NEWARK, Delaware — Russian supermodel and philanthropist Natalia “Supernova” Vodianova is now a United Nations goodwill ambassador, focusing on women’s rights. This is not the first time Vodianova has done work with the United Nations. In fact, she also campaigns for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA).
UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem has worked closely with Vodianova for the past three years as an advocate for women’s health. According to Kanem, Vodianova is focusing on “breaking harmful taboos and tackling the stigmas that surround women’s bodies and health.” Some stigmas that Vodianova is fighting are menstrual health and “all forms of gender-based violence.”
Vodianova’s Humble Beginnings
Natalia Vodianova grew up in poverty with a single mother and an autistic half-sister with cerebral palsy. By 17, Vodianova signed with Viva Model Management and worked for companies such as Calvin Klein and Louis Vuitton. Using her platform, Vodianova became a passionate advocate for reproductive rights and the rights of those who live with disabilities. With the help of the U.N., Natalia Vodianova connects the worlds of fashion and technology to help achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Naked Heart Foundation
In 2004, Vodianova founded the Naked Heart Foundation for children with special needs and their families. Its main goal is to create a more inclusive society. Now, it has become one of the most prominent charities in Russia. The Naked Heart Foundation has “built 130 inclusive play facilities” and creates “free family support services.”
The Foundation believes that helping children requires the help of the entire community. Much of the organization’s work revolves around ending stigmas surrounding children with disabilities and the pressures families face when taking care of them. In 2020 alone, the Naked Heart Foundation helped “330 parents raising children with special needs” with legal assistance. It also provided free early intervention services to 2,746 children.
Previous Work with the U.N.
Natalia Vodianova’s current focus is on reproductive rights for women and girls. Menstruation can prove to be a challenge for billions of women around the world. Regardless of these challenges, 800 million women between the ages of 15 and 49 menstruate daily. These women face adversity depending on the culture’s views on the reproductive rights of women. “ Menstruation is a normal bodily function. As UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, I want to work to build a world where we no longer need to explain this,” says Vodianova on her advocacy.
Since partnering with UNFPA, Vodianova has hosted a series of “Let’s Talk” events in order to use her voice to dismantle rumors and taboos and advance women’s health and gender equality. The “Let’s Talk” events give prominent people in all sectors of life the opportunity to give speeches on the importance of women’s health for all.
Natalia Vodianova may be best known for her work on the runway, but has used her platform and personal experience to help enact change. Her work has been especially meaningful for women and disabled children. Vodianova’s work with the United Nations is just the beginning of her work ending stigmas regarding women’s reproductive rights, creating a more inclusive world for all.
– Jai Phillips