There are those rare occasions when you meet someone so captivating, no amount of divine prose can rightfully capture the moment. I was in awe when I first met Nathalie Croix. She was gorgeous, no doubt -- it was one of those statements of fact, taken for granted -- but there was more: her joie de vivre, her spirit, her energy -- it was mesmerizing just to watch. Nathalie had an ethereal quality. She did not behave in the way the people I am used to behaved; she was unfettered, free. And she was nice, unbelievably sweet. A free spirit in the purest form.
"I consider myself a citizen of the world."
Nathalie was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to a Brazilian mother and French father. Her stepfather is from Argentina and stepmother from Portugal. She moved a lot as a child, living in Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, France and the US. She is fluent in four languages: French, Portuguese, Spanish and English.
"No matter where I was living in the world, every year I spent 2 to 3 months in Rio and often visited France. Obviously all the globe trotting at such a young age was due to my family's work. It wasn't an option for me. This was the only reality I knew and it wasn't something I ever thought to be glamorous or chic because for me it meant leaving my friends behind with every new move and for a child or a teenager this is hard. But I learned a lot and I grew up fast. I counted how many schools I attended and it was something like eight or nine.
I had to learn survival skills for each time I started a new school and met new kids. I had to learn that there are many different cultures and ways of life at a very young age. I learned diversity but also that no matter from what part of the Globe you are ultimately we are all the same. The schools I attended had children literally from all parts of the world and they spoke all languages. People from Africa, Asia, Europe, South, Central, North America, Russia, New Zealand, Australia you name it. Growing up in this manner is what shaped the core of who I am today. When I look at things I see the whole and beyond."
At eleven years old, Nathalie discovered her passion. Her family had moved to Mexico, and she had just shifted her focus from modeling to ballet.
"It was while in Mexico that I got introduced to yoga, I will never forget. My best girl friend was also from Brazil and her mother was a devotee of Gurumayi from Siddha Yoga. She took me to an Ashram and I fell in love with India. I began studying meditation and doing seva (voluntary work) at the Ashram. This is also when I started thinking about becoming a vegetarian. I was eleven years old. I begged my aunt to take me with her to the Ashram and my mom let me go. I can't explain why I was so mesmerized by this entire philosophy. But from there and on yoga was always a big part of my life."
But yoga was not the only thing that Nathalie concentrated on. Not only was she was an accomplished dancer, but when she moved back to Brazil at age fourteen, she was immediately re-signed to her old modeling agency, Bamboo (later bought by Elite models). It upset her agent that she also continued to surf, as too much sun was bad for photos. As a Gia Carangi-lookalike, Nathalie lived a wild and glamorous life from 15-22. As a model in Rio, New York and Paris, she partied with celebrities such as Prince. After graduating from high school at 17, she moved to Paris to enroll in dance school.
"My agency (Elite) helped me get some gigs in Paris and it was a very wild time in my life. I was very young 17/18 years old living in Paris in my very own apartment and attending dance school. I had family in Paris so I wasn't entirely alone. I lived with my boyfriend who was also a fashion model, we shared an apartment in the fifth arrondissement, right by Saint Michel, Quartier Latin. What an amazing time. Together, we discovered rave parties, many long weekend trips to London and Amsterdam. I stayed with [my boyfriend] for many years, later on he suicide and this was very tough on me."
At 18, she became disenchanted from modeling and decided to focus on her dance career. She became a dancer for Euro Disney, performing as Pluto, Snow White and the Little Mermaid. Later she joined Michael Jackson on his Dangerous tour.
"All I really wanted to do was help people through yoga."
After a few years, she decided on another life change. Nathalie won a scholarship in Performing Arts to the University of New Orleans. She was 22. She double majored in Kinesiology and Print Journalism. But yoga draw her in, once again.
"During my first year in the US I began practicing ashtanga yoga, it was amazing for me. It allowed me to be very physical, I was accustomed to as a dancer and it also integrated my love for Indian philosophy and culture. Soon I left for India with my ashtanga teacher and spent some time there learning yoga.
In four and a half years I graduated from College, danced for my school's company, rarely went out, did very little partying unlike most kids in College. I had to be very disciplined because I had to maintain my grades and my scholarship. I participated in the American College Dance Festival four years and I practiced ashtanga six days a week. During this time the yoga really helped me stay centered. My last couple of years in College I was teaching yoga on campus and helping my ashtanga teacher with her yoga classes. I was apprenticing yoga from her.
I was teaching yoga to the dancers in my company and often we used the primary series of ashtanga as our dance company warm up before concerts. During College vacations I flew to California to attend several yoga teacher trainings and get certified to teach."
After a short stint as a reporter in New Orleans, she relocated to Los Angeles to "learn from the best of the best."
"I wanted to be in the most cutting edge environment for yoga and that was/is California.
I took yoga classes almost every day while in Los Angeles from some of the best teachers in the world. I also completed a very intensive teacher training program for six months. I found a yoga mentor who helped me so much. This woman still helps me and guides me to this day her name is Annie Carpenter. It was perfect, because like me she had also been a serious dancer."
Nathalie joined a large yoga studio in LA, Yoga Works. It was where she honed her skills as a business woman, learning the behind-the-scenes operations of running a yoga studio. Also during this time, she traveled to India regularly to study with yoga masters. She is currently faculty at Santa Monica College, teaching yoga and dance.
Despite loving Los Angeles, where she describes it as having "a high state of consciousness," Nathalie was wooed away to New Orleans.
"I never forgot New Orleans. Katrina hit New Orleans while I was in L.A.. A few months later I was invited to come teach yoga for 2 months in New Orleans and help Katrina victims recover. I came down and lived in the French Quarter for a couple of months and taught yoga in public schools for children. It was truly amazing...."
Recently, my first yoga teacher invited me to help jump start a new yoga school in New Orleans and help train some local teachers. It was a tough decision for me to move away from Los Angeles, but I realized after much thought that the value would be greater at this moment in my life if I took the job in New Orleans. I am now the program director for Life Yoga Studio and the export adviser for the Yoga Works Teacher Training in New Orleans. I also teach classes at Tulane University."
Although still quite young, Nathalie Croix has lived a very full and adventurous life. She is worldly, but unjaded. She is blessed, but she shares her gifts with others. Her generosity has lent itself to volunteering at a children's orphanage in Mysore, South India; and for animal shelters and organizations like PETA, the Humane Society and SPCA. Her current project is helping some friends develop an English language school to girls in Pakistan.
I find it wholly touching that when Nathalie describes herself -- despite her breadth of experiences, and her many successes -- that she still maintains sincere desire in self- and world-discovery.
"I have learned that life is full of mysteries and that sometimes we don't get answers to our questions. There are times which is best to leave some things unanswered. Life moves forward. It always has and it always will. I try to be as content as possible in the present moment. There are sad moments and happy one and they are all equally valuable."
She is still searching for insight, knowledge, shared experiences--not to achieve some sort of ends, not to give credence to her beliefs, but to learn for the sake of learning and understanding.
"I am an avid reader. I have an all girls book club and this is a passion for me - it is incredible to learn so many different view points on life through these amazing girls in my book club."
Nathalie's story is constantly evolving. She takes those large risks we want to take for ourselves, but hold back because we are afraid.
I know now, in retrospect, I was drawn to Nathalie when I first met her, not because of her instant glamor or even her vivaciousness--it was because I felt a sort of kindred spirit. By example, she teaches that there are no rules, just follow your heart when opportunities come, be true to yourself, and when you achieve inner success, outer success will follow. I applaud her curious and courageous spirit, and am honored to be her friend.