In 2005 Russian-born Natalie Glebova won the title of ‘Miss Universe’. Now based in Bangkok, she revels in her role her as mother, traveler, blogger, professional DJ, and beauty and health promoter.
She was born in Russia, migrated to Canada, settled in Thailand, and recently married an entrepreneur from Panama. In short, Natalie Glebova truly exemplifies the term Miss Universe, a title she won in 2005 that would her life forever. Ironically, the pageant that year was held in Bangkok—at Impact Arena—the city that would become Natalie’s future home.
What were you doing before you entered the Miss Universe pageant?
I studied Information Technology Management in Toronto, and had taken up a job. But when I decided to enter the pageant, I quit the job and worked hard, at every level, on the pageant—diet, exercise, speaking skills, and runway skills.
Did you ever expect to be crowned Miss Universe?
Never! I didn’t even expect to be crowned Miss Canada, as I was told that no immigrant would ever win it. But after winning Miss Canada, I worked even harder for the Miss Universe title. Winning it was as huge as winning a lottery!
What were the most memorable moments of your year-long “reign”?
The best part was the travelling. I went to as many as 24 countries, and was based the whole year in New York. I saw life from every angle. I met the ‘Who’s Who’ of the world, but also visited the slums in India and AIDS centers in South Africa. The toughest part was always having to look good, as I was being photographed all the time.
Did you choose to live in Bangkok because of your marriage to tennis icon Paradorn Srichapan?
No, I fell in love with Thailand even before I met Paradorn. I kept coming back to Bangkok from New York to do a big Singha campaign, and that’s where we met. We were married for four years, but had nothing in common and parted amicably [in 2011]. But I continued to live in Bangkok because I loved the city, and was doing several things here.
What are some of your past and current health-related projects?
I have always been a health freak, and I wrote a health blog for five years, followed by the book Healthy Happy Beautiful, which became very popular. I also took part in many beauty and ad-campaigns, and I’m currently the brand ambassador of the Thai BSC Cosmetics brand.
You and your new husband Dean Kelly Jr. recently started a family with the birth of your daughter last year. How has motherhood changed you?
It’s given me a purpose to life, and I feel so fulfilled. We named our daughter Maya after Maya Bay, in Phuket—our favourite. She’s a very easy, friendly child, and loves being in front of the camera. In fact, she has already done an ad for ‘Enfant’ baby products.
Was it hard to get back into shape after giving birth?
I’ve always eaten healthy, and avoided junk food, and so it was easy to get
back to shape. What you eat, is how you look. You need to listen to your body. I’m very particular about exercising, and I recently joined the Guava Pass program, which allows you to take classes in many exercise-routines at various boutique gyms in Bangkok. I especially enjoy doing the ‘High Intensity Interval Training’ (HIIT). And thanks to YSIS Entertainment, my celebrity booking agency, I’m as busy now as before, and so I need to ensure that I’m in good shape.
What is your definition of beauty?
Beauty is not just about good looks. It’s about confidence, poise, and knowing who you are.
Tell us about your ‘Travelbook’ online business.
Dean and I founded it together, and we run it as a family business. We are very active travelers, and use Travelbook intensively. It’s a platform and marketplace for travelers to share information, and do bookings based on peer-to-peer recommendations. You can join it by “invitation”, and we have invited many people to share their experiences on the site.
What are some of your favourite hang-out spots in Bangkok?
Bangkok has so many great hang-out spots. One of our favourites, is Roots, in K Village, which has a good family atmosphere and serves great Jamaican dishes like jerk chicken.
What do you love, or perhaps not love, about life in Bangkok?
I love the ease of life here and the service culture. What I don’t like is that Bangkok is not a walking city. But, it is truly one of the amazing cities of the world.