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TOP MODEL Greta Varlese

- How did you get to the Elite Model Look competition, you didn’t think about modeling for yourself before?

- Not at all. As a student I wanted to make some money. Everyone was like “you’re tall, you’re skinny, why don’t you try to be a model” but it never crossed my mind. I never thought about fashion. The only magazine I was reading was the one at the dentist’s, you know what they say. I knew nothing: no big models, no big photographers, nothing at all. One day I saw on Facebook an ad about Elite Model Look from an agency in Milan. I was already in Switzerland and asked my mom to take me there, but I had no idea if the agency was serious. I didn’t think about that; I was a teenager. So, we got there; it turned out to be serious; I took part in the competition and won the Italian version. Then they took me to China to take part in the international one and I managed to get into top 10 girls. Givenchy’s casting director watched the competition and decided to fly me to Paris. Two weeks later, when I made it there, I got this exclusive contract. I just turned 16 when I started but I managed to have a normal childhood. We lived in the south of Italy – I am from Calabria. I was born there and grew up there as well. It was all very normal, nothing special.

- Do you think having been born in Italy, the capital of fashion, influenced your choice of profession in any way? Did it give you any advantages?

- I was born in Calabria, although I don’t think it influenced anything. I just wanted to make some money, but I had no idea how the industry works. People just tell you to try to model, but no one really knows what modelling is unless they’re in the industry. When it all started and work was coming in, I began to travel and also understood what the job was like and it worked for me. I don’t think that having been born in Italy gave me any advantages. Because, in fact, there aren’t many Italian models. It really depends on the right agency, a little bit of luck as well. It’s not where you come from, it’s just the right job at the right time in a right place. That’s what I believe, at least.

- I know that you have been repeatedly asked what you would like to achieve in your career, but you never answer this question. Why?

- Because I feel like once you share with the world what you would like to achieve, there’s sort of an expectation and pressure from the outside world for you to make your own dreams come true. So, I prefer to keep it to myself and if, eventually, it happens – perfect. If not – I was the only one to know anyway.

- In one of your interviews, you talked about how difficult it is for a model to stay in the game for more than one season. You managed to stay even longer. What do you think this success is owed to? What keeps you going so long? And what is most important, can you advise a young model to achieve this goal?

- For sure, a great agent. I am really grateful for Elena at Elite Milan. She is so supportive. I don’t think any booker would support and care as much. It’s really important for a booker to care for a model, not just the girls this season. And then again, a little bit of luck to stay relevant somehow. When I started off, it was high fashion, very edgy. I was doing specific jobs, specific editorials. When I transformed into a woman, got some curves, got the face, I could do other jobs, more feminine ones - jewelry, pretty editorials and campaigns. It shifted a little bit. Now I do both and I think that’s great because I can get more jobs this way. So, it’s also how you look and how you transform, if that makes sense.

- Your personal record is more than 75 shows per season. How do you manage to keep yourself in good physical and psychological shape?

- It is tough, because it is all about balance these days, which is not easy to have. When you’re 16, your body looks a certain way naturally; you don’t have to keep working on it. The more you grow up – the more difficult it becomes to stay in shape and stay happy, because you have more responsibilities, more thoughts, as you become an adult. So, it is really work and progress. I have good days; I have bad days. To find that inner peace with myself… I struggled, because as long as you work in this industry, it will always be a challenge to be truly happy with the way you look and the way you feel. Though it is possible to an extent.

- What is your secret of a successful modeling career?

- To stay true to yourself, to who you are as a person because most girls ‘loose’ themselves as their jobs becomes their life. Whatever job you have, you should always stay true to yourself. You need to separate: this is me, and this is my job. When it all becomes one – problems arise. You need to always have a positive attitude, be happy and nice to others.

- The situation in the world is very tense now. How has covid-19 impacted industries?

- Some benefited from it. For instance, the real estate industry. My mom works there and for her, covid had a positive outcome. For others – not so much, for example our industry. The budget gets cut, less job opportunities, travelling is limited, it is difficult to organize shootings and events… also all this social distancing - for us, it is not ideal at all. But people try to keep going and make the best out of it. We all have to.

- How do you think it influenced the fashion industry as a whole?

- We are still struggling. I believe that when covid is over there will be a positive curve again to better days. For now, it is what it is and it’s hard to define. We don’t know what it is.

- How, for example, did it influence you as a model - what processes have changed and how? Have you been invited to any of the virtual castings yet?

- Thanks to technology, we were still able to do some shootings via facetime. We had video conferences and castings in zoom, which is a way to try to make jobs happen but, of course, it is not as nice as it used to be – physically, with all the people on set. I had a couple of shootings in Milan, which weren’t nice. Everyone was wearing masks. Even just the hair and makeup process - the stylist had to disinfect all the tools constantly. There had to be social distancing even at lunch! It’s not nice to work in these conditions but it is the only way. So, we still make it happen. It was really fun when I got invited to a virtual casting. I couldn’t see the people, just their names, which was very weird - I didn’t know who I was talking to. When it’s a real casting, you have the people in front of you really close.

- What has changed in your life (in the work process) and what habits will you keep even after the end?

- I’m more at home. I used to spend so much time in airports and on long-distance flights. Now, work is usually in Europe, so, short flights. I miss travelling long-distance to places like New York and Asia. I have a new routine even when I am at home. I do the things I used to do but just more often and always at home, which is a bit strange, but you get used to it. I found myself being a little bored at the beginning, because I didn’t know what to do with myself. Previously, I was travelling a lot and came home only to relax but now I am here all the time and I kind of established a routine that works for me, so I’m not bored anymore. I relax in different ways. If I want to see people, I go out. If I want to stay by myself, I just watch a movie or take a nap. If I want to be with my boyfriend, we meet up and cook together. It depends on how I am feeling on a certain day.

- Virtual reality is being talked about everywhere. Including the fashion industry. What do you think about the emergence of virtual models? Will they replace the real ones?

- I hate virtual reality! People like new things, so everyone started talking about it, I get it. Now, with fashion week there were virtual shows, virtual models, which can be interesting and fun to see once or twice, but I hope it won’t be an established thing in the future, when covid is over, because I just like to see real bodies with real imperfections on a real runway. This virtual thing just doesn’t feel human at all! No one can relate to that. It is not something I want to see. I really hope that virtual models won’t replace real ones because it is not nice to look at something that is not human. If I were a potential customer, I would prefer to see clothes on a real body, a real someone instead of something that doesn’t even exist. If this is something that we’ve come to, then I prefer to see just the clothes alone. Although I have to give it to them, it is a smart way to represent the clothes for brands and designers who had to adapt to a new way of life during covid. However, once it will be over, hopefully, this will be over as well.

- Will fashion week die and get replaced with virtual shows?

- Again, I hope not. All this feels temporary. During covid people had to get inventive to represent their collections but I hope in the future we will have real shows with real backstage, real models and real emotions replacing this temporary virtual reality.

- Some designers made virtual shows and shows with dolls this year. Designers create virtual 3D clothes. Virtual models appear on social networks. What do you think about this?

- I heard a little bit about this. I saw one specific show with didgital models. It was so interesting to watch, because it was 3D, so, the body was also absolutely not real, almost like drowned. Nothing made sense. It was really weird to watch.

- What do you think the fashion industry will look like in 10 years?

- I don’t know what the trend will be but what I can hope for is for people to be happy to work in the industry and to have respect for one another, because that’s what we are all lacking. There have been a lot of positive changes since I started working in 2013. Now we have body-positivity; we have different shapes, different sizes, different skin colours. There definitely has been a lot of progress but, for example, respect from the people who have the power, is still lacking. People are not very happy, at least that’s how I feel when I go on set. There isn’t peace. Everyone is stressed; everyone wants to make happen, whatever they’re working on. So that’s what I wish – for people to be happy and to have respect.

- Tell us about your project for Numéro.

- I got this offer for a project in Rome. I knew it was an anniversary issue and I also knew there would be a digital cover. The project was finished after a one-day shooting, mainly pictures and a little video in Rome’s iconic places. A lot of great outfits, great energy, although it was a bit difficult because of covid, when the police kept coming and telling me to wear a mask. So, we had to change the location constantly, because, of course, I couldn’t shoot with the mask. Despite that, it was great, and I got a nice surprise of getting a print cover. At first, I was told that the cover has already been decided upon, which was fine, because I knew that I was getting the digital one. But then I got the main cover! Right now, I can’t wait to see it!

I’ve already been on a cover once in another edition, Numéro Berlin. It is always nice to see yourself with the Numéro logo. I believe, it is a prestige to be on a cover of such an important magazine. So, I am very humbled and very grateful to have this opportunity.

- What interesting fact would you like to tell us about yourself while waiting for Numéro?

- I know I’m a model, but I feel like a regular person. I think, everyone needs to feel that, doesn’t matter, what industry they are from. I do normal things in my free time: I meet friends, go to cinemas, museums; I like art, books; I also like a good movie with a slice of pizza that is delivered to me; I like to cook home-made meals, which makes me quite normal despite my job. I’m an outgoing person – very social, an extravert even. I like to talk to people but also to listen. I establish real friendships - all of the friends that I’ve got are long-time friends of mine, so, I know how to cultivate that. I am also a family person; I love spending time with them and think it is very important. Especially when you travel so much, you need to make time for your loved ones, because it obviously isn’t always going to stay like that.

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