Millions imagine Justin Bieber as a sex god with six-pack abs and swoopy bangs, but according to Xenia Deli, Bieber's abs taste "like body, like skin."
Deli would know. The 25-year-old Moldovan model stars as Bieber's girlfriend in his comeback video, "What Do You Mean?". In the video, she licks the pop star's abs. "It was my idea," Deli says. "I was worried they would put it this part and they do." The scene takes place in a neon-lit motel, where a masked John Leguizamo breaks in and attacks Deli. Bieber's Calvin Klein briefs hang out of his jean, and at one point, only Calvin Klein lingerie covers Deli's body.
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"Everyone was in Calvin's," Deli explains. "Even [Leguizamo]."
I'm talking to Deli at the In-N-Out on Sunset Blvd, the iconic burger joint as synonymous with Los Angeles as broken dreams and Michael Jackson. When I arrive at the fast food spot, I find Deli sitting in her 2014 red Maserati, whose color matches the restaurant's outdoor seats. She holds a red tray filled with a cheeseburger and animal-style fries.
"I'm gonna talk about healthy food [in the interview]," she says to me. She smirks.
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Deli and I sit outside under a plastic red umbrella to eat our fries. Wearing a studded leather jacket over a red dress shaped like the one Alice wears in the 1950s Disney Alice in Wonderland, Deli eats her fries like a Russian princess. The juxtaposition between the leather and the dress and the food and her manner of eating scares me. This is probably why Bieber chose her as his sole video girl.
According to Deli, her modeling agency set her up for the audition. The music video director, a producer, a casting director, and an actor watched her and ten other girls try out. The actor tested her acting ability.
"They were asking us to be happy, to be sad, to be embarrassed, to show them seduction," Deli says. "This is what I did." She smirks. She smirks a lot.
"This is my dream," she says. "This is where I should be."
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In the last few days, Beliebers have threatened to kill Deli for making out with Bieber in his videos. She laughs at the death threats—she would rather have Beliebers trying to kill her than be living in Moldova, a tiny country between Russia and Ukraine.
As a kid, Deli thought she would, at best, become a teacher. Growing up in an impoverished village, she focused more on making enough money to eat than finding stardom. "People don't leave there," she says. "They survive. That's why we're so tough."
At the end of her teens, she went to college to study literature and become a literature teacher. "We have a good education [system]," she says. "Everything's the same [as America]. It's just poor." In the back of her mind, though, she wondered about a better life in the United States. A few of her friends moved to South Carolina for a year, so she saved her money and took a year off to visit them five years ago.
"Compared to Moldova, South Carolina is a dream," she says. "I decided this was the easiest way to live in America: They already know the culture. They knew the language." She lacked any English skills, so she learned through social situations. "It's circumstance. When I don't have a choice, I decide to learn it." She stayed in Los Angeles over the summer for three months. She fell in love with the beaches and the palm trees and the weather and In-N-Out and the possibility of becoming famous—the kitschy paradise Los Angeles has made world famous despite tabloid stories about celebrity meltdowns and Satanic cult murder sprees.
She lives on the cusp of fame and being Almost Famous—for every Amber Rose, there's a nameless girl grinding on a pop star's boner.
Deli recognized the risk: She was dropping out of college. Who knew what would happen in Los Angeles? For a few months she worked at restaurants and as a baby sitter. In her free time, she posted pictures on Model Mayhem as a hobby, expecting little to happen, but then a photographer spotted her, hired her, and she became one of the few Model Mayhem girls to actually, well, model. And here we are, four years later, at the In-N-Out on Sunset Blvd eating French fries.
Today, she lives in Glendale. She mostly hangs out with Russian girls, who live in West Hollywood, and attends a Russian Orthodox church. She sees "What Do You Mean?" as a stepping stone to breaking out from modeling. She loves posing, and would love to continue to model, but she wants to act in "the movies," she tells me in broken English. "Don't you worry producers will ask you to change your accent?" I ask.
"I will play Russian spies!" She shouts. She looks deep in my eyes. "I kill you."
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Hearing her pretend to be a spy, I think this In-N-Out is the best place to meet her. It's iconic and near where rock stars like Axl Rose used to live, but it's also the road made famous by Hollywood has-been Norma Desmond's cinematic rampage in Sunset Boulevard. Deli lives on the cusp of fame and being Almost Famous—for every Amber Rose, there's a nameless girl grinding on a pop star's boner.
Who knows how it will turn out? We're living in a world where NeNe Leakes posts Instagram photos with Rihanna; there's no difference in fame between a platinum-selling artist and a reality show star. Maybe Deli could be a girl who says "the movies," like a wannabe in a 1930s comedy, and also the video girl in a Bieber video. After all, Deli isn't another lazy young Hollywood girl, like Lohan. She's not even American.
"I can't understand Americans because we have different mentalities. Most of my friends are Russians. My English is not so perfect," she explains. "Another thing I don't like about Americans: They don't [go after] opportunities. They eat at In-N-Out. They have a car or a bicycle, and they don't fight for it. They know their government will take care of them. [Moldova's] government just steals. We just have to survive."