Daniela Hanganu @ Central Models
She exhaled an angel-like beauty. A calm and collected confidence that was reflected in her smile. A model in all the meanings the word can have. A model throughout every single hour we were working, ready for all the unexpected backstage photos, prepared for our endless questions about her career. A model and a role model.
You came from Moldavia at a very young age. Do you remember how your adaptation to Portugal and our culture went like?
I came here when I was five. I remember the car trip, it took about four days. It's tough. It was hard because in my first week I didn't understand a thing and back then it was different. Nowadays with globalization and more immigrants coming in, it's easier for people to understand that we can all move. Not back then. Kids were much more close minded so I had a rough time in the beginning. Once I started crying at school because I wanted to go home. We were all watching "The Lion King" and I wasn't understanding a word and kept asking for my mom. She came to get me. I remember that. It was difficult. Then I learned the language and things became easier.
You got in the fashion business at fourteen through some pictures that were sent to Central Models and shortly after you started working on a regular basis. How is it to be a young girl already in magazines and advertisements? How did your peers react?
In the beginning the reactions were bad because, prior to entering the fashion word, I was one of those girls with nearly no self-esteem. I was always looked at as the foreigner, somewhat marginalized by my colleagues. When I got in this business I started growing my self-confidence and became someone much different. Back then, when the first pictures started showing up I suffered a kind of bullying by my colleagues teasing me and teachers listening and doing nothing. It was my best friend that stood up for me, because I was still very fragile in what concerned my self-esteem. I was still in a development process, let's put it like this. Then, with time and as more publications came out, things changed a bit and it was very weird, because when I talked, people would just look at me as if what I had to say was the divine truth.
Did you feel that radical change from the moment you started becoming acknowledged in the fashion world?
Yes. When I appeared in Vogue for the first time, that was a proof of success for some people. Girls at school started looking at me and telling me they wanted to be like me and asking how I became a model.
What do you remember about your first works?
My first work was with Anton Beill, the person that sent my photos to Central Models. Back then I remember looking at the other models that were about to shoot (I asked to be the last one so I could see how they worked) and I kept thinking I didn't know what to do and that I would look awful and robot-like. The first shooting was weird and so was the second. Then, the first work I had after joining Central was different. Something clicked and from then on I never had trouble shooting again. It became completely natural. It is like waking up and having breakfast. Shooting is perfectly normal.
2015 was probably the most important year in your career, so far. You were in Elle, Vogue, walked for Chanel in Paris and you were also GQ's revelation model of the year. How do you feel about this year?
Sometimes I need a pinch to realize it has happened, this is real. Being acknowledged by GQ, nominated for the Golden Globes (Portugal) and Sara (Sampaio) dedicating me the award was... WOW!! I love Sara! When I first wanted to get into fashion I wanted to get in an agency that, when you searched for it on Google, you wouldn't have to go about eight pages forward. I don't know why I wanted that agency in particular, but then something pulled me into the right direction and when I heard Sara was in Central Models I thought I wouldn't get in. But then I met Emilia Romano, she liked me and I got in. I was stunned!
What do you like the most in this business?
I like that every day is different. I really really really like Paris. I like to run for things. Some people I shared the apartment with (in Paris) would sometimes have a casting and didn't feel like going. I would be like "what do you mean you're not going? It's an opportunity!!". On the first day the agency sent me to an Hermès casting. On the second day I casted for Dior. I met their former creative director Raf Simmons. I met Nicholas Ghesquière. It was amazing! I was in the same room as Elie Saab. When I arrived to the casting I just had to take a picture of the name in the wall "Elie Saab". I had to! I took a selfie. I looked like a kid on Christmas after received a puppy. I accidentally walked into the wrong room where I thought the casting was and there was Elie Saab in an office desk talking to some guy, with a huge smile telling me the casting was in another room. I just thought to myself "I want to be in your show. Please!". But I was too short for it - the dresses are very long...
The day I had the Chanel casting I was so close to Sasha Luss and Lindsey Wixson that were doing fittings. Next to me was Taylor Hill and Charlotte Free, that did the eyewear campaign for Chanel. Irina Liss, who walks all major shows was there. So many TOP girls. I went for the casting and was terribly afraid. I went as simply dressed as possible. It was literally wating one and a half hour for two minutes of casting. They took a picture of me, asked me to walk and where I was from, saw my portfolio and in the end I could swear the casting woman smiled almost in an imperceptible way. The next day I had forgotten about the casting because it is very hard to deal with the "no". Here in Portugal we dream a lot, that we want to walk for Elie Saab, Chanel, Dior, but everything is so distant that it is just a dream, a cloud, something very abstract and far away. But when you're there and you just have to reach a bit further and grab it... when you don't and you're almost there... it's hard.
How is it to deal with rejection and the "no's" you get after the castings?
I've been in Paris for 3 months, first for the haute couture shows and then for ready to wear. I've been to all the castings for the ready to wear and i was as an option to pretty much all of them, but in the end, they didn't pick me for any. That really got me down. Just like i said before... i was there, they were just there within my reach and then... and i'm like... "why couldn't i get picked for at least one?" It was really tough to deal with that. But it's in situations like this that supporting parents like mine assume a very important role, even if we were communicating only through Skype. It's very important when the people close to you, can pull you up and let you know that tomorrow everything will be ok.
You are 18 years old. How does it feel to know that you are an inspiration to other girls?
It's very strange. I get a lot of messages of girls saying they love my work. I obviously appreciate that and I reply to those messages but I'm just a girl and sometimes I'm afraid I won't be able to meet their expectations.
What's the most important advice you can give to a girl who would like to me a professional model?
Just one? It's complicated... I would say: keep your feet on the ground! Be aware that being a model requires a lot, really a lot of hard work. I know that for people who are looking from the outside, this seems to happen from one day to the other, but it doesn't. Look at Sara Sampaio! Most people think that one day she went to work for Victoria Secret and that did just happen. But it took her 4 years until she actually made it! Once again, it might look easy for those who are looking from the outside, but the truth is, you need to be very responsible and aware of what you are doing, because being just pretty is never enough.
In the middle of all this super busy life of castings, shootings, runways, you are still a regular girl that recently started college, to study Publicity and Marketing. How is to manage a student's life and the international modeling career?
I skip classes a lot (laughs). And it's not what I wanted. I applied for Management, but I missed for a tenth. It hurt.
More or less than the "no's" after the castings?
Having a degree is a safety and that's something I really want. I'll find a way of getting my degree, of that I'm sure and when I didn't get in the Management course, I dramatized a bit. But then I started Publicity and Marketing and I realized I was actually enjoying it and I didn't even think of applying again for Management. I've learned a lot, even having skipped lot of classes and by the end of the semestre I managed to improve my grades.
And what about your goals?
I could go on and on about all the brands in the world I'd like to work with, but the one I'd give it all for, would be Victoria's Secret. I think it's a dream for any girl and that's also my ultimate dream.
photography Gonçalo M. Catarino
styling Catarina F. Pinto
make up & hair Anabela Gonçalves
model Daniela Hanganu @ CENTRAL Models