As one of the most prolific models of the nineties, Tasha Tilberg—the classic beauty with street cred—was as easily at home on the international runways of Europe as she was adorning billboards as the face of CoverGirl. With over two decades in the fashion industry under her belt—and no signs of slowing down—the Canadian beauty spoke about sustainability and following in the footsteps of her ancestors as a steward of the land.

The last year has been challenging for people living through a pandemic. How has your perspective changed during these times?

It’s reaffirmed my beliefs that food security, and sustainability are very important—especially in small, remote communities like where I live. It is also proving that people can still be productive while working from home, and that people don’t need to fly around the world constantly for meetings.

Tell us about how you were discovered.

I went to an agency in Toronto when I was 14. My sister took a fashion class in high school and encouraged me to try it.

At the beginning of your career you purchased a farm when you were just 16 years old. Talk to us about that and the importance of being connected to nature for you.

I had traveled to Japan and earned enough for a down payment on my old farm. I had always dreamed of having a farm and working with the land. My parents had a farm, but they sold it before I was born. My paternal grandparents had homesteaded near Thunder Bay, Ontario by a crossroads called Sunshine. I think being a steward of the land is deep in my DNA. Being connected to nature is in all of us, but sometimes—when we urbanize ourselves too much—we forget what the smell of forests and summer meadows are like. I believe all people can feel rejuvenated by being immersed in a natural environment.

The word sustainable gets banned around a lot without specificity. Talk to us about what sustainability means to you.

Sustainable can mean different things on different levels. On a farm—such as mine—economical and environmental sustainability go hand in hand. My goal is to create a closed circuit where we grow nearly all the food we need to sustain ourselves as well as all the food for our livestock. We strive to eat seasonally, preserving our summer gardens by canning and drying foods, and extending our growing seasons by use of greenhouses. Using manure to enrich the soil is as ancient as keeping livestock. We also compost or feed our kitchen waste to our chickens so that really nothing is wasted. This is small scale family farm agriculture. Selling our excess veggies to other families is another way of connecting and sharing, and keeping our communities fed locally, and not by trucking all of our food long distances.

There’s a coterie of models that have attained cult status in the industry. Why do you think you’re considered a cult model?

Am I? That’s cool—I had no idea–this is a hard one to answer. Maybe my winning personality? I think I came up in a time of real change in the industry. People enjoyed working with models with different personalities, but they also wanted you to be a blank slate. I rebelled and wanted to represent an otherness in fashion at that time, or I refused to ignore myself. I was always open about being in the LGBTQIA+ community as well. I started getting visible tattoos when I turned 15, and I loved to cut my own hair—especially undercuts—but it wasn’t always appreciated by clients.

What do you think are the common misconceptions people have about you?

I’ve always tried to be pretty open about who I am, so I’m not sure what kind of misconceptions there would be about me. Possibly they would be misconceptions about models in general. Generally, I know many models who are modest, thoughtful, and are striving to make the world a better place.

You’ve achieved the type of career longevity young models can only dream of. What do you attribute your success to?

I took many breaks for many reasons. I needed to recharge, and possibly it made people miss me. I was never fully immersed in the fashion world. I have spent my time enjoying parties and different aspects of life on the road, but I took time away to replenish my spirit and to build my family and home. I worked hard to acquire skills that gave me different perspectives, and it made me feel connected to nature and the generations before me, like gardening, spinning, and weaving wool.

The industry has changed so much since you began in the 90s. In what ways do you think the industry has made progress and what work still needs to be done?

I think there have been wonderful strides forward for the fashion industry. There has emerged greater visibility and diversity in this industry. It’s always evolving, and there is still a long way to go. Holding brands accountable for how they source materials—and the environmental impact—as well as livable wages, are the next important elements that need to be addressed.

In retrospect, what have you discovered about yourself on this journey?

I have discovered that there are many ways to cultivate happiness. I learned that I am really good at my job—I didn’t always feel worthy or like the job—but I always had a strong work ethic, and now I really enjoy it when I work. I feel I can fully represent myself, and feel respected. I’ve enjoyed growing up, maturing, and learning all the lessons life has thrown at me.

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope our world can find some balance. That our future children can have a world that has wonderful natural areas and wilderness untamed by humans.

Follow her on Instagram