Makeup and Styling by Kathie Kaech-Kim www.rockabeautychicago.com
Guys, a bit of advice if you ever try to holla at Natalia LaLonde: Don’t brag. She’s been farther and done more than you. Barely in her 20s, she’s able to call Turkey, Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, and Los Angeles her past homes. Not that it matters much; Ann Arbor’s her current one, and in the last few months alone she’s jetted off to Chicago, Santa Domingo, Punta Cana, Manilla, Tokyo, Hanoi, parts of Cambodia, and London. She speaks three languages fluently, and though only parts of it may come back to her in conversation, French (a fourth) was her first. A dual major at the University of Michigan with a diploma from the United Nations High School in Vietnam, don’t bother arguing with her, either. She’ll win. No, guys, even your A-game probably won’t be good enough. But do try your best—in the end, that’s what might impress her the most.
Give us the 10-second introduction to Natalia:
I’m 5’9”, from Michigan, an international business student, a nerd, and a hippie at heart.
From Michigan, by way of ...?
[laughs]. Originally Turkey. My dad was working there internationally for Citibank when he met my mom and they had me. But then we moved to Tunisia in North Africa where I learned to speak French, then a month in Switzerland, a year in Thailand, then Vietnam until about Fourth grade, then Michigan.
Truth time: Is your dad secretly an international spy?
[laughs] No! He’s an international “boutique venture capitalist.” Basically, he helps small businesses in other countries get off the ground.
You’re currently studying international business and Asian studies—coincidence?
No, I wanna do pretty much the same thing after school, but from a fashion/lifestyle perspective. Living in all the places where we did, it just makes sense for me. Plus, it’s a cool way of life.
So after you moved to the States, did you stay here?
Permanently, yes. Well kind of—I did go back to Vietnam for my senior year in High School, and did a lot of traveling in between.
What was it like going back overseas after not being there for so long?
Different. It really changed a lot. People hear “Vietnam” and think jungle and post-war, communist turmoil, but the cities are big and very developed today. And there’s a beautiful coastline that borders the South China Sea with some cool little beach towns. We actually rented a motorcycle and rode along the coast from Mui Ne to Saigon last time I was out there. It’s funny—a lot has changed, but a lot more still feels like home to me.
What about living and working there on your own?
It was cool. The streets are crowded and narrow, so I usually rent a motorbike when I go there. Working is cool; I did some modeling and worked in sales for this purse company called Ipa-Nima—which was really cool because it gave me the opportunity to move to L.A. for a while and help introduce their brand to the States.
For a few months in between high school and when I went back to Michigan for college.
Did you like it, or did you love it?
I loved it! That was the best summer of my life. We’d spend all day at the beach and then go to the Abbey for mojitos, then out to the Edison or the Roosevelt. Or Château Marmont to relax. That summer really makes me think about moving to L.A. full time.
That’s what we like to hear. We also hear that going out is your thing?
Definitely. Well, anywhere with music and friends. Drinks definitely help, too. And I’m pretty easygoing about it. Clubs, bars... I even went to Bonnaroo one year and loved it!
WTF is that?
It’s a four-day music festival in Tennessee. Kind of like Coachella out in Cali but you can’t leave so you have to camp there. It’s not for everyone—I guess some people might not like spending four days in 80-degree heat, but I didn’t mind.
So, of all the places you’ve been, which ones have the best nightlife? L.A.? Saigon? Rural Tennessee?
[laughs]. Sundays in L.A. top the list. Hollywood has everything. Eastern Europe, like Serbia, has some really huge, bangin’ clubs with awesome music—great hip-hop and house. New York is great, too, but it takes so much time to find a place, get ready, figure out how you’re going to get there... Vietnam, everything’s smaller but there’s always one really hot club. I went out a lot in Thailand, but that was mostly at small places where you have to get super dressed up, or little outdoors places where you go with friends just to drink.
Foreign partying disaster story. Go:
Oh! There was this one night just recently in the Dominican Republic. I was with my friend Rachel at this go-go club and getting sick of it, but neither one of us knew where to go, so I grabbed this random Dominican dude who worked at the club and was like, “You wanna go to a discothèque?” So we get into these guys’ janky car where they’re blasting house music, and 20 minutes later we pull up to this shack right off some backroad—and they were like, “Discothèque!” [laughs] We were like, “Uh... no.” so they took us back to our hotel. Thank God!
Um... nothing. [laughs] They went home and Rachel and I soaked our feet in a warm tub and drank champagne.
[laughs] No and then!
Altogether foreign sketchiness story. Go:
Most places are pretty cool, actually. No, wait... Santo Domingo was kinda dangerous. I went a while ago to visit a friend from Vietnam who moved there, and people were walking around with AK-47s pretty much everywhere we went. My friend has a driver who carries one all the time. We wanted to go to this restaurant across the street from her place and apparently that was so dangerous that we had to be escorted by a guy with an AK-47, and when we got there, the host who sat us had an AK-47.
Damn, sounds like the hood. What about creepy guy horror stories?
Oh, I get it all the time. Creeps with the worst pick-up techniques. Zero game. It’s bad. But it’s so much fun to laugh about later! [laughs]
Confidence and ambition, first and foremost. If he’s motivated and intelligent and knows how to treat me, the rest will fall into place.
Ugly guys who are cool. Got it.
[laughs] I won’t lie—he has to be cute or hot or something. But there have been some really, really hot guys I’ve known, where after a few dates I’ve been like, “Ew, no. Not going to work.” And I like nerdy guys, too.
Natalia... are you hitting on us? [blushes]
[laughs] But the thing to do to get my attention right off the bat is just don’t be shy. If you see me out somewhere and think I’m cute, come up and say it.
Tough love. We love it. What’s the toughest part about managing your love life around everything else?
I’ve gotten good at deciding right away if I like someone. I don’t have time to play games or mess around—I either like you or it’s not going to work. I could never do a show like The Bachelorette because I’d eliminate every single guy right after the first two shows, except for one.
Real tough! So what’s next for Natalia? Besides airports and jet lag. More modeling?
Yeah, I think so. I’d like to do more spokesmodeling than show/go-go stuff. And I’d love to do the runway for Victoria’s Secret, but we’ll see. I’m going to be moving soon so wherever I land will really decide what’s next, I think.
You know our vote. Drinks at the Edison next Sunday evening, then?
Count on it!
Ethnicity: Filipino, American
Birthday: December 25
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Thank you list: Prestigious Models; my parents; house music; all the great people I’ve met in the world; Annabel and Phil.