It’s hard enough being a teenage girl without having something in your appearance that sets you apart from others. High school, for example, can be a minefield if you’re even slightly different in the eyes of your peers. Unfortunately, that was the reality for Puerto Rican teen Natalia Castellar for a long time, as she was bullied constantly at school because she happened to be born with a pair of unusually thick eyebrows. But the beautiful 17-year-old overcame the insecurity caused by the insults and went on to prove all her haters utterly, utterly wrong.
Natalia Castellar now lives in Virginia, but she was born in Ponce, one of the largest cities in Puerto Rico. Her early childhood was an idyllic one, too, growing up as she did in a large family and in a house that her grandfather had constructed especially for her and her relatives.
But when the family relocated to Virginia, Castellar’s life changed a great deal. Suddenly she was a fish out of water – and not in a good way, either. After all, her dark skin, her lack of English and her bushy eyebrows all made her a prime target for bullies.
“They [the eyebrows] were all anyone would point out,” Castellar told W magazine in October 2016. “I was bullied terribly because of how thick and long they were, so I wanted to shave them down.”
Thankfully, though, when Castellar tried actually shaving her fabulous brows, her mother stepped in and told her not to. And, as it turned out, the young woman was wise to follow her mother’s advice. Because while the bullying was undoubtedly tough to handle, there were much better things on the horizon for the pretty young teenager.
That was down in part to the fact that Castellar’s sister, Bianca, was a photographer with a big following on Tumblr. And sometimes Natalia would serve as her model for fashion shots. What’s more, Natalia’s photographs swiftly became very popular. In fact, when Paper magazine reposted a picture of her, she soon became a social media starlet.
Suddenly, then, the young model had fans, and any picture of herself that she posted received multiple compliments. Indeed, while there was the occasional passive-aggressive troll, most Instagram users agreed that Castellar was very good-looking indeed – and that the eyebrows added to, rather than detracted from, her beauty.
And certainly thick eyebrows have become a trend since supermodel Cara Delevingne hit the scene. In fact, after years of style magazines encouraging readers to pluck every stray little hair on their faces, they’re now advising the exact opposite. Yes, suddenly big, bushy brows are the ultimate way for a girl to look younger, more natural, more stylish and more sexy.
It’s not surprising, then, that momentum grew phenomenally around Castellar. As it happened, in fact, the girl whose self-esteem had been terribly damaged in childhood was suddenly the girl whom everyone wanted to see more of. And with the help of her sister, Castellar was now well on her way to becoming a professional model.
“I’ve wanted to model since I was nine, when I started watching America’s Next Top Model,” Castellar told W magazine. “I was so in love with the idea of being able to dress-up, travel everywhere and take on different personas for different types of shoots.” And her Instagram proved that she was good at it, too.
Furthermore, all the hard work Castellar and her sister had done soon paid off. Before too long, for example, Castellar was freelancing as a model and scoring campaigns for big names like Mansur Gavriel, Rachel Antonoff and NARS. Plus, she was also getting to travel for her work – another thing she had always longed to do.
And the young teen was impressing people with more than just her looks: B+C Talent, a Virginian modeling agency, did a shoot with Castellar and described her in July 2016 as a “wonderful woman.” It also pointed out that she had “a calm disposition and a will that can crack stone.” That’s certainly something you need if you want to make it in the modeling big leagues.
And then came Castellar’s big break: she was scouted by Next Models and was soon signing on to its prestigious books. “Now that I’m a signed model, I hope to gain more experience and be blessed with better opportunities,” she told Urban Outfitters’ blog. “I know that the modeling industry is very, very competitive, but I have faith that everything will work out.”
However, sensibly, Castellar has also considered what might happen should things not go to plan. “If I happen to be wrong and things don’t work out, then I’ll definitely be furthering my education in college,” she added. “Whatever happens, I’ll always be grateful for the things that I did get to achieve.”
Castellar is very humble about her success, too. “Aside from my job, I think I’m a very average teenage girl,” she said to the Urban Outfitters blog. “I love binge-watching movies and shows on Netflix, I’m very into clothing and styling… and Harry Styles!” In fact, the young beauty considers the One Directioner something of a fashion icon.
And Castello believes that she couldn’t have made it as far as she did without her family. She is especially thankful of the support from her sister Bianca. “We’re very close, and we’ve learned a lot from each other and helped one another grow,” she explained to Urban Outfitters. “Bianca’s also not scared to give me constructive criticism. I’ve worked with her so much that now she directs me with single words.”
What’s more, although it’s been a long and incredible ride for Castellar, it’s definitely not over yet. The unique beauty now has 67,300 followers on her Instagram – no small feat – and she’s frequently spoken out about how she would like to be seen as a positive influence to her fellow teens.
She’s also talked a lot to the media about her pride in her heritage. “I’m a proud Latina with lots of hair and bushy eyebrows!” she told i-D in November 2016. “I’m not Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid or Cara Delevingne, and that’s okay with me! I want aspiring models to chase after their dreams without trying to be like everyone else.”
Occasionally, though, Castellar still receives some cruel comments on social media – but she ignores them. “A lot of trolls leave nasty comments about my eyebrows, but I don’t give in and respond, because that’s what they want. I just disabled my notifications,” she explained to W magazine. Still, the positive feedback far outweighs the negative.
It looks almost certain that we’ll see more from this intelligent young woman once she reaches adulthood. In the meantime, though, she’s proving herself to be an excellent role model as well as an excellent model. “I feel like, with time, we can all change the standards and have proper representation for all types of beauty,” she has told i-D. And at just 17 years old, she’s already helped with that.