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Like most children of the early Nineties, Natalie Keyser was an unabashed Backstreet Boys fan. But for the then 13-year-old, an adolescent infatuation turned into a lucky break. While buying some cheesy memorabilia at a 2006 concert in her native Oregon, Keyser was spotted by a scout. “I was on line to get one of those big foam fingers and I got tapped on the shoulder,” says Keyser. Five years later, the Elite-repped looker doesn’t have much time for boy bands. Just this past season, she opened Thom Browne, walked for Betsey Johnson and appeared in a slew of presentations including Wes Gordon and Dallin Chase. With her distinctive smatter of freckles and long copper tresses, not to mention those self-described “mile-long” legs, Keyser continues to stand out in a crowd.
When did you first come to New York?
My first visit was to meet with Elite when I was 14. I was in middle school so I was with my mom. I had actually just gotten my braces off.
Did you have an awkward phase?
Oh yeah. I was much taller than everyone else. I was like 5’9” by eighth grade. I had pimples all over my face. I went through it for about three years.
But you were discovered during this time. You couldn’t have been that awkward.
I think [the scout] could see the awkwardness was temporary. I remember she called me a “redhead string bean,” which I guess was a compliment.
How did you balance school and modeling?
My high school was actually really cool with it but it was still difficult. I worked a lot with my school counselor but I ended up missing six months of junior year so I had to do summer school after that, but I graduated with As and Bs.
What’s your greatest asset in terms of your look?
I think I’m really versatile. I have really high cheekbones and I like my legs — they are miles long. They don’t ever have to Photoshop more of them in.
What do you mean?
Oh I’ve heard that a lot of the time they have to use Photoshop to make the legs look longer.
Photoshop aside, have you picked up any beauty secrets or tips for us nontechies?
I don’t usually wear makeup but when I do, I only use mineral makeup because it doesn’t cake at all. It’s really light. And I don’t really pluck my eyebrows but I use hair spray to sort of style them and keep them from going all over the place.
Does your figure come naturally to you?
Yeah, I don’t diet. I mostly eat fruits and vegetables. That’s just how I was raised, to eat healthy. But I mean I do indulge sometimes. I have my fair share of peanut M&Ms. Those are my favorite. And Hot Pockets are my ultimate weakness.
What are your modeling goals?
To become as successful as I can. I also want to perfect my walk. My first season, I was on option for Calvin Klein. Everyone was like, ‘She’s going to be exclusive for Calvin Klein,’ but it didn’t happen because my walk was terrible.
How bad was it?
I worked with Mac [Folkes], the runway coach for Elite, and you can ask him. He told me and everyone else that I was the worst girl he’s ever trained. I’m like a story now. I just couldn’t walk in heels. I was so young that I’d never worn them before. They hurt so bad but I didn’t complain and just worked to get it right.