A FASHION MODEL CAN QUIT WAITRESSING WHEN THE MAGAZINE COVERS AND RUNWAY GIGS ROLL IN, BUT MODELING CAN NEVER BE A FULL-FLEDGED CAREER until the beauty companies call. Polish-born Daria Werbowy recently hit the big time. Her contract with the French cosmetics brand Lancôme, announced last year, is said to be $3 million.
Associating a recognizable face with a product has been a winning formula for the beauty industry since Pond's signed society queens to plug Vanishing Cream in 1924, but finding the right girl is harder than one might think. "We are looking for women who communicate sincerity and true beauty, an interior beauty," says Odile Roujol, deputy general manager of Lancôme International. Last year, as the launch of the brand's fragrance Hypnôse approached, the company shopped around for a new face, but none of the candidates seemed right. Then, Lancôme's Paris ad agency organized an interview with Werbowy for key marketing executives. "She came and talked about interior beauty, her charity projects, her love of nature and her relationship with her family," recalls Roujol. "We all knew right away she was the one."
Werbowy, 22, was born in Warsaw. The family left Poland when Daria was 4 and moved to Mississauga, Ont. She worked as an extra on TV and film projects in Toronto as a child, then dabbled in modeling while studying at a local arts high school. Her big break came when Marc Jacobs sent her down his runway in 2003, and very quickly other designers, taken with her feline beauty and aqua eyes, hired her too.
In recent years, Lancôme has preferred a bevy of faces to a single girl. Diane Kruger and Elizabeth Jagger star in the brand's advertising campaigns, while Inès Sastre has represented Lancôme for a decade. She replaced Lancôme's most famous ambassador, Isabella Rossellini, whose collaboration with the brand in the '80s and '90s transformed her from a model known as the daughter of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini into an international personality. It also cemented Lancôme's position as a global beauty powerhouse with the blockbuster fragrance Trésor.
Werbowy's association with the brand is also predicted to be long lived. "It was clear right from that first meeting that she will be more than just a face. We expect to have a long-term relationship with her," says Roujol. Werbowy aced her first road test, a series of public appearances in Russia. "In Moscow she talked about her Polish past, about the fact that her family left and moved to Canada," says Roujol. "It could have been very awkward, but she was very natural and very sincere."
All Ruffled Up Yves Saint Laurent cotton and silk blouse with jabot, $5,695 ysl.com) In this story: hair by Teddy Charles for Orlo Salon; makeup by Polly Osmond for Art Department; manicure by Roseann Singleton for Vartali Salon in New York City
Day of the Dress Dolce & Gabbana embroidered lace dress, $5,950 (dolcegabbana.it); James Robinson diamond pendant and bracelet; Bing Bang gold necklace and bangles. Opposite page: Dior by John Galliano organza dress, $21,620 (800-929-DIOR); In God We Trust gold necklace