Playboy: How did the accident happen?
Natalia: I fell asleep in the backseat of the car, and after that I remember only flashes. I woke up in the hospital. First the doctors thought I might not make it because I'd lost so much blood, then they said I would never walk again, that at best, I'd spend my life in a wheelchair.
Playboy: How did you take that news?
Natalia: It was a total nightmare, being 17 years old and not being able to do anything. Before that I was very athletic. For me to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life seemed impossible. My attitude was, I'm going to walk again, or I'm not going to live.
Playboy: When did you start to walk again?
Natalia: It was six months until I took my first steps. Even now I feel some effects of the accident, but I am getting stronger. I'm not all the way back, but I can work out every day for an hour or so. I never had the time to do that before, because I was always so busy with school.
Playboy: Why did you shift gears from studying to modeling?
Natalia: I had never really thought about modeling. I'm an honors student, and I thought about going right back to graduate school to get my MBA. But also, I wanted to take a break, to live a little. For the past four years, I have had no time off from school or work. And then modeling opportunities came along. Everything in my life has been circumstantial.
Playboy: How did you feel when you were approached by Playboy?
Natalia: It took me a month to consider it. I was raised conservatively. My family is ancient, like a royal family. It can be traced back to the 12th century. So even though I've been on my own since I was 16, it was instilled in me that I could never even consider something like Playboy. But now I'm glad I chose to do it.
Playboy: So are you in America for good now?
Natalia: I'm definitely going to stay in the U.S., and someday I want to own a business here. I miss my family, my dog and my friends, and I love Moscow because it's so beautiful. But I also love California. I love the weather. And I'm near the water. In Russia there are no oceans like the ones here, and it's so cold. I talked to my mom in Moscow, and it was -20 degrees Centigrade. When I walk outside and the sky is gray, it's depressing. I like sunshine and blue skies. If I can just steal my dog from my mom, I'll be happy.
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