Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SOMW Presents: Q & A with Supermodel Elle Muliarchyk

This is a little bit about herself:

Was born in Belarus, grew up in Vietnam and Prague. At 14 came to California where I lived with a Chinese new-born Christian family and then Mormon family! In pursuit of Supermodel-dom came to New York and met Patrick Demarchelier, which was a great start to my modeling career. While doing my normal modeling duties I also was shooting my own "campaigns" - self portraits featuring myself as a model, sneaking into dressing rooms of the poshest boutiques, getting thrown out and arrested. The NYT discovered my "hobby" and proclaimed me an artist! Since then I've collaborated on a real campaign with designer Bella Freud (great grand daughter of Sigmund Freud), and currently working on Begotten - collaborating with many fashion designers to create new religious - Pop Iconography. (This time sneaking into churches)

We had the tremendous opportunity of picking her brain about simple yet very interesting conversation on a spring afternoon here in New York City.

How did you fall into modeling?

EM: I had a few funny attempts before I became a REAL model. First I was
one one the 12 finalists in Young Miss Czech Republic competition. It
was a pretty surreal experience. I was 13 and my little (8 yrs) brother
did a photo shoot for me -with my first (disposable) camera ever. I
made a bikini for myself out of tinfoil... Out of the pictures of
10.000 girls, 2.000 were invited for the final assessment. We we all in
our bikinis stuck for about 20 hrs in this giant freezing hotel
convention room .... I remember we had to dance in front of the
judges... Phew, sound pretty awful and Borat-like experience.... but in
fact this carries on for a model for a long time on into the future...
But I never found out if I would become the Crowned Queen or the
ugliest one... I was leaving for the USA! But I thought since I it
was obviously meant to be, I tried it out in California. I came to see
a "modeling" school but they were asking for $300 and that was out of
question for me. I tried to save 25 cents a day by walking home from school
for 45 min instead of taking a bus. Many funny scary things happened
because I walked along the highway (and WHO, for God's sake walks along
the highway in CA?) wearing my "normal" Eastern European clothing -
ultra mini and tube top, a backpack... (think: sexy Manga
schoolgirls)... Predictably, many cars stopped to give me a ride... but
that's a story for another time...
And finally, I came to NYC and met Patrick Demarchelier, he introduced
me to an amazing agency - Marilyn. My first shoot with Patrick was a
Beauty story for Citizen K. But as a fresh face I had shoots and tests
with an incredible number of photographers, often I had two shoots a
day! I must have been photographed by every single photographer in New
York then, and those that were coming to NYC. I was considered the
"editorial" looking girl, so I constantly was working for "edgy"
magazines starting with Nylon of course, and sadly didn't do many money
jobs. My life was of a classic "starving model". My budget on food was
$1 a day! I went to Chinatown and bought a big bag of half-rotten fruit
that they sell in the end of the day. But when I got my first few money
job with my agency in California it was fun! It was for a line for
pregnant women - I was like 16 and wore a fake belly for two days of
shoots and there were two little kids who were supposed to be mine and
a husband! Hilarious! And with that first money I bought a present -
Fendi shoes for my mom!

Do you remember your first job as a model?

EM: Sorry - I don't remember my first job - honestly! I think it was wiped
out of my memory by the experience that followed , in the next

What is the most scary modeling gig you have ever done?

EM: It was one of my very first jobs and possibly the worst experience of my life! It was a shoot in a Hot Air Balloon. It was a two day shoot in Connecticut, in the middle of a snowed up field. There was another model - the evilest creature. She constantly bullied me. She made fun of my clothing and even of the way how I held my fork, I even cried secretly. We wore really ugly "prom" dresses in that Hot Air Balloon, and 80's drag queen hair and makeup. For one shot I had to hang off the edge of the basket, and the balloon operator released too much hot air so it went up and stuck in the air above tree tops. My hands were giving off and we had no idea how long it would take for the air in the balloon to cool off that it would go down. So I had to hang onto the basket, wearing that prom dress and high heels in this freaky cold for about 15 minutes. I also had to appear calm and fabulous since the photographer was not wasting time and was shooting me! And those images never got published! But who ever gets to experience a silly thing like this? So I don't regret it.

What is your favorite thing about being a model?

EM: On one hand modeling of course can destroy a young girl's confidence. But on the other hand it totally built MY confidence and fearless personality. I was not a popular/pretty girl when I was a child. So when I turned 13 I had very little confidence in my looks. I would over-compensate it by wearing ridiculous heavy make up and obscene promiscuous clothing, even when I went to school r grocery shopping. That is why I also entered that Miss Czech Republic contest - to find approval! I would not let be seen anywhere without a stuffed bra! I felt naked and ugly without all that masquerading and camouflaging, But when I came to New York and my agency made me take off all that makeup and wear very simple clothing I was mortified first! Then gradually, as I saw people reacting normally to my exposed face and body and they didn't run away screaming, in disgust, I realized I was beautiful enough. I was a model! I think a few months of modeling saved me a lifetime of psychotherapy that would have spent trying to heal my childhood trauma!

What is your valuable learning experience so far being a model?

EM: Modeling gives you an extremely powerful weapon that you can carry all throughout your life.

It's like when Emperors used to ingest small quantities of poison every day to become immune to it, so when someone tries to assassinate them by poisoning, they'd live through it. After so much randomness of rejection and acceptance you stop taking things too personally. Modeling is like a vaccination against immobilizing disappointments in the future.

I also learned that models, as a "species", are really wonderful and "nice" people! No matter what some people outside of modeling world think - they they are bitches. Models usually come from less than privileged backgrounds and they go through so much hardship. This way they develop great patience and tolerance of Gandhi and Mother Teresa's compassion for other people. All those TV shows that show girls in model apartments trying to make each others life miserable are not true!

Any advice or tips for upcoming models?

EM: Modeling is a JOB, not just a "time in your life to have fun". If you take it as a serious profession you have a few years (depending on how long you end up doing it) you will learn valuable skills and meet people that will respect you. Those two things will be like magic keys in your hands that will open doors in your future. If you model only for "fun" (while you have no other plans for the future), it will result in deepest disappointment and wasted years. Make the best out of it, take the bull by the horns!

Don't gossip (or at least don't say people's real names - like I do! (she started to giggle)

Don't complain and spread negativity to other poor models waiting on the line at a casting or job!! That's the only thing that I truly hate about modeling!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

EM: Wow, that's a scary question - to put your dreams in writing! Some specific professional dreams that I'd rather not say (not to jinx it!), But more general/"human" ones - to have money and freedom to travel to wonderful places in the world, to have a house in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. To have a beautiful child - and as a result to become more beautiful myself - like Natalia Vodianova (a Super Girl!) And to learn a new language and complete a Masters degree at a good university,

We know you are quite the famous artist now...when and where can we see some of your work?

EM: Hahaha- Thanks. For people who are really interested - they can find anything online, Otherwise I'd like to keep my modeling persona separated from my art career. Think of me like a Superman changing his costume. He doesn't want to spoil the mystery and the legend.

**you can see some videos of Elle posted on this site.

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