How Natalie Mariduena Went From David Dobrik’s Assistant to Sports Illustrated Model

”Successful people pave the way for themselves instead of following what’s already been paved for them by others,” influencer turned swimsuit model tells LA Mag

Natalie Mariduena is once again gracing the pages of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue with a mission to show women everywhere that in a world full of plastic surgery, photoshop, and filters, exuding confidence is what truly makes a woman beautiful. 

“I think it’s so important to put your real self out there. Even the most beautiful women in the world have insecurities and hiding them will never help you overcome them. I love my body and I’m not afraid to show it,” Mariduena told Los Angeles magazine. 

“I love a full figure on a woman,” she added. “I was always taught that stretch marks, freckles and other imperfections were just a part of your body and skin. Not something to be ashamed of. I think instilling these values into girls while they’re young will help them exude confidence when they grow up.”

Born and raised in Vernon Hills, Illinois, the 25-year-old isn’t your typical Instagram influencer. In fact, Mariduena has actually used her platform over the years to inspire her followers to defy the stereotypical norm and standards set by unrealistic expectations and photoshop. 

“When I was younger, I always let other people’s opinions sway the way I looked or how I would act. Honestly, I got sick of it and realized successful people pave the way for themselves instead of following what’s already been paved for them by others,” she said. “I think in college, I realized it was far cooler to be the person that was wearing things differently or acting the way that no one else was. It’s much cooler to stand out.”

“I hope other young women can look at me as a face, body and overall person they can relate to,” she added. “It may look like I know what I’m doing, but I’m learning and growing every day. Shoot days are not easy, but you have to accept the challenge and overcome it just like anything else in life!”

The social media star started to gain fame in 2017 when her childhood friend and YouTube star David Dobrik asked her to move out to Los Angeles to become his executive assistant. Dobrik’s vlogs often featured the soon-to-be model’s humor, relatability and loyalty, and in turn maybe of the YouTuber’s fanbase began following her journey. Fast forward a few years and Mariduena was mentioned in one of Sports Illustrated’s polls asking their fans which “instagram baddie” should be a featured in the next swimsuit issue. 

“Somehow, I won, and the rest is history,” Mariduena said of last year’s issue. “I still cannot get over the fact that this is real life and not a dream.”

Mariduena shot her rookie shoot with the publication last year in Hollywood, Florida. This year, the 25-year-old got an opportunity to travel to Belize to be photographed at The Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge. Mariduena still feels “honored” when she looks at the final image, and hopes her female empowerment voice shines through. 

“I see a confident, sexy, badass boss woman that loves every inch of her body and isn’t afraid to show it,” she said. “I feel so honored and blessed for the opportunities SI has given me and I want to make sure I use this platform I have been given and continue to spread body positivity and love.”

All in all, Mariduena hopes her success story shows women they should always shoot for the stars. 

“Don’t be afraid to stand out or do things differently,” Mariduena said. “People will judge you for doing the wrong things and the right things so follow your heart and your head and do what you love.”