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From Andy Warhol parties to living on the streets: How Barcelona’s homeless supermodel fell from grace

Nastasia Urbano tells EL PAÍS how she went from dancing with Melanie Griffith to sleeping in bank foyers in the Catalan capital

Nastasia Urbano
Nastasia Urbano in Barcelona.

Everyone calls her Nastasia. She came up with the name herself at the beginning of the 1980s when a modeling agency told her to reinvent herself. The name Consuelo Urbano had “no punch,” they said. As Nastasia, she became the face of top fashion labels, perfumes and brands. She took home six-figure checks and rubbed shoulders with movie stars, music legends and fashion icons in New York. Nastasia retired just before the top model phenomenon that would turn her successors into celebrities. It has been decades since she’s responded to the name Consuelo. Today, the former supermodel is 57 years old and has been living on the streets of Barcelona for three months.

In the 1980s, Nastasia signed $1 million contracts to work for 20 days. Today, all she has left is her dog Jack and the clothes on her back. “My friend Toni gave me the jacket,” she says, referring to the friend whose house she has been staying at for the past few days. “Three months ago I slept in a bank foyer for the first time. I walked around the whole day without being able to think clearly. A scream of despair rebounded in my head. It was a cry for help,” she says. The model’s story first appeared last week in El Periódico de Cataluña, a Spanish daily newspaper based in Barcelona. Since then, there has been a glimmer of hope, but she is still waiting for her life to turn around before she turns 60. She knows that the camera likes her, “it’s something that you’re born with,” she says, but these days she hates her appearance. On Wednesday she shared her story with EL PAÍS.

I have never got back on my feet. They have evicted me three times

Former supermodel Nastasia Urbano

Nastasia was born in 1961 in Switzerland. She lived there with her parents, who were Spanish immigrants, and two siblings. She spent her summers in the municipality of L’Ampolla, in Tarragona, a city in northeastern Spain. “I had a boyfriend, and one day he took a photo of me on the beach. He showed it to someone, and it ended up in the hands of some modeling agency,” she remembers.

Consuelo, as she was still known then, left her job at a department store and flew to Barcelona. After changing her name, she started working. “Everything happened very quickly. First Barcelona, then Milan, then Paris.” The model was earning huge sums of money and was ushered into an exclusive circle where beauty was all that mattered. It was during this time that she met Italian photographer Fabrizio Ferri, who catapulted her into the international limelight.

Nastasia Urbano's campaigns from the 1980s.
Nastasia Urbano's campaigns from the 1980s.

At just 20, Europe became too small for her. To boost her promising career, she flew to New York where Ford Modeling agency hired her and put her on the front pages of some of the most renowned fashion magazines. “I appeared in Vogue, New Woman. I was the image for brands such as Yves Saint Laurent and Opium,” she says. As she earned more money, she started drinking more and using cocaine.

She went to parties with model Jerry Hall and folk duo Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. She was “one of the girls” that Jack Nicholson liked to go out with. She danced with actress Melanie Griffith and met Andy Warhol and David Lynch. Then she fell in love with a man 22 years her senior who tore her away from the life she loved. “He was very possessive and undermined me as a person.”

All Nastasia has left is her dog Jack and the clothes on her back

Overnight, she forgot about the drugs and alcohol. She continued to work but paid no attention to how much money was left in her bank account. Every summer she returned to Barcelona, and on one of these trips she met her future husband. In 1992, at the age of 31, she left behind her life in New York, broke up with her boyfriend and moved to live in the Catalan capital. “That year I changed country, I got married and I became pregnant with my first daughter,” she says.

She was married for seven years, had two children, and blindly invested all of her money in her husband’s failed projects. “In 2000, I start doing temp jobs. I took care of people, of children ... but I wasn’t earning enough. A French bank contacted me telling me I had an account I didn’t remember. I lived off that for a while, then I took care of my father ... but I have never got back on my feet. They have evicted me three times. The last time was three months ago,” she says.

Nastasia maintains a good relationship with her children, but she doesn’t want to bother them for help. “They have their own problems, and a mother cannot be a burden on her children.” Her friends have started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the former cover model, and for the the first time in a while, she is hopeful. “I only ask for a peaceful future, where I can live and not just scrape by like I am doing now.” Many things have happened in her life, but even today, dressed in black and gray, Nastasia still knows how to pose.

English version by Asia London Palomba.

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