NATALIA BONIFACCI MEETS CALIFORNIAN BEAUTY DELILAH PARILLO AT GALERIE CHENEL, THE BEAUTIFUL ANTIQUARY OVERLOOKING THE LOUVRE IN PARIS. ADRIEN CHENEL, THE OWNER, A FRIEND OF LILAH, KNOWS HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT SPRITZ. LILAH’S VOICE IS HUSKY AND SHE’S COMFORTABLE IN HER SKIN. SHE’S FUNNY AND LAUGHS OFTEN. SHE IS A FAN OF ELSA PERETTI AND CLASSIC SILHOUETTES. OVER SPRITZES AND SURROUNDED BY BEAUTY DURING A PARISIAN SUMMER AFTERNOON THE MODEL OPENS UP WITH NATALIA ABOUT HER JOB, THE STORY OF HER CAREER, HER INTERESTS AND HER LOVE FOR LA & PARIS.
If you were to describe what you do for a living to a child what would you tell him or her?
I would tell them that I am a mannequin, a clothes hanger (she giggles).
How were you discovered?
I was 17 in my small hometown, it’s called Idyllwild in California. I was working at a candy store. Brian, this photographer, who lived in Palm Springs came in, bought something and came back ten minutes later telling me he really wanted to photograph me. Eventually we did a little photo shoot in his mother’s garage. He suggested I sign with an agency, but I wasn’t planning on it. He sent the photos and my number to an agency in LA and they called me. So I signed with a smaller commercial agency at first. Three weeks later I booked my first job, a JC Penney Oscars commercial, on television. At the beginning I was mostly doing commercials, I was so happy! I moved in with my Grandpa who lives in Los Angeles. I didn’t have a car, so he would drive me around everywhere for castings and auditions (she smiles). At 18 I had finally collected some money, I moved out and I started modeling and traveling. I had never left the country or been on an airplane before then.
Now you’re flying all the time, and everyone wants you in LA. Was it hard to adjust to the lifestyle?
It was really gradual. I’d say the hardest thing was after I left my Grandpa’s. I came from such a small town and suddenly I’m in amazing places, getting paid much more than at the candy store (she laughs).
You’re in Paris right now…
Paris might be my favorite city in the world. It’s so magical here! It makes me happy. I was feeling a little bored in LA so I thought it could really cheer me up if I spent some time in Paris. I love the old parts of Paris, the ones that most people would say are just really boring or posh: I think they’re so nice. I want Paris to be Paris! I like to go to Saint Germain, have a drink with a friend at Cafe Flore, like we did the other day, maybe go and do some shopping at Le Bon Marché or Rue Saint-Honoré. I love that there is good dancing in Paris. The popular club right now is La Mano, which is really good, but it can get hectic. I like going to Silencio as well, or Castel.
LA is home now. Do you feel at home there?
LA is my home. I’m very comfortable there. I love the sunshine. I am Californian, but it took me a long time to feel at home in LA, almost three years.
It was hard to make friends. At first I just hang out with people from work, but to eventually branch out and find other young people that I could get along with, well, it took a bit of time. LA is huge. I finally found the friends that I like, the neighborhood that I like, Beachwood, where I live. It’s the hills, but it’s not pretentious, it’s very artsy as well.
How do you feel about someone talking about you as a ‘muse’? I remember interviewing Hilary Walsh and she mentioned you as one of her muses at the time.
A few people have called me a muse and it’s a very special feeling, but it’s not an exclusive thing.
Because you are not the only one?
Yes. Maybe in the old days it was more meaningful, but these days it can be thrown around a bit because of the pace of the society we live in. Yes, I was Hilary’s muse for six months or maybe longer, but then that ended and I was someone else’s muse (she laughs). It’s like a relationship!
You have a very particular look. You’re much shorter than most models. You have curves. Was that ever an issue?
For a while I fought my body type because I thought to be a model I had to reach those standards. I tried, because that is what I thought a model should be: super thin. I have breasts and a butt, and I tried to get rid of them, but it wasn’t happening. It wasn’t healthy either. It was just a short period of time. Your friends don’t wanna hang out with you because all you wanna talk about is your body. Life becomes so boring. I was fighting my own being, but then I realized “They’re still hiring me.” They were and they still are. And if they don’t want me, that is fine too. Those clients can hire the skinny girls (she laughs).
Did that ever affect your self esteem?
For sure. I was becoming such a boring person. I was thinking about it all the time, I was avoiding social situations for that same reason, I wasn’t living life. It was a very short period of time, but it was enough to not want to waste my life like that. You break after a while. Some girls can keep it going for five years. I am not one of them.
Do you find yourself beautiful?
I think so, I feel good about myself.
When is the best you feel about yourself?
I feel very good when I’m alone. I’m also someone that loves to dress up. I feel great when I put on some heels, a dress and makeup. I also feel great when I’m mellow, but I love dressing up. Some people say sometimes I’m overdressed, but I don’t care. Why not? (she laughs)
You’re very young, yet if you were to be able to give yourself a piece of advice to your sixteen year old self, what would you tell yourself?
I would probably just say to calm down a bit. I’d say “You’re gonna be ok”. I grew up in a very poor family. I worked two jobs, and my mom was working a lot too. I was taking care of my brother and stuff. I think I would tell myself “don’t stress about it”, because I was stressing about everything a lot. I worked as a busser: it’s not even the waiter, it’s the waiter’s assistant.
Were you ever treated poorly?
Oh, for sure, especially since I worked in the nicest restaurant in town. I was cleaning up people’s dirty food. They don’t look at you nicely. I’ve always been a bit sassy though, I always gave a bit of attitude back (she laughs).
What did you wanna be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an artist. I still wanna be an artist. I went to art school where I took drawing and ceramic and painting, I worked super hard to get into that school in my town. Even when I was younger, I’ve always loved beauty and nice things. I wanted to be a stylist, but that kinda seems a lot of work (she laughs), it’s a lot less magical when you’ve been part of this world. I would really love to be a creative director.
What do you think is the sexiest quality in a man?
I think humor because I can really only be with a guy that has a sense of humor. Everyone in my family is super funny. Also, cleanliness (she laughs).
Excessive partying. Having a super addictive personality. Drugs. Too many drugs. Any ex boyfriend that did too many drugs, well, that was a turn off.
What’s the sexiest quality in a woman?
Confidence. Because it’s very hard for a woman to be confident.
Just because of probably what my own industry creates. There are so many standards or requirements that women have to live up to. So many preconceived notions of what we should be like as women. You have to fight against those things, nobody can live after a guidebook. You know, I witnessed it first hand. Some clients, not everyone, but some, can be so blunt and absurd. My answer is to realize that it’s just nonsense and my fight is to see above it, to see the big picture.
What is the best quality about you?
It can be also my worst quality. I’m a little blunt. I say exactly what I think. Sometimes I don’t think about things before saying them, but I always say what I feel.
What’s your approach to social media?
I’ve spoken to models or other people working in the industry and they have a bad attitude about it because they say it’s a silly thing. I think it’s very important. It’s work. I get 90% positive response, followers have been very nice, yet of course there is shitty people on the internet here and there. I’m working on showing my personality more.
There is a lot of hype both for and against women or celebrities showing off their bodies on their social media accounts.
I mean, you’re the owner of yourself. I think a lot of people think that if you want more followers just show your ass. Well, it’s also kind of true because you do gain them, but I have a strong female following on my social media. I don’t mind posting the occasional sexy selfie. It’s fun. It’s part of all of us to want to be liked. Maybe you have a hot body and that is your thing and you wanna show it off, do it, who cares? And if that is not your thing, don’t. It’s funny, I’m a swimwear model, but I get more likes from my selfies than when I post a picture in a bikini.
Did you ever feel weird to say what you do for a living?
When I first started I was this hippy artsy girl. I was happy to have this as my job, but I wasn’t super stoked because I thought it was a bit frivolous or shallow and felt a bit shy about it. Now I’m more proud of myself for what I do. Yes, it’s a simple job, but it opens many doors.
What’s the hardest part about it?
Dealing with other people’s opinions of yourself and therefore your own insecurities. You get hired because of how you look. It was really difficult at the beginning to not take it personally. Now I am more careless. The best part is traveling the world. It’s not rocket science, but you get to meet so many amazing people and you get to wear beautiful clothes. I’m happy to see myself on the street, you know? There are a lot of cool parts of my job.
What was the most influential encounter in your career?
So many people and I remember all of them, yet to name a few I think of Darren Ankerman. I did a test shoot with him and he introduced me to another photographer, Akila Berjaoui, who hired me for Billabong. I’ve been the face of Billabong for three years now. Brian, who scouted me at the candy store. Henrik Purienne, my favorite portraits of myself are by him. Hilary Walsh, she gave me my first few editorials. I am so grateful for all of them, even the ones I am not mentioning: that list is long!
Gallery above Photo Credit: Adrien Chenel
This interview has been edited and condensed.