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We’ve always had a soft spot for US gold medal gymnast Nastia Liukin. When the graceful 18 year old soared at the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, so did our spirits. And while it was Shawn Johnson who warmed the hearts of middle America, it was elegant, long-legged Nastia who captured the imaginations of the fashion’s movers and shakers.

During her week-long omnipresence at New York Spring 2009 Fashion Week, one of her favorite designers was so enchanted in person by the lithe Liukin that he invited her to become his new campaign spokesmodel. As Elton John might say, Max Azria wanted Nastia to be his acrobat — and now she is.

“The spring collection was inspired by movement and modern dance so she was perfect. It was meant to be, and the magic just sort of happened,” says Lubov Azria. We remember Azria’s S/S09 collections well: in fact, his BCBG line was so surprisingly minimalist and moving that we gave it a sterling review. And since Azria in 09 is all about the luxury of ease, motion, and fluidity, we honestly cannot think of a more perfect candidate to embody that essence than Nastia, whose ribbon-like movements defy kinesics.

The campaign’s first photo leaked a few days ago:

Next month, more of the ads will appear – but online only, due to budget constraints. The first truly great Azria-helmed ad campaign in ages and we don’t even get to see it in print? Even six months after her Olympics controversies, Nastia’s victories still come at a price.