Credit: Cibelle Levi

Every issue, GRAZIA USA highlights Game Changers, who inspire, educate, and celebrate individuality, beauty, and style. Meet Natalie Mariduena, the 26-year-old Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue model, lifestyle creator and President of YouTube sensation David Dobrik’s company, David Dobrik LLC, who climbed her way to the top and isn’t coming down anytime soon. 

I moved to L.A. five years ago now, and I started off at the bottom of the barrel, as most people do. I was an assistant answering emails, grabbing the Chipotle, doing all the typical things. But I tried to put myself in situations where I was working harder or longer hours, just trying to be the best that I could and make the best for my employer. I slowly started to work my way up the ranks within David Dobrik LLC and started to be a part of the content. I consequently gained my own following, and therefore was involved in more things that were happening on a day-to-day basis.

After starting as an assistant, I worked up to be Chief of Staff where I was in charge of all of the employees. David started a couple businesses, and I oversaw everything from his brand partnerships to his consumer products and everything in between. Now, five years later, I am President and Manager, which seems crazy but that’s how it went. I’m really the go-to girl for all of the brand partnerships. Any sort of collaboration or business or investment that he wants to make, it all runs through me.

David and I grew up together. We’ve been friends for a very long time. I’ve known him since I was 10 years old. It’s funny, in high school we ran the Spirit Club together. I always joke that I feel like that was the start of our business endeavors, if you will, as lame as that sounds. We would coordinate the whole grade to wear a cowboy theme for the football game. We always really wanted to bring people together to do something fun and create cool memories, which I feel like has now translated into our adult careers.

When I was younger, I always loved fashion, pop culture and celebrity. I’ve always been in awe of everything that happens in Hollywood. Coming from a small township in Illinois, I never knew how I could break off and move to L.A. or pursue a career path like that. It wasn’t something that was ever presented to me as a feasible opportunity until David came along and was like, “Hey, do you want to be my assistant?” I made the move to L.A. and the rest was history. But I always had an interest in entertainment and pop culture and this is the new wave of that. It feels really cool to be a part of it.

I grew up seeing the Sports Illustrated magazines too, and the calendars, and all these beautiful women that would always be displayed in the pages of their magazine. I got into Sports Illustrated through Instagram. They ran a poll along the lines of, “What Insta-baddie do you want to see in our next issue?” My audience voted for me, and I ended up winning that poll. Fast forward a couple months and the editor is calling me to set up an interview. I prepared the whole night before. When she logged on, she just said, “I’m not going to beat around the bush. Pack your bags. We’re shooting in Miami in a month.” It was the most surreal experience. I had never done any sort of editorial photo shoot, let alone with 20-plus people. But it was extremely empowering, and it made me feel like the coolest, baddest girl on the block. It was an awesome experience.

I have been really lucky with the opportunities that I’ve had. But I’m also very analytical. I’m very much a type A planner. So, when presented with those opportunities, I try to strategize and plan as much as possible. Often in this industry, no matter how much planning you do, things just don’t necessarily go your way or the way that you anticipate it. So, I think it’s just managing things as they come, and then trying to be as strategic as possible with the opportunities.

One day, I would like to have my own business and management company and have a couple clients. Right now, I just have one. I would like to become a powerful force in Hollywood who helps guide this younger digital generation of creators and celebrities with their careers. I have a lot of insight and a lot of firsthand experience.

I think if I could wave a magic wand, I would wish for things to slow down sometimes and for people to have a greater appreciation for the environment and the place that we live. Just so people could get outside, understand where they come from, how the planet operates, and how cool and special this place is. I feel like often with our generation, we just get sucked into technology so quickly that people don’t really have this understanding or appreciation for the world around them and how things operate because the world feels so small sometimes. I wish it would all just slow down so we could appreciate it a little bit more.

Read GRAZIA USA’s Winter issue featuring cover star Lizzy Caplan: