“Beauty is such a subjective matter that I try not to pay too much attention to it. For me, it’s important to connect with people’s energy. It’s our own unique character that makes us beautiful.”

What would people be most surprised to know about you?

“Even though I travel all the time for work, I like to spend my spare traveling too. I have a group of friends who motorbike around Southeast Asia, so when I’m not working I join them and we go on different trips. I’m hoping to join them this summer in Ladakh—which is a part of the Himalayas in India. And then, hopefully, we’ll go to Patagonia in the winter.”

How do you stay in shape for your job?

“As a model, you have to find your way of eating that keeps you thin, but still powerful. For me, it’s a combination of things, including a variety of yoga and dancing. I really hate going to the gym, so I focus on those two activities and then I swim and hike in nature whenever I can. I think that doing things that you love keeps you in the best shape.”

Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

“I can’t talk about anything too much, but I can say that myself and another model have been doing a lot of shoots together in our spare time. We’re both really interested in analog photography so we’ve been experimenting with that a lot.”

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

“Probably in the photographic field or traveling—or both. I’m not sure where I’ll be living, but I don’t really mind as long as I’m happy and have a way to express myself.”


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