“Growing up in Brazil was fun, although I don’t remember much”

Talytha Pugliesi, the Brazilian bombshell, broke onto the modeling scene in the early noughties making her debut at the Christian Dior runway show. She has starred in blue chip advertising campaigns for Valentino, Celine, Sonia Rykiel, and Thierry Mugler in addition to countless runway shows. Nowadays, the model cum actor spends her time advocating for marijuana decriminalization, and bringing awareness to mental health issues.

Tell us about your childhood growing up in Brazil.

Growing up in Brazil was fun, although I don’t remember much. I was really close with my two sisters. My mom was so young—she did the best that she could for us—but at the time, it felt more like an adventure. We didn’t have a lot of structure at home, and aside from my parent’s divorce and a few other struggles, things seemed OK. During that period, I remember using my grandmother’s corridor as a catwalk to practice my walk.

Tell us about how you got into modeling.

My sister says modeling had always been my dream. I can’t recall, but I think she’s right. When I was fourteen years-old, I enrolled in dance classes at a place where they also had “modeling lessons”. One day I was invited to participate in a contest they were holding and whoever won was offered a contract with Ford models. I then had to wait until I was fifteen and had my braces removed before I could start to work. I was really happy at the time. 

As a part of the Brazilian wave of models that dominated fashion in the early 00’s, what do you remember about that period of your life?

I remember working a lot with hardly any days off. I was living my dream, traveling a lot, and working with the best in the business. Life was a lot of fun, although now I can see I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have. I also remember the energy that surrounded the successful models. It was like we were from another planet. 

Can you tell us about the challenges you faced navigating success at a young age.

I was really young when I left home, and I didn’t have the financial skills to handle the money I was making. My family wasn’t much support either because they didn’t know how to handle the business side of it. There was also the rejection that came after my success, the loneliness of being away from my family for long periods, and the different forms of harassment I faced that I didn’t realize until years later.

What was the moment you realised you had made it?

I think it was when I did the Gucci show when Tom Ford was still there. We knew it meant something huge at the time, and I felt so happy to be in it. There were many other moments but this one was really special. To be honest, I only recently realized what I had and how special that was. Sometimes life, and the business, puts you down and makes it hard to recognize your accomplishments. Today I see it clearly, but then I was filled with doubt.

Who were your biggest advocates?

My mom and my sisters. My brother was too small at the time. 

What did you discover about yourself through modeling?

I’m so grateful for my career and how everything went because it gave me the opportunity to learn and grow so much. I learned I’m strong, independent, resilient, beautiful—I didn’t think I was at the time—and that I’m still good no matter how I’m treated. Through modeling I built my self-esteem, self-love, confidence, my warrior side, and I learned a lot about rejection.

If you think of your life in chapters, what do you want to achieve next?

I’d love to live in Europe again, to feel healthy and stable—with my bipolar disorder—and to be at peace with myself. I also want to feel fulfilled doing something I love. 

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I study shamanism, spirituality, and herbalism among other things. I’m an actress these days. I speak openly about mental health. I’m also an activist for marijuana decriminalization, and I constantly speak out against the Bolsonaro government. 

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