Colombian model Valentina Castro models for Louis Vuitton. The success story of this young woman from Tumaco is quite unique. Less than 2 years ago, Valentina was making braids for a living in her hometown in Nariño. Coming from a humble background, she was discovered through social media by a talent scout who signed her into the world of fashion.
Braiding Hair in Tumaco
Valentina Castro’s family comes from humble origins. Her mother sells products through catalogs, and her father, like many of their neighbors in Tumaco, is a fisherman. The family lives in the Ciudadela neighborhood, in district 4 of the coastal town of Nariño. Tumaco is a town with 250,000 inhabitants on the Colombian Pacific coast, near the border with Ecuador. In the town, 8 out of 10 residents are Afro-Colombians. The region grapples with violence and poverty. It’s not an easy context in which to thrive socially.
“Despite not having many resources and the streets not being paved, we are all very united,” Valentina writes about her environment.
There, the young model was known by her neighbors for her talent in braiding Afro hair. She worked at home and on-site, charging between 4 and 12 dollars for her work. For Valentina, hairstyle is very important in her life. “I dress simply, but not when it comes to hair. I really like my hair; I like to change my look. I don’t like to keep my hair still,” she explained to the BBC in an interview.
This was just a little over a year ago. Valentina was already standing out among her neighbors for her height, 175 cm, and well-defined features, but she never imagined she would professionally enter the world of fashion. That was until a Dominican talent scout, Sebastian Bedoya from the Nefer Models agency, contacted her. Valentina showcased her capital creations and work with her neighbors from Tumaco on her social media. Bedoya was interested in her work and her appearance.
Debut at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris
After a surprising contact through social media, some doubts, and finally a decision, everything happened very quickly. In just a few months, Valentina saw her world transform. An 11th-grade high school student went from Tumaco to rubbing shoulders with internationally renowned models.
From Tumaco to Paris. On March 6th, Valentina made her debut with the highly reputable French fashion company Louis Vuitton, at none other than the Musée d’Orsay in the heart of Paris. She was 18 years old and was on the catwalk for a global luxury brand. Then came other catwalks in Italy, England and South Korea. A challenging journey for someone who, in her own words, had “never worn heels” before leaving Tumaco.
Return to Tumaco
In mid-2023, after many months away from home, she returned to Colombia. Valentina came back to Tumaco to finish her final year of high school and study English. There, in her hometown, she was contacted and visited by many young girls who, like her, dream of becoming models. However, Valentina remains grounded, well aware of the challenges of that world. “Many girls want to be models, but I don’t like selling them that dream,” she recently said in an interview.
Valentina is no longer the same, but her dream now is to own a hair salon. She never stops talking about her hair. The model has embraced her afro hairstyle, a style that, she says, “allows for many more possibilities.”
“It represents us (the Afro population),” she explains as she prepares for her new projects. Valentina, from Tumaco, hasn’t forgotten her origins. She has already signed with her agency Nefer Models to conduct casting calls to recruit new models from her neighbors.