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How a ‘Vogue’ cover model ended up living on the streets of Barcelona

Nastasia Urbano used to earn up to $1 million for 20 days of work but is now homeless and looking for help to get back on her feet

Nastasia Urbano
Nastasia Urbano, in a Yves Saint Laurent campaign (l) and on the cover of Vogue (r).

Nastasia Urbano, one of the most iconic models of the 1980s, has gone from cover girl to living on the streets of Barcelona. Urbano, who is about to turn 60, was born in Switzerland but began her modeling career in the Catalan capital, where her parents were from.

After meeting famed photographer Fabrizio Ferri, the model hopped over to Milan, and from there onto the covers of the world’s most important fashion magazines. “I traveled all around Europe for work, they called me from London to take catalogue photos, then I went to Paris. I was doing very well. I was highly valued. Then I decided to go to New York, because in the modeling world, once you’ve done Europe, you go to New York,” she said last week to El Periódico de Cataluña, a daily newspaper based in Barcelona.

I am tired of scraping out a living and asking for money

Former supermodel Nastasia Urbano

At just 20 years of age, Urbano flew to the Big Apple to boost her promising career. Almost immediately she was hired by the prestigious Ford Modeling Agency and started working for the fashion industry's top brands. She appeared on the covers of internationally renowned magazines like Vogue, New Woman and Redbook, and was the face of campaigns for major labels such as Yves Saint Laurent and his Opium perfume, Guy Laroche and Revlon. In her own words, she “lived like a queen” in the 1980s, earning up to $1 million for 20 days of work.

She had the world at her feet. But her life and her fortunes took a dramatic turn when she met her ex-husband, who left her bankrupt. Three decades later, Urbano is trying to build a new life with different precarious jobs. “I am tired of scraping out a living and asking for money. People move away from me, everyone leaves, and it doesn’t surprise me. I have already been evicted three times. I’ve worked cleaning houses, babysitting children. Now I’m staying with my friend Toni, who is an angel. But I can’t stay here forever, it’s only temporary. In a few days, when I leave the house, I’ll ask myself where am I going to, I’ll be with my cart, my few belongings, and where am I going to sleep?” she explained to the Barcelona daily.

Urbano doesn’t ask her children for help because she doesn’t want to “bother them.” “My daughter has had anxiety attacks because of me. They are already adults and they have their own lives and  do what they can for me, but I don’t want to bother them. I want them to see me working and paying for my own things. I want my grandchildren to be able to come to my home so that I can make them cookies. I’m good at making cookies. Will I get to do this? I don’t know. I don’t think so,” she says.

The supermodel’s moving story was published for the first time in El Periódico, but it did not take long before it was picked up by the international press, receiving coverage in British tabloid the Daily Mail and Fox News.

I want my grandchildren to be able to come to my home so that I can make them cookies

Former supermodel Nastasia Urbano

Last Monday, a person named Daniel Mirabal, who claims to be Urbano’s friend, set up a GoFundMe campaign to help the model get back on her feet. On the campaign page, he explains: “One of the best top models worldwide in the 80s is going through a terrible time with many difficulties to have a decent life. She has nowhere to live and she has no money to cover her basic needs ... She needs to rent a small apartment, she needs to cover three months of deposit, she needs to buy the basic things to feel normal again.”

The message adds that “Nastasia is still the same sweet, nice, generous and noble woman she was 20 years ago. But her flight has been broken. We can now show the world that you should not always sacrifice a bird of paradise when she has broken wings. We can cure them and help her to take flight again.” The campaign has raised nearly €2,000 so far.

English version by Asia London Palomba.

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