I first met Tasha Tilberg 15 years ago, when she was 15 years old. The industry was buzzing about the pixie with the angel face, so I booked her for a fashion shoot to see what all the excitement was about. She was terribly young, and the sample-size clothes swam on her, but her intense gaze, quirky personality and natural beauty won everyone over. I knew that it was only a matter of time before she left Canada for starrier skies, and, sure enough, she quickly rose to fame in the mid-’90s, when fashion started turning its back on the overexposed supermodels, and the waifs, including Tilberg, marched in.
Today, Tilberg is back in Toronto as the face of Rides Repair, the new
skin-care line from Biotherm. We meet in L’Oréal’s busy headquarters, and I’m flattered that she remembers me. With her
luminous skin, cropped hair and sheer blue Jeremy Laing dress, Tilberg is still gorgeous, but there’s no sign of the signature nose ring that used to lend a unique toughness to her fragile frame and delicate face. When I remind her of her famous accessory, she laughs and shrugs. “I still have it, and I find [the reaction it gets] very interesting,” she says. “If I’m walking in an airport and I don’t have it in, I get a lot of [unwanted] attention from guys. I get a different level of attention when I wear it. It keeps people away from me. It’s like a shield, but I just like it aesthetically.”
Tilberg has changed in other ways too. When she’s not working, she now divides her time between Vancouver and Los Angeles, and her current interests are knitting, studying music (piano, guitar and violin) and gardening. “I like digging in the earth and planting stuff,” she says. “It balances me out. I do a job and come home and mellow out. It keeps me healthy and gives me a good perspective on things.”
One of the things that Tilberg clearly has perspective on is the modelling industry. Her career has stopped and started over the years — she actually took a two-year break just as her star was rising. “I leave the job quite a bit and take a lot of down time,” she explains. “I really felt that I didn’t want to be seen as just a face. I needed to feel that I could accomplish things besides standing there and getting my picture taken.” Tilberg takes modelling seriously and has always been careful not to lose herself to the whims of the industry. “I think that a lot of photographers appreciate girls who have an opinion — they don’t want someone with nothing inside,” she explains. “Hopefully, I give them that. I definitely have a personality.”
Over the years, Tilberg has seen the industry change — perhaps, she admits, for the better. “It has lost certain aspects of the glamour,” she explains. “There are fewer lavish parties, and girls aren’t showing up 20 minutes before the shows and being dramatic. I think that people are more professional now.”
What’s next for Tilberg? Thinking about her move to Los Angeles and love of music, I ask her if she has ever considered following the lead of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who crept into the limelight with her sexy ballads. “I take my music very seriously, but I am very shy and not a performer,” she says quietly. “You never know… in the future I might get over that. But for now it’s just my art, my personal form of expression.”
Portrait of a supermodel: Coco Rocha
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.