NATALIA BONIFACCI MEETS KELLEY ASH JUST OFF BEACHWOOD CANYON. THE MODEL TURNED STYLIST HAS KNOWN NATALIA FOR YEARS: THEIR FRIENDSHIP FIRST BLOSSOMED ON SET. BOTH AQUARIANS, THEY SHARE THE SAME BIRTHDAY, FEBRUARY 11TH, IMPERFECT GRINS, A LONG LASTING LOVE FOR STORYTELLING AND FOR LOS ANGELES, ESPECIALLY FOR THE EAST SIDE. FOR REDMILK THEY PLAYED DRESS UP WITH SOME OF KELLEY’S FAVORITE PIECES ON THE HILLS BEHIND THE HOUSE THAT SHE SHARES WITH HER BOYFRIEND SKATEBOARDER CHAD MUSKA AND THEIR THREE PUGS. THE GAP TOOTHED MODEL TURNED STYLIST OPENED UP WITH NATALIA ABOUT THE STORY OF HER CAREER AND SOME OF OTHER LITTLE AND BIG THINGS IN LIFE.
If you were to explain what you do for a living to a small a child, what would you tell him or her?
I play dress up (she laughs).
How long have you been a stylist now? You are a model turned stylist.
I was a model for a while and brands at one point started sending me their stuff to style myself with. They would send a photographer to shoot it or I’d find one. I sort of started doing styling that way. I thought “This is fun and easy”. When I was younger my mom raised me on her own and she had to work full-time. She used to take me to the local thrift stores on weekends. I had to get creative with my outfits. I would had loved shopping at the mall where all my friends shopped, but I knew well my mom couldn’t afford it. I would find things that were very similar to things that were in style at the time. So I feel I always had an eye for styling. And at a young age my love for vintage was born.
How long have you been in LA? It’s been home for a long time.
I’ve been in LA for 11 years now. I moved here because of my my esthetician license! I used to work for a French beauty brand called Darphin and I used to travel all over the East Coast and the Mid West doing facials for them. I came to California to visit a friend and I fell in love with Los Angeles. There was an opening for an esthetician position in LA for the brand I was working for, so I asked to get transferred here and they did. I sold my condo in New Jersey, I packed up my life and I drove from New Jersey to LA with my two pugs.
You live off Beachwood; what does it mean do be a East sider?
Nat, have you only lived on the East Side?
Pretty much. I love the East Side. I spent two months in Venice at one point and it was cute, but that was more than enough. I like visiting Venice, but I wouldn’t want to live on the West Side at all. It’s cool for a month or maybe to spend some of Summer, but it’s not really my thing.
Yeah, I feel the same. I feel the West Side it’s a bit stuffier. I can’t really explain it, it’s just so different. The East Side seems so much more interesting to me.
What’s the best piece of advice that someone has ever given you?
My mom would always say to me “Trust your instincts.” And that just got me so far in life with everything. I couldn’t really grasp what that meant when I was younger, but as I get older I realize “Ok, this is what she was talking about.” It could be as simple as going out for the night and not really wanting to, but your friend is guilt-tripping you, and so you end up going out and then your car gets towed (she laughs) “Should have trusted my instincts!” Sounds silly, but I realize it truly applies on big and small things. It just works.
If you were to give a piece of advice to your 15 year old self, what would you tell yourself?
“Invest in Apple” (we both laugh).
How did you start modeling?
This guy I became friends with was very vocal that I should model. He send some pictures of me to a photographer and everything kinda fell into place: before I knew it I had an agent. I signed with a boutique agency, because all the bigger agencies turned me down. The first job I ever booked was a short-film for Prada (Syncratic – Infusion d’Homme). I remember going into the casting and being so fucking nervous. That is how my career started and I kept booking jobs as a model and eventually I had to quit my esthetician job. The rest is history. My relationships with some photographers made all the difference.
What do you mean?
The best one was meeting Graham Dunn on a test shoot. We hit if off immediately, in a brother and sister kinda soul mate way. We worked together a lot. We grew up creatively that way. To this day, we still work together: I style a lot of shoots for him.
You were a blogger at one point, when blogging was really exploding.
Yes! I dated a photographer for many years, he was just starting his career, and so was I, and we were taking all these epic road trips. He’s Californian and he introduced me to so many places for the first time: Joshua Tree, Palm Springs, Big Sur. I had only been here for six months when I met him. He was experimenting with his photography and was shooting a lot of film at the time. I had all these incredible images, but my agent wouldn’t use them because they liked things that were a bit more commercial “We can’t sell you with these images.” And I thought ‘But this is me, this is my lifestyle, this is what I do, this is who I am.” A friend suggested I started a blog. I had just watched Wild At Heart by David Lynch, and I was so inspired by it. I loved his work growing up. So I thought “I’m gonna call it A Wild At Heart!” French Vogue did a write up about me as a model and mentioned my blog on there. It had a snowball effect, it just opened so many new doors and it helped my modeling career as well. Then Instagram (@awildatheart) started. I don’t blog anymore though.
What’s your relationship to social media?
I have a love/hate relationship with it. I used to absolutely love it! I like things that are authentic and I still think there are inspiring profiles out there, but right now so much is just so fake and it’s a bit of a turn off. It’s dangerous for people. It’s all so contrived. I still use it and everything. Now days some times I get anxiety about posting stuff (she laughs) you still want to stay in the mix, you know? I don’t want to disappear, that’s my bread and butter, I work so much with social media, but I want to be careful to keep an authentic approach with it. And you know, I’ll post a styling photo, that I am so proud, and only certain people “get it”, like you, and a few others, but it doesn’t get me many likes. Instead, when I post a selfie of myself, it gets so many likes (she laughs). But it’s getting better too: more people follow me for my styling as well.
Are you doing more modeling or styling these days?
It comes in waves: sometimes I’ll book a ton of modeling jobs and then then just styling ones: it’s a rollercoaster. But at this point of my life I am focusing more on my styling career. Every now and then I still model, but I am very choosy right now, and I am lucky that I can be. That being said I think I am in some sort of transition where I have to think “Where do I want to take all this?” I think eventually I wanna take all this towards creating my own brand.
What makes you happy?
My pugs (she smiles softly), seeing their little faces. That’s what makes me really happy: whenever I am sad I just look at them.
What’s the best quality about you and what’s your biggest flaw?
I feel I have a really big heart. I care so much about other humans, but especially animals, that’s my thing. And my flaw is having a big heart (she laughs): I am constantly getting hurt by people. It’s my catch 22.
I feel you. You know that quote “It is a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply.”?
Yes. It’s the Aquarius in us. And the “problem” with Aquarians is that they are so open, and they come across quite self-confident and aloof, but there is so much heart and emotion behind. But it takes a moment to let people in to show that vulnerability, you must build trust first. We have a history of letting people in and being hurt because we have very high standards. I am in a moment in my life that I want to surround myself with people that are honest and up-lifting, people who have good energy. My mom used to tell me “Be careful with who you surround yourself with, because that is who you become.” And when you’re younger you don’t get it: you explore and you get hurt or damaged. Now I get it. It’s so important. There are so many layers of us as people and sometimes you must be careful with what you show. Some of my best friends tell me “When I first met you I thought you were the biggest bitch!” (she laughs), but you learn in life, not everyone is worth of your vulnerability. Don’t get me wrong, I can be a fucking bitch too (we both laugh).
What’s the quality you like the most in people and what is the biggest turn off?
I like people that have empathy and compassion, I love that. I don’t like people that are too much into themselves: sociopaths (we both laugh). The self-absorbed ones.
Chad and you have been together 7 years. What’s the secret?
Oh man. My relationship is far from perfect, like anything in life, you gotta work at it. I think the secret with Chad and I is that we let each other be who we are. You need to be with someone who gives you the space to grow so you can both grow together. I don’t try to change Chad at all and neither does he. He’s a skater and I don’t know a thing about skateboarding (she laughs). I didn’t know that he was a skateboarder when we first met, I fell in love with his soul. I met him on a night out with the girls. My friend was like “Let’s go to my friend’s Chad studio!” “Let’s go!” It was 2 in the morning, neither of us wanted to go home. A bunch of his friends were there spray painting: I walked in and I instantly got sick. I had to walk outside. Chad came out with a glass of water “Here you go, you should probably drink this.” I was so embarrassed and mortified. I started feeling better and then I went back inside to the party. We started talking. I thought how fascinating and interesting he was, and to this day I still see that in him. He had two pugs, I had two pugs, we bonded over our children (we both laugh). We’ve been together since.
What did you wanna be when you grew up?
I wanted to live on a farm (she laughs). Maybe because when I was little I was quite lonely: my mom worked a lot to support us because she was a single mom and my brother and I, we’re 6 years apart, we didn’t have much in common. I would throw parties with my stuffed animals (she smiles). I think I’ll still do that, some day: I’ll retire on a farm on a lake with a bunch of animals.
You mention your mom a lot throughout: are you really close to her?
Yes, she’s my best friend. I talk to her every day.