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Model Citizen

Natazha McDuffie began her career in the fashion industry, but now she’s a student of the world.

Laguna Beach’s Natazha McDuffie’s walking a worldly runway for her modeling career and the hospitality biz she runs with her husband, Zach.

It’s an encounter that mystifies Natazha McDuffie—although it’s clear to pretty much anyone who sees her why it happened. Flash back to 17 years ago. McDuffie was at the Del Mar Fairgrounds when the owner of a modeling agency handed her a business card and told her to call if she was ever interested in modeling. “I was a tomboy,” McDuffie says. “I had chopped hair. ... And I was in a flannel shirt and jeans. I also had braces at the time. I was hideous.” Of course, seeing this half-Asian, half-Latin model today, it’s impossible to imagine.

A year passed before she called the agency and landed her first modeling gig with Seventeen magazine. She was 14. McDuffie rates it among her most memorable jobs—she spent six hours having her hair put in dreadlocks—and it spawned a 16-year career for the SoCal native, who’s traveled the world to pose for magazines, TV ads (she can be seen in a Dodge commercial) and runway shows.

She met her husband, Zach—a professional photographer—a little more than two years ago and moved to Jaco, Costa Rica, to help him run his business, School of the World (schooloftheworld.org). As the name suggests, it’s a boutique hotel that offers learning vacations and provides instruction on everything from surfing to speaking Spanish. They’ve since created the Learning Vacation Network (learningvacation.net) to help travelers find similar offerings around the globe.

The couple relocated from Costa Rica to Laguna Beach (halfway between McDuffie’s family in San Diego and her L.A. modeling agency) 10 months ago. But their flexible schedules allow them to spend time together—here and abroad. “He has an open schedule and is able to travel with me, and I’m able to go with him,” she says. “If we both had a 9-to-5 and had to be there all the time, it would be impossible.”

McDuffie’s Hots
The beach, bikinis, morning coffee, a great book, Zach

McDuffie’s Nots
Cold weather, rude people, L.A. traffic, bad smells, the dentist