- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 18, 2006

It’s nice to be wanted — and even better to be missed. That’s because you get to have a “comeback.”

Granted, model Daria Werbowy is only 22, but her “comeback” infused the catwalks with energy and sizzle during February’s New York Fashion Week. She hit the big runways: Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors, Proenza Schouler and Karl Lagerfeld among them, often opening and closing the shows.

She was absent from the runways last season because she was shooting the ads for Lancome’s new Hypnose perfume and the Enchantress color collection.

They’re the ads that will put Miss Werbowy’s face everywhere this spring.

That face is beautiful, felinelike — and approachable. There’s no pretense to Miss Werbowy, not when one sees her walking out of a fashion show in jeans and a puffy winter coat and not when she does a telephone interview.

“I think you should try everything once,” Miss Werbowy says. “The great thing about modeling is you get to have experiences you wouldn’t normally have the opportunities to have.”

Travel is the No. 1 perk, she says. Miss Werbowy was born in Poland and raised in Canada, and she says she would have found a way to see the rest of the world somehow, some way, but “now I’m traveling in luxury.”

She’s an avid snowboarder and recently returned from an annual retreat with her friends at Whistler, British Columbia.

“I have to have something to do in the winter to counteract sailing in the summer,” she says with a laugh.

Of course, life can’t always be fun and games. Models do indeed work, and one of the hardest parts of the business can be the emotional toll.

Miss Werbowy won a modeling contest at age 14, but her parents wanted her to finish high school — one that specialized in art — before she could move to New York or Europe. She worked locally until 2001, when she moved to Paris and London. She lasted eight months and then quit.

“I was struggling in the sense of being away from home, trying to figure a way of making it in the business, especially a business that’s so personal. It is really all about what you look like,” she says.

“But I decided to come back a year later. I had a different attitude. I needed to make money to go to art school. I started fresh. When I met [modeling agency] IMG a second time, I laid down the law in those terms, and there was a good understanding between us. And then it just kind of happened.”

Actually, what happened was that Marc Jacobs put her in his runway show — a rite of passage for up-and-comers. Industry insiders also have said her timing was perfect: She had the easygoing look that complemented the bohemian styles that were about to appear, and she was an antidote to the legions of blondes who had been dominating the runways.

She signed the deal to be the face of Lancome a year ago.

Beauty modeling is different from fashion gigs, Miss Werbowy says, because a fashion shoot is sort of show up, look great and make a beautiful picture. Beauty is a more intimate deal.

She’s representing an entire brand, and to do that properly, she is learning the business, how products are developed, manufactured and marketed. “It’s opening a new chapter to being a model,” Miss Werbowy says.

Her personal beauty mantra is “respect individuality.”

“No one is perfect. I’m far from it. It’s the misconception with the entertainment and cosmetic worlds. I’m here to inspire someone, I don’t want any one to look like me. I want to inspire someone to find their true colors.”

Once her modeling career is over, or at least winds down, Miss Werbowy plans to pursue art again. “I need it in my life — I want to take everything that’s happened over the last two years and put it on paper.”

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