Nineties beauty Shirley Mallmann got her start in a small town in southern Brazil. It wasn’t long before she was treading the runways and gracing the pages of fashion bibles in campaigns for Alberta Ferretti, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Emporio Armani and countless others. In addition she made an appearance in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and the cover of multiple issues of Vogue.

Tell us about how you got started in modeling.

I come from a very small town in the south of Brazil. I was working in a shoe factory when a colleague of mine won a beauty contest and wanted to try modeling. We found a small modeling school in a nearby town and joined. The school had guest speakers one of which had a fashion column in south Brazil’s biggest newspaper. He asked if I wanted to do some photos for his column and an appearance on his TV show about fashion trends.  I did it and between the two jobs earned more than a month’s pay in the factory so I quit my job and started modeling full-time.

How have you been able to achieve longevity in a field where so few make it?

That’s a hard question to answer. There’s no way of telling if you’ll make it or not. All you can do is try your best and see where it’ll take you. I’m a hard worker and I love what I do which is a big part of it. Genetics play an important part too. I’m very fortunate to be able to switch between high fashion and commercial work which adds to a broader appeal making my career longer and more versatile.

How have you found balance between modeling and family life?

It is a constant job coordinating the two. I have two boys in school so they have a set schedule while my husband, who’s a hairdresser, and I travel for work a lot.  It’s a ping-pong game figuring out who will be home at what time of day, but babysitters, grandma and everybody else chips in a bit. When we’re all home together we try to make the most of it by doing special things with our kids.

​What have you discovered about yourself through modeling?

When I was little my dream was to leave my parents farm and have my own apartment and my own car. The day I was set to move to New York for the first time I realized that all I wanted was to stay close to home. Even though we’re very lucky to travel to all these amazing places around the world I am the happiest at home, preferably near my family in Brazil. I also realized that I absolutely love fashion and my job, which I had no idea until I started working. That makes all the sacrifices worth it.

If you weren’t modeling what would you be doing?

I have always loved architecture and interior design. As a child I used to cut out apartment layouts from newspapers and pretend to be working on them. I probably would have done something along those lines.

What are your goals for the future?

My ultimate dream is to move my family back to Brazil. I would love to be able to instill the culture in my sons and have them enjoy the simple carefree life that I grew up with. I would also love to have my own children’s clothing line; it’s something I’m very passionate about.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?​

Oh, I don’t know. I’m a very upbeat person and I try to make the best out of all situations. I love reading and sleeping. Here is a good one I guess…I’m scared of the outdoors at night. I don’t like to do much outside at night except maybe go to dinner or a party, but I prefer if they are indoors.

What does success mean to you?

To me it’s all the learning, to have made a difference in someone’s life, to be able to pass some of your knowledge to your kids. It also means having choices in life, whether to travel, spend time with your family or just take the day off if you feel like it.

Follow her at @MallmannShirley