Natalija Ugrina is a stunning actress and fashion model who is currently based in Los Angeles, California. She was originally born in Croatia and was raised by her mother, Ketrin Buljević, who’s a writer and a poet. She kickstarted her modeling career at the age of 16 by joining Elite Model Management which enabled her to work with various fashion designers and appear in notable publications such as Vogue Italia, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar as well as grace high-profile fashion shows from all over the world. Eventually, she decided to shift gears and pursue a career in acting. She moved to Los Angeles to study acting at Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute which led to numerous acting gigs. Some of her film credit includes the College Ball movie, Fight of Fury, and A Life Well Lived. She has also appeared in music videos such as 5 Seconds of Summer’s “She Looks So Perfect” which garnered over 300 million views as well as Action Bronson’s music video for “Baby Blue” featuring Chance the Rapper. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California, where she constantly works tirelessly to build her career. Sassy & Co Magazine recently caught up with Natalija to discuss her journey in the entertainment industry and here’s what went down:
Could you please provide background about yourself and how you were discovered?
I was 16 years old when a modeling agent approached me in Split, Croatia, and immediately signed me up for the Fashion TV International Model Contest. I ended up being one of the finalists and I eventually decided to move to Italy to pursue my career. Shortly after, I signed up with Elite Model Management and worked for several fashion designers. I walked during Fashion Week in Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, and New York. I also appeared in several high-profile publications like Vogue Italia, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar. Even though being 6 feet tall and slender opened many doors in fashion, I was always fascinated by acting though. I decided to get more serious about it and what’s a better place to start than Hollywood right? I then signed up for The Lee Strasberg Institute where I studied method acting.
After graduating, I booked my first acting roles and decided to continue my studies at the UCLA Extension Acting Program. I appeared in several commercials (Budlight, Nike, Kia) and even played a news anchor in the “College Ball Movie” starring Tom Sizemore. I was never into social media that much but every time I go to castings and auditions, I often get asked “How many followers do you have?” so I decided to create an account on Instagram. What started as something fun, became a huge part of my life and a full-time job. I get paid to travel, try out new things and I can really say I’m living a dream.
What does it mean for you to be a model?
To be confident with your body and project that confidence through the picture.
What’s the biggest challenge to modeling?
With the lifestyle that I have, it’s really hard for me to maintain a healthy relationship and it’s mostly because I travel all the time. Every guy I meet seems to be okay with it all at first until they are not (laughs).
Have you always wanted to be in the modeling industry?
I actually never wanted to be in the modeling industry but I’ve always been very tall (I’m 6 feet tall) so it was a logical path to take. I’m grateful I did, as I now live such an interesting life – I meet so many different people and visit different countries. But, my only true dream is acting and it’s all I want to do in life. Sometimes though, you need to take certain detours to get to where you want to be.
What sort of person usually follows you?
Usually, it’s people that are interested in fashion and travel as that is mainly what I post and that’s also why I have all sorts of people following me – I love it! I would say though, I do have a slightly higher percentage of a super young crowd, mainly because I am very active on TikTok.
What’s your personal mission in life?
I hope to be a positive inspiration for people, help whenever I can, and be the source of change. When people follow you, I think it’s your responsibility to spread a positive message and do good.
Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?
Even though I’ve met so many celebrities, athletes, politicians, etc… I find that the most interesting people I’ve met were the ones I met during my travels, especially in poor countries. I find it fascinating how some people have nothing and yet, they have the most beautiful smiles and they are willing to share the last piece of their meal with you. Those people are the true wealth of this world.
How active are you on social media?
Lately, especially since the pandemic, I feel like I live on social media (laughs). But seriously, being an influencer is much more work than what everyone thinks and it actually takes most of my day especially since I am active on several platforms. I remember not posting a story one day and my followers started asking me if I was okay and it something happened. They are all so used to seeing new content from me every day.
What is your favourite social media platform?
Even though I initially signed up just for fun, TikTok became my favourite platform by far! It’s fun, easy-going and you don’t have to think too much about the content and aesthetics. People are less judgemental there than other platforms and also very supportive! Another thing I really like about it is that you can have literally zero followers, but then when you post a video you can have a million views overnight. Everyone has a chance to be recognized and everyone’s talents can shine.
What will you advise other models who may wish to follow your footsteps?
Always be yourself and never try to fit into someone else’s standards! I remember when I started modeling, the agencies wanted us to be almost “anorexic” but look at how everything has changed nowadays. Love yourself the way you are and don’t follow the beauty trends. If you truly believe in yourself and modeling is what you want to do, then the right agent will eventually recognise you.
What are your future plans?
Other than acting and modeling, I was always interested in producing as well and I’m currently working on my own feature movie so stay tuned!
The “Lightning-Fast” Round:
1. Last good movie I’ve seen: I can’t think of a really good movie, but my favourite show that I haven’t seen in a while is “Money Heist.” I can’t wait for the new season!
2. What do you consider beautiful and why? Nothing is more beautiful to me than people who wake up with a smile – truly excited for every new day and what it has to bring, grateful for the blessings they have, and not resentful for what they don’t have. The world is a beautiful place, it’s all about the perspective and it’s better to look at everything through rose coloured glasses.
3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could? I would love to live in the Caribbean at some point in my life and actually own an island! Dream big they say.
4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d…” jump with a parachute!
5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself? Speaking up even when it’s against popular opinion. I’ve been judged a lot of times for that but I’d always rather say what I think and fight for what’s right. I truly believe that one person can change the world.