In French model and actress Laetitia Casta's case, she was definitely born with "it" -- "it" being the precise combination of beauty, talent and drive that sends her career everywhere from Victoria's Secret runway shows to high fashion ad campaigns and the most prestigious film awards ceremony in France. Her chance discovery in 1993 by a French modeling agency when she was just a teenager soon turned into a high-powered modeling career that landed her on the covers of magazines of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and the legendary Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Her appointment in 1998 as brand ambassador for cosmetics giant L'Oreal Paris dovetailed with her coronation as a Victoria's Secret Angel and the new face of Marianne, the French Republic's symbol of liberty and equality. Casta traded photo shoots for film sets when she first appeared in the live-action adaptation of the popular French comic "Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar" (1999), which led to later roles as French blonde bombshell Brigitte Bardot in the Cesar-nominated "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life" (2010) and a mysterious mistress in the financial thriller "Arbitrage" (2012). A vocal opponent of the prevalence of photo re-touching as well as a brown belt in judo, Casta juggles family, film and fashion with grace and aplomb, becoming a globally recognized star along the way.
Born in the spring of 1978, Casta, her older brother Jean-Baptiste and younger sister Marie-Ange spent their childhood traveling between Normandy, the region of northern France where their mother Line originated; and the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, homeland of their father Dominique. Casta was discovered in 1993 by a French modeling scout while vacationing with her family on one of the island's plentiful beaches, and quickly signed to contract at age 15. After winning a regional beauty contest, the fresh-faced teen started modeling full-time. Just a year later, she went to Paris and came back as the new face of GUESS jeans, hand-picked by GUESS designer Paul Marciano himself.
By 1996 Casta had moved to the City of Lights and begun climbing up the fashion ladder. She modeled in runway shows for such high-profile designers as Christian Lacroix and Vivienne Westwood, and graced the covers of trendy fashion magazines like Seventeen, Cosmopolitan and Glamour. After appearing in several Victoria's Secret catalogs, Casta's popularity exploded in 1997 when she was chosen as the cover model for the coveted swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated. The issue was such a hit, thanks to Casta's smoldering beauty and provocative swimwear, that she appeared on the cover for the next two years. The wildly popular issue also prompted Victoria's Secret, who had begun featuring the model in its racy catalogs a year prior, to hire Casta for four consecutive runway shows, starting in 1997
Casta's earthy sensuality proved irresistible to advertisers and consumers alike, and she quickly landed ad campaigns for well-known brands such as Chanel, Isaac Mizrahi and J. Crew. In 1998 Casta, who later professed to a personal preference for low-maintenance beauty regimens, landed a brand ambassador deal with L'Oreal Paris, making her the face of the French-born beauty company. Soon after, Victoria's Secret crowned the then-19-year-old an official Angel, placing her among the ranks of fellow Angels Helena Christensen and Tyra Banks, and solidifying her as one of the world's top models. And then (because good things always come in threes), in 1999, Casta garnered first place in a poll to determine the new face of Marianne, France's equivalent of the Statue of Liberty. Meant to promote the ideals of equality and liberty, Marianne statues modeled after Casta's profile were soon found in every town hall in France. Scandal quickly broke out, however, when it was revealed that Casta had recently relocated to London. Though she countered that the move was for professional reasons, others alleged it was to avoid paying France's high income taxes.
It was during this time that Casta added "actress" to her already crowded CV. She made her film debut in 1999 as the pretty maiden Falbala in "Asterix & Obelix vs. Caesar," a live-action adaptation of the classic French comic book, and appeared as a girl desperate to remain independent in "Savage Souls" (2001), which also starred John Malkovich. That same year Casta, who had been involved with globetrotting photographer and director Stephane Sednaoui, gave birth to their daughter Sahteene. Another child, Orlando, was born in 2006 (this time with acclaimed Italian actor Stefano Accorsi, who proposed to Casta in 2009), followed by Athena three years later. Casta continued to model through the 2000s, but took a break to portray an idealistic student in the historical drama "Born in 68" (2008) and iconic French actress and model Brigitte Bardot in "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life," for which she earned a Best Actress Cesar nomination. In 2012 she landed a brief but memorable role as Richard Gere's mistress in the Wall St. thriller "Arbitrage," and served as a jury member for the 69th Venice International Film Festival.
Cast (Feature Film)
Landed successful ad campaign for Guess? Jeans
Became one of the lead models for retail brand Victoria's Secret; named of the Victoria's Secret Angels in 1998
Named brand ambassador for cosmetics giant L'Oreal Paris
Made feature film acting debut in French adventure comedy "Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar"
Won a countrywide vote to serve as the new face of France's Marianne. Caused controversy when it was revealed she allegedly moved to London for tax purposes.
Starred in French TV-movie "The Blue Bicycle"
Portrayed Brigitte Bardot in "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life"
Played the French mistress of a fraudulent hedge-fund manager (Richard Gere) in financial thriller "Arbitrage"