Unfortunately no matter how hard you study, no matter which school you go to, no matter how many sports you play in high school, you’re kind of either a model or you’re not.
And if you’re not, you’ll probably never know what it’s like to be one. Unless of course you pepper a super successful one with a million questions. So just in case you never get the chance to do that, we’ve done it for you.
Welcome to Life With Behati in which we grab lunch, go vintage shopping and hang out at her new apartment – so new Ikea boxes are stacked in the corner and clocks sit on the floor.
She’ll tell you what she does all day, why American Vogue‘s so blah and why she spent the last week hanging out with a crocodile wrangler.
Let’s start with childhood. Fill me in up until three years ago.
I grew up in a small town in Namibia. My dad’s a minister and my mom runs a bed and breakfast. I’m an only child and pretty much did kid stuff, gymnastics, track, riding, field hockey. I hung out on my friend’s farm a lot.
Behati with her parents in Namibia over Christmas
Where did modeling come from?
I was in Cape Town on vacation with my grandmother and grandfather. We went to the grocery store after church and this guy came up to me and asked if I was a model and wrote his number on a piece of paper and my grandfather was like this is so shady. So we went home and told my parents about it and never did anything. And then the next time I was in Cape Town, Noelle [Doukas, daughter of Sarah Doukas founder of Storm] came up to me and asked me to come into the agency. So I finally went in and signed with Sarah right there. I spent the summer in Cape Town and it went really well so they shipped me off to London.
What was that like?
Living in model flats scarred me for life. Girls are the dirtiest people ever. For the most part the flats would be empty. But then there would be older girls – and I was like sixteen – who would bring their boyfriends home which was strictly not allowed and I would hear everything. Or I’d wake up in the morning and there would be like a man in his underwear on the couch. It was awful.
You’ve come a long way! You just got back from a PINK catalog shoot in Miami. What was a day in the life of that shoot like?
We wake up around 7, go down to the lobby and get in the party bus.
The party bus?
This crazy beat-up bus driven by Sasha, who’s Helena [V.S.'s art director]‘s brother. So it’s us and two other models – Candace and Damaris – and we go to Starbucks. I get a Vanilla Latte and we drive to the swamp which takes about an hour. Then we go to hair and make up. This particular shoot was a massive production because they had this movie producer on set. So I went straight to breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite. I love home fries, scrambled eggs with avocado and toast on the side.
I love ketchup. Love ketchup and coffee.
Me too! Ok, so you eat breakfast.
Yeah then we get dressed and spend the day changing in and out of outfits. There’s the photographer, who’s Helena’s husband – see, it’s like a family reunion! – and then they’re also doing these videos just for PINK. And we shoot for five or six hours. One day this group of 16-year-old soccer players wandered into the trailer park and asked one of the guys if we were filming a movie – because we’re running around a swamp in underwear – and they tried to tell them we were just on spring break. I don’t think they believed us.
Behati & Doutzen backstage at a Victoria’s Secret show
You shot the catalog in a trailer park?
Well we shot in swamps within a trailer park. There were loads of ponds in the midst of it. There was actually a crocodile guy looking out for the crocodiles. It’s kind of weird. Anyway, he has all these crazy stories about how he wrestles crocodiles and he’s covered in crocodile bling – he looks like Crocodile Dundee. He told us all about how they make crocodile bags and like you can’t shoot them because it ruins the skins. It was interesting.
Do you prefer shooting on location or in a studio?
On location’s almost always better. The only time it’s not is if you’re in a city because it’s really awkward when everyone’s staring at you. But if you get to get out and do something and be in an amazing beautiful place it doesn’t feel like work.
Are editorials or catalogs better?
Editorial work is very serious. Stylists are uptight and everything’s so much more complicated. They’re trying to execute this grand story whereas with something like PINK you know the brand, it’s really straightforward and it’s like a real job, a fun job, but real.
Behati’s rings: Me&Ro., a birthday present from Jamie, from the street and from a local artist
You shot an editorial with Mikhail Barishnykov once. Tell me about it.
Oh my god he’s such a flirt. He holds himself so well and his hair sticks straight up. He’s just so comfortable with himself and such a man. Like he knows the power he has! We actually got to dance – which didn’t go in the magazine – and I was so scared but he was super nice. Shoots like that are the best when it’s with someone really cool or in a really cool place. Like this Numero shoot I did in Cape Town and it was just so gorgeous. I mean I’m standing there with elephants outside and I’m like is this work? As opposed to a studio where I can’t channel anything creative. It’s like I’ve done this a million times [she strikes a pose].
[Laughing] Yeah! Dude what is it about that jump?
I know, we love it in our office. Our wall’s plastered with pictures of Trentini jumping in American Vogue.
Why do they do that though? It has to be a joke because everything else Steven [Meisel] does is really cool and then he gets to American Vogue and it’s always the same thing. Jumping in head to toe runway looks, same jewelry, same everything.
So how often are you working when it’s not fashion week?
Sometimes I’ll work for a month straight and then you’ll get a whole month off. Or not totally off, there will be castings, fittings and stuff but you might not actually shoot. Like J.Crew did fittings for their catalog. I don’t work with them anymore, because of PINK, but they go to really amazing locations and Jamie [Strachan, Behati's boyfriend] still works with them a lot and I’m always jealous. They’re off to like Cancun or Morocco – it’s cool that they’re on location so much.
Behati & Jamie
Do you and Jamie sign up for the same stuff so you can travel together?
Not really, but like PINK will just use guys in the background, just hanging out in their normal clothes and when they met Jamie they were like, ‘Just bring him along.’ Which is why he was set to come to Miami with me that morning. If he hadn’t been beat up.
Sidetrack: When we sat down to lunch Behati relayed a disturbing story about how her boyfriend was beat up in the East Village three weeks ago. He was almost hit by a car whose driver proceeded to get out and beat him with a baseball bat. They then spent ten hours in the ER at Bellevue hospital and Jamie had to cancel his trip to Miami and has been walking around on crutches due to a fractured knee. The gash in his face, however, has healed. Thank god.
So what’s a Fashion Week day like?
It’s really different now. Just because I’ve been doing this for three years so they know who I am and they know if they want me or not. But when I started, I mean, you wake up at six to go on castings. Then your fittings start at noon. And fittings last forever. I’ve been at a Marc Jacobs fitting from one in the afternoon until three in the morning. And then you might not even walk the show! Like the second season I was cast for CK and they called me the day before and it’s like these crazy excuses like, “You’re hair is too dark,” or, “You’re not the right height for the line-up.”
Wow. So wait, is Marc there the whole time?
Yeah, he fits the clothes on you, builds the outfit on you. The smaller designers are so much more ready for you when you get there. The outfit’s made, they put it on and pin it. Whereas Calvin Klein – I did looks for Francisco my first season and he would literally just have these pieces of fabric and you would have to stand their for hours as he like creates his look on you. And this is just before the show!
How does Marc have that much time to spend with each model?
Oh he doesn’t do it with every single model. He gets what they call ‘look models’ – and every girl does this at some point – but you get a time slot anywhere from like noon until six in the morning and he’ll fit a bunch of looks on you. So this one time me and Irina… last name? Bangs, crazy?
Yeah! So we had the two to four am slot and it was crazy. Marc always has loads of sweets and the good part about being the fit model is you get to go to the closet first, right after your fitting while everyone else has to wait until after the show. So that’s why everyone wants to do it. And all of this is just what happens before the week officially starts. Once the week starts you have about five shows a day. And then, you inevitably miss fittings because they’re all over the city so at the end of the day you have to go make up for everything you missed. You don’t have time to eat, except for the crap backstage, you get two hours of sleep a night – maybe.
Runway work sounds like hell.
There are two sides to it. I like it because I get to see all the girls. If you don’t do runway, you never see any of them. So the first few days of New York are like a reunion. But by the time Paris rolls around no one even wants to talk. I mean everyone’s touching you and taking the same pictures over and over. Me and my friend, you know Coco?
We were talking the other day about how we get so annoyed with backstage photographers because the second you get a chance to rest or eat, the minute you don’t have someone pulling your hair and touching your face, they’re all over you. But then we realized how awful it must be for them when we’ve been doing this for a month and everyone’s in a foul mood and they know they’re annoying you but they have to get that shot.
The back of Behati’s front door in her new apartment
About Coco, for a second, we love your videos, especially the lip-synching one.
Thanks! They’re so much fun. That one was so random. It was the end of Paris Fashion Week and her friend from Canada was visiting and I swear I’m not stoned. She was talking to someone on Skype and we started making all these goofy faces and of course felt the need to make a whole movie out of it. Coco edited that one.
That’s pretty impressive.
Yeah but then we did this other one, when Coco came to Africa, but it was so long that we couldn’t get it off the computer. We took it to the Apple store and everything but Steven Meisel’s the one who finally figured it out.
That’s awesome. So back to runway hell, why do it?
It’s really great exposure. After a while you don’t need to do it, you don’t have to book seven shows a day just to show everyone that you can. Because when you do just one or two a day it’s really fun. You just hang out and see all your friends and don’t have to stress. Like the Victoria’s Secret show is super fun and everything’s fitted to you, everything’s taken care of and they want to make sure you’re comfortable. It’s like a family.
What do you do on the few precious days you’re not working – like the ideal New York day?
Wake up, eat breakfast. I love breakfast. I’d be wearing shorts and flip flops because it would be summer. I’m decorating my new place so I’d go searching for random stuff. You find the best junk in the streets and I love that crazy circus thrift store on Houston. They had this massive birdcage with a mannequin inside of it. It took me a few days to decide that I had to have it and by the time I went back it was gone. So anyway I’d look for stuff for my apartment and then I’d go have lunch outside somewhere and just sit in the sun smoking cigarettes all day with my friends. If I don’t have to work, the last thing I want to do is plan a day.
Do you work out?
I hate the gym. I tried a million gyms and a million trainers and it’s just so boring. I need motivation. I actually thought I was fine. Like I thought I’d be ok until I got to the first Victoria’s Secret show, I was like, I’m fine, I’m ready. And then I got to the show and these girls were like BAM! I mean, I wasn’t ready. So then I found this guy, through Miranda Kerr actually, and he’s awesome. He does something different every time, it’s like actually fun to work out.
Ok, let’s do fun facts and then we’ll go shopping?
Pets? Hairless cat named Gollum.
Favorite food? Pizza.
Favorite drink? Appleteaser, sparkling Apple Juice I can only get at home.
Favorite book? Wasp Factory
Most fun show? Marc & Zac Posen – always the best time.
Hanging in your closet? Alex Wang – dreams of Rodarte.
Face products? Dermalogica.
Make-up? Not really, just got Chanel’s tinted moisturizer though and love that.
Best shopping? Nolita, all the vintage stores around Bleecker/Spring/Mott.