By Henry M. Holden
Born in the former Yugoslavia to Serbian parents, Natasha Pavlovich actually grew up in Chicago, Ill., before moving to Los Angeles and graduating from the University of California Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She has gone on to achieve many incredible things with a passion for helping and inspiring others.
Pavlovich was crowned Miss Beverly Hills 1989 and represented Yugoslavia in the 1991 Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas, where she reached the semi-finals. As an international model, she has appeared in dozens of print and electronic media in the United States and Europe. She is a Hollywood leading lady, appearing in many films and TV series such as “Nip/Tuck” and “Monk.” To top it off, she is also a national ambassador of goodwill and a record-breaking aviatrix.
Her pursuit of aviation began in the 90s
Joe Lara influenced Pavlovich to become involved in aviation. Lara, her partner, is an actor and country music singer. He played the lead in “Tarzan in Manhattan” and the TV series “Tarzan: The Epic Adventures.” Lara has starred in 20 feature films and enjoys being the pilot of his own Cessna 185.
“We met in an acting class. I had some pilot friends in Santa Monica who invited me to go flying,” Pavlovich said. “That was back in the 1990s. I went on the flight, and I got interested in flying, so I started taking lessons.”
Today Pavlovich is an aviation enthusiast, skydiver, licensed pilot and completely immersed in aviation. She’s flown a variety of single-engine aircraft such as the Cessna 172, 182, Skylane and a Pitts Special. She also has flown the L-29 Dolphin, and copiloted a MiG-25. Pavlovich is currently working on her instrument rating.
In February 2004, she had the opportunity to go to Moscow and copilot a MiG 25 from an airbase in Russia. Travelling at 2.4 Mach (1,850 mph), she was covering one mile every two seconds. To honor her homeland and her host and birth countries, she took the American, Russian and Serbian flags on her flight. At 86,000 ft., she waved them into the video camera recording her flight.
“I flew to an altitude of 86,000 ft., and did some aileron rolls and turns. Together, the pilot and I did an eight-point turn, a four-point turn, inverted flight, a wing over and some loops. It was really fun, and I was very excited about it,” recalled Pavlovich.
This accomplishment assured her name in the history books as the first person of Yugoslavian origin to reach that altitude.
“When I finished the flight, I went back to Belgrade,” Pavlovich said. “It was a big deal for people in Yugoslavia. Being a former Miss Yugoslavia, having an acting career in Hollywood, and flying the MiG to the edge of space was a big promotional success in Serbia. After that flight, I wanted to be an astronaut.”
The opportunity presented itself to Pavlovich at a charity event where she met Dennis Tito, the man who gained celebrity status by becoming the first space tourist to pay for his own ticket.
“I questioned him all evening, and I didn’t let the man leave until he told me how I could take a flight to space for less than $20 million, since that’s what I was short,” she laughed. “He gave me the name of Eric Anderson, the president and CEO of Space Adventures. I contacted Eric and obtained sponsorship for a flight. Space Adventures’ vision is to open spaceflight and the space frontier to private citizens.”
Then Pavlovich heard about Richard Branson, WhiteKnightTwo and his planned trip to space—she immediately contacted his office.
“I told him I was serious and that I wanted to go. I am an adventurer! I told him I wanted to do it for the whole country of Yugoslavia, the Serbs, to make history and uplift the people of Yugoslavia,” she said. “I was one of the first to sign up. That’s how I became one of the founding members—there are only 84 of us.”
Her first journey to space is approaching
The mother ship of Branson’s private space liner effort, White-KnightTwo, has already flown.
“There are other companies out there trying to do what we’re doing, but they haven’t flight tested their aircraft yet,” Pavlovich explained. “I have a lot of confidence in Richard’s company and in his safety record—they will make it happen.”
The news hasn’t reached her native country yet, though some information has been leaked on the Internet. Pavlovich is now awaiting the press conference where Branson will announce that she’ll be the first person of Serbian descent to become an astronaut.
When that happens—and it will be sometime next year—Pavlovich plans to host an event in Belgrade, collect sponsorships and give back to the people of her uncle’s town in the Republic of Srpska (formerly Yugoslavia).
“I am excited because there are so many wonderful people in my country. I want the world to get to know the people of Yugoslavia and see how talented, skilled, friendly and adventurous they are,” she said.
Her uncle, Slobodan “Mike” Pavlovic, and Aunt Mira have developed “Slobomir, the town of freedom and peace” in the Republic of Srpska, Bosnia (Herzegovina). Working with the townspeople, her relatives have done some amazing things. They constructed the Pavlovic Bridge and are the founders of Slobomir P. University and Pavlovic International Banks. They have also named their famous niece the International Ambassador for Slobomir City and the Slobomir companies.
A fascination with and love for WASP
Once Pavlovich became immersed in aviation, she discovered the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). She was impressed with every brave woman and began reading their histories and doing research on the WASP.
That research and respect inspired her to write “The Wings of a WASP.” It’s a screenplay that has gotten the attention of Penny Marshall and a major film company.
“I want to tell their story to the world,” Pavlovich said. “I feel they’re a footnote in history, and I want to bring them to the forefront, so I’m making a documentary on the WASP. It’s a love story that takes place during WASP training. I didn’t write the screenplay as a vehicle for my acting career—I just wanted to tell their story.”
The project has been on the back burner because of budget, so Pavlovich decided to make a short documentary on the WASP in the meantime.
“I’ve been meeting a lot of people who are interested in the subject. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to meet some of the WASP, like Mary Lou Neale (formally Colbert),” she said. “Believe me, I was crying all the way home in the car. It was so emotional because of the great respect I have toward her. She was in first class—Jackie Cochran called her. Cochran was the founder of the WASP!”
Pavlovich is an active member of the Ninety-Nines, the international organization of women pilots. She’s reaching for new heights using her passion for aviation.
“I particularly don’t want to be a commercial pilot, because I enjoy recreational flying,” she said. “I would like to introduce kids to aviation, similar to what the Kiddie Hawk Air Academy is doing—just inspire kids, show them about aviation and motivate them to become pilots.”
In 2007, Pavlovich developed the Natasha Pavlovich Foundation, an international organization dedicated to positively impacting people and the planet.
“The board members include an international team of compassionate and selfless professionals who will help others reach their full potential and be role models for others,” she said. “When I go back to Yugoslavia, I want to inspire the kids there. I have a positive attitude, and I want them to see that— I want to motivate and inspire other people.”
Keep up with her latest adventures online at [http://www.NatashaPavlovich.com].