Kira Dikhtyar – an international supermodel, actress, and public figure is considered to be one of the 10 most successful women of Russian descent in the world of fashion according to models.com. Today Kira is telling us about her journey to success in the modeling business and shared her vision of the profession.
L’OFFICIEL Russia : 09/23/2022 : All Photos: ALENA KOSTROMINA
I was born in Moscow and was introduced to rhythmic gymnastics at the age of 5 at the Palace of Creativity on Sparrow Hills under the guidance of coach V.V. Yarmushevskaya. I selflessly fell in love with the sport to which I dedicated all my time and energy.
Irina Alexandrovna Viner, head coach of the Russian national team, noticed one of my emotional performances at one of the national competitions. She invited me to train at the Olympic Reserve Training Center where by the age of 14, I fulfilled the standard of the Master of Sports – the highest rank in the Russian sports classification.
Sport tempered my character and taught me patience and perseverance. It allowed me to try myself as a model when I received an offer to appear in an advertisement for sportswear.
I didn’t plan on becoming a model. I’ve always been a good student, at first in a French school where knowledge of the language came in handy when I lived and worked in Paris for several months). Then, when sports began to occupy almost all of my time, I was transferred to school #22 which had an emphasis on sports education. School’s unique program allowed me to seamlessly combine education and training camps and competitions.
Everyone in our family was taught hard work and responsibility from childhood. Being a young athlete is hard – your schedule is so intense, that you simply have no time to play. School-training-homework – this is your daily routine with very little time to be a kid.
I’ve always been driven by excellence, so I set a goal for myself – to finish high school Summa Cum Laude (Academics Gold Medal). It was extremely hard considering the amount of time I spend at the training camps and competitions. But, I achieved my goal. I did graduate high school Summa Cum Laude.
I was 15 years old when my younger sister, without my knowledge, sent my photos to a youth magazine where the “Become a Fashion Model” contest was held. I was surprised to find out that I became the winner of the month and received an invitation to the final stage. The victory in the dance competition was quite easy for me, given my gymnastic training. My performance attracted the attention of people associated with the modeling business in Russia, but it did not become the beginning of my modeling career. Back then in the modeling business, there were many shady individuals who were targeting inspiring models like myself by offering to make a modeling portfolio, teach how to walk the catwalk, or star in commercials charging an insane amount of money for their services. I did not take modeling seriously and instead focused on education.
I always dreamed of becoming a rhythmic gymnastics coach and greatly enjoyed working with younger girls giving them exercises and helping them better understand gymnastics. But, my parents were categorically against my coaching career.
Because I graduated from high school Summa Cum Laude my parents insisted on going to college so I applied to Moscow State University – the best university in the former Soviet Union. I easily passed the entrance exams and got accepted. At MSU I focused on geopolitics because I was always interested in political science. To have pocket money, I began to accept modeling gigs walking catwalks, and doing photoshoots for various designers and brands.
My knowledge of English and French allowed me to travel to Fashion Week in Paris and Milan where I was amazed at how different fashion industry and the modeling business were operating in the West. It was an eye-opener for me in many different ways. At the time, I was not taking a modeling career seriously – it was just a fun side gig that would put some money in my pocket. But, then, something very unexpected happened to me.
During the summer holidays, I went to the USA to deepen my knowledge of English where I took English as a second language (ESL) courses for foreigners. Once, when I was having lunch in a small restaurant, an agent approached me and offered to participate in a casting for a well-known modeling agency. And then an almost Hollywood story happened: a month later I was filmed by a world-famous photographer which resulted in a signed contract with an agency.
I could not believe my luck… I had to leave Russia, my family, friends, and Moscow State University and focused on obtaining a work visa, green card, and things of that nature. As soon as I got a work permit, I immediately began working as a model. For a simple girl who was born in the Soviet Union, it was a dream come true. I got to travel around the world working in Hawaii, Hollywood, Paris, Milan, London – you name it.
This life captured me completely and opened up great prospects working with world-renowned photographers. I was photographed by Patrick Demarchelier – a world star in photography. He liked that I spoke French. Every time at a photo shoot, he made me sing the Marseillaise. Ellen von Unwerth photographed me for one of the world’s leading magazines – that’s when my gymnastic skills came in handy! Then there was work with Antoine Verglas, Bruce Weber, and many others, you can’t count them all. But this does not mean that my modeling career went smoothly like a red carpet (although I stepped on it more than once).
The modeling business is a cut-throat business and often rivals use forbidden tricks. I remember one episode. At the very beginning of my modeling carrier, I reached the final among the contenders to receive a big contract from Adidas. They put me on a treadmill, made me look at the photographer and put my hands up, and without a warning turn the treadmill at maximum speed. I lost my balance and fell to the floor. The impact was so hard that I got a concussion. My legs were covered in blood and I could barely walk. I was unable to initiate legal action because I was a minor, my parents were in Russia, and my Green Card was in the process of being processed. Later I became the face of Nike for their global advertising campaign, which I am very proud of. It is a very cool feeling when you see your photos everywhere in the world from magazines to billboards and from airports to public transportation.
After the treadmill incident, I changed agencies and moved to live in Los Angeles. There she starred in the TV series about the life of models called “Shoot Me”, where I played almost myself – a Russian gymnast who became a model.
I was offered the same role in the cinema on the big screen. At first, I liked it, but then I realized that I’m becoming a type-cast actor and began to refuse this kind of role. During this period of time, I fell in love and had a long-lasting relationship. When I got pregnant, I realized that my man was not ready to start a family and raise a child.
With the support of my parents, I decided to have the baby. I got a job as a model in a pregnancy agency, where I worked almost until the birth of my child. My baby was born in California in one of the best hospitals because I received support from the state as a single mother. I needed to continue my career and earn a living. At a family council, we decided that the child would be better off in Russia with his grandparents, and I would go back to the USA and do what I do best earning money to support my son.
I hid from my family that I had no money at all. So with $9 in my pocket, I ended up back in New York living with a friend taking any available job. I even wanted to go to flight attendant courses. Who would have thought that literally in 2 months I would be chosen as the face of the airline company Aeroflot. This time I was on the cover of the airline magazine on all aircraft.
My career took off again. I traveled from country to country, participated in many advertising campaigns, and appeared on the covers of the most prestigious magazines. I also worked a lot in Russia where I did advertisements and a catalog for The Snow Queen, designer Naz Maer, and others. I get to star in all the leading Russian magazines, gave a multitude of television interviews, and appeared on the cover of a major fashion publication during the 2018 Soccer World Cup in the issue dedicated to this event.
In the United States, I participated in the prestigious reality show “The Face”, hosted by Naomi Campbell. Before the pandemic, I acted in a big movie called “Making the Day”, which premiered in 2022. In connection with the latest events taking place in the world, it has become more challenging to work as an international model, but nevertheless, offers continue to come. In the fall of 2022, I was on the cover of a major fashion magazine in Serbia that published my story. I was also on the cover of L’officiel India where I got to work with a team of real professionals. I am sure that fashion models of Russian descent will overcome all the troubles that are arising now due to the complicated political situation, and I’m looking forward to many great projects that are ahead of us!