The Carlyle is the sort of New York hotel where society ladies in pearls contemplate a tea menu that’s as thick as a phone book. And yet there she is, fashionably late, chattering away in Portuguese on her cell phone, hair falling in her eyes just so.
Isabeli Fontana has arrived: a Brazilian bombshell in a shrunken Hendrix baseball shirt, impossibly tight black jeans, and biker boots.
The hotel’s tearoom is hushed and elegant, and even a sharp clink of spoon against saucer might raise eyebrows, but Fontana is not the sort to apologise for taking a phone call (turns out it was her grandmother on the line). “I’m Latin, and my family is originally from Italy, so we’re a loud group,” she explains. “There’s always a lot of food, a lot of talking, a lot of fighting. You can imagine.”
Discovered at age 13 in her hometown of Curitiba, Brazil, Fontana has bared nearly all for Victoria’s Secret, stalked the runway for just about every major designer, and fronted campaigns for Balenciaga, Balmain, Hermès, and this fall, Calvin Klein Underwear. She is used to startling people with her sex appeal. “Brazilians love to seduce, to have fun, to dance, to charm. We like a little bit of attention,” she explains.
Isabeli is not one to bullshit, either, which can make the fairy-tale fashion industry seem all the more off-putting. “It’s a tough world,” she says. “One moment you’re the hottest thing, there aren’t enough hours in the day, you can barely catch your breath. The next moment, it’s all about how many Instagram followers you have. It used to just be how you looked, how professional you were; now there’s this whole other dimension.” Though Fontana is embracing social media and happy to share her personal life, she sometimes finds the whole thing a little bizarre.
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