Born in Pont-Audemer, France, Laetitia Casta spent her childhood in the lush countryside of Normandy. At age 15, she was approached by an agent of Paris' Madison Models while building sand castles on a beach in Corsica. After her father agreed to let the agency take some test photographs, Laetitia's wondrous natural beauty impressed the founder of Madison models as well as the director of the French magazine Elle. Modeling contracts ensued and in 1993 Laetitia signed on with Guess? Jeans for a very successful advertising campaign.
She also appeared in the Victoria's Secret catalog, in Sports Illustrated, and in the usual top-flight fashion magazines. Her popularity was so great in 1999 that she was chosen by a vote of French mayors as the model for new busts of Marianne, the revolutionary symbol of France who appears in sculpted form in French town halls. Laetitia Casta has also more than dabbled in acting, debuting in the 1999 French comedy Astérix et Obélix contre César (Astérix and Obélix vs. Caesar, with Roberto Benigni).
Casta's earthy sensuality proved irresistible to advertisers and consumers alike, and she quickly landed ad campaigns for well-known brands such as Chanel, Isaac Mizrahi and J. Crew. In 1998 Casta, who later professed to a personal preference for low-maintenance beauty regimens, landed a brand ambassador deal with L'Oreal Paris, making her the face of the French-born beauty company. Soon after, Victoria's Secret crowned the then-19-year-old an official Angel, placing her among the ranks of fellow Angels Helena Christensen and Tyra Banks, and solidifying her as one of the world's top models.