Get to know OYL contributor and top model Valentina Zelyaeva through the Organice Your Life® circle of 5: What’s it like to see yourself in almost all the advertising for Ralph Lauren? What does the perfect day look like for her? What does she love? Valentina, top model and THE face of Ralph Lauren, gives us a sneak peek into her life following the circle of 5 from Organice Your Life®!
Interview by Lonneke Engel.
Lonneke: Can you give me a short introduction to yourself?
Valentina: “I was born in Ulan Ude, Russia. My father was in the military (a Russian colonel), so my family had to move from place to place. Finally, my parents settled down in Moscow, where I grew up. Being the tallest and the skinniest girl in school, I was constantly being picked on by the others. Growing up, I wanted to become a flight attendant – traveling all over the world was my biggest dream. When I was 16, my friend took me to the Elite Model Look competition. I thought if I made it, I would make some extra cash for me and my family, but I never imagined that I would be living in New York and modeling full time. I didn’t win the modeling contest; I didn’t even take any place. In fact, my two friends won. But I did meet a scouting agent from Tokyo. He invited me to go to work in Japan for 2 months. I spent 2 years in Tokyo, modeling for local catalogs. I have traveled all over Japan, and I loved living there. I got to know the Japanese culture and I received a lot of modeling experience like traveling by myself, speaking English, becoming comfortable posing in front of the camera, etc. When I was 20, I came to New York for the first time. It was September fashion week. My agency sent me to meet with clients and designers. I had booked a few good shows, but the biggest and the most important show of my career was Ralph Lauren SS2004. Ralph Lauren chose me out of hundreds of girls to open his show. It was a huge start for me, the start every model can only dream of. And it happened to me! After opening the Ralph Lauren show, I booked ads. After that, I signed an exclusive contract. I think this was due to the fact that I’m very professional and that I take my job very seriously. I’m in the middle of a great, and most importantly, long career. After discovering raw food, the organic lifestyle, eco-friendly and natural products, I have really learned how to take care of my body, my skin, and hair through healthy eating and regular exercise. Modeling is all about the looks, so it is very important to always be in your best shape and to be healthy! Also, it’s very important to maintain a good relationship with clients.”
ORGANICE YOUR HOME:
Where is home? And why do you like it there?
“New York has been my home for the past 9 years , but about 2 years ago, I got a cute place in Miami, Florida. Since then, I have been alternating between living in New York and Miami Beach. I just LOVE the weather in Miami! But I miss New York a lot when I spend too much time on the beach. New York is such an exciting city. I never get bored here! Besides, I know all the best restaurants, farmers markets, juice bars, healthy food stores, gyms, and places to see. I truly feel like home here!”
In what style did you decorate your house?
“My home has to be in clean, calming colors – it is my place to relax after a busy day. I love candles, so you see them all over my place. I love fresh flowers, and I always bring home live flowers after visiting the farmers market. I want to start framing the pictures that I took while traveling, and put them on the walls. It adds a personal touch to a place.”
What is your favorite room in the house?
”When I’m in New York, I love to sit on my cow chair with an iPad and my cats close by. Here I find myself relaxed and inspired to write new posts for OYL And when I’m in Miami, I spend my time on the most comfortable sofa in the world, reading a book or watching a movie.”
What “green” or healthy contraptions do you have in your home?
“Well, I have few “green” things that I would highly recommend for everyone. Here they are:
1. Last year I finally installed a Kangen water machine. Basically what it does, is that it turns tap water into alkaline oxygenated healthy living water. I drink this water, I cook with it, I wash my face… It is the best investment in your health.
2. I also bought produce bags (no more plastic bags for wrapping apples).
3. I have a tea container made of glass, which I take with me when I’m working so I don’t have to use plastic cups and throw them away right after.
4. I have a glass straw, which is a brilliant way to replace all plastic straws! (I wrote about it in our first issue of OYL magazine).”
What other places on this earth do you love and Why?
“I love warm countries. I like visiting Brasil. I feel like the people there are always happy no matter what! Besides, the abundance of fruit and vegetables is just beyond belief! I went to Anguilla last year for a photo shoot, and I was lucky enough to stay a few extra days. I fell in love with the island! It’s so tiny you can cross the island by car in 30 min., but there are so many beautiful spots for snorkeling. That’s what I did for the rest of my stay! I also love my mom’s countryside house, not far from Moscow. My mom has planted tons of vegetables, berries, herbs, and flowers. I go there every summer for a health boost, to hike in the nearby forest and to swim in the lake. Last summer I went to Santorini, Greece. It was so romantic and so beautiful! We rented a boat for a day, and did a round trip around the island. We snorkeled, ate local grapes, drank organic house made wine and we watched the sun go down. Santorini is the #1 place on Earth for the most breathtaking sunset!”
ORGANICE YOUR AGENDA:
How is it to have been the iconic face of Ralph Lauren for so many years?
” I can’t describe enough how lucky, grateful, and proud I am to have been the face of Ralph Lauren for ALL THOSE YEARS! To me, he is the best designer in the world and the best American clothing designer! I was a big fan of him before I came to the US for the first time, and from the moment I signed an exclusive contract, it was like a dream come true. To have such a contract for so many years is the best thing that can happen to a model.”
What is Ralph Lauren like in real life?
”Working with Ralph Lauren closely is like watching a great artist. He is aware of everything and he is involved in every step of designing the clothes. He is a generous person and has a great sense of humor. He is very loyal to his employees, some of them have worked for him for over 25 years! It is extremely rare in this ever changing fashion world. I’m proud to say that I have been working with Ralph for almost 10 years now! He comes from immigrant parents, was born and raised in the Bronx, a self made man. Today he is one of the most successful designers in the world.”
What does a day of work for RL look like?
” I always look forward to RL photo shoots, because the whole team has become a big part of my life and I love them all. The locations are always exciting and the pictures we create together are of timeless beauty! So, if I have to travel for a shoot, I usually leave the night before the job. The day I arrive on location I have a fitting, then I have some time to relax. I usually go to a spa or sauna, or go for a walk to explore the location and maybe to buy some souvenirs. The night before the shoot, I have a very light early dinner (room service) and go to bed. I usually have a vegetable salad with olive oil and a cup of chamomile tea. Call time is around 7 AM. We meet with the crew at the lobby, then I’m off to the location. While getting my hair and makeup done, I chat with the makeup artist and hair stylist. We have known each other for a long time so we have lots of catching up to do. If I need to cut my hair, I always take the opportunity to do it on the set. And I always get the best results! Before lunch time, we go through half of the outfits – around 5-6 pictures. The lunch is always great! I try not to over indulge, so the food doesn’t drag me down. If I need a boost, I ask the production team for a cup of green tea or I snack on dark chocolate. There are always lots of snacks around: fruits, veggies, guacamole, nuts. We finish at 5 p.m. or so. After that, the team gathers together and we go to a local restaurant for a dinner to celebrate a successful day.”
What do you like best about modeling?
”The best part of my job is the chance to see the world. I travel a lot, and I have been to many amazing places. I enjoy the chance to meet with different people from different countries. They all have great stories to share and great experiences. Many people also have great advice. Because of my job, I speak foreign languages that I could never have imagined being able to speak.”
And the least?
“My least favorite part of my job is feeling homesick, jet lag, and sometimes lack of healthy food on the set.”
What has been your favorite trip for a modeling job so far?
“My favorite trip was 4 years ago when I went to Zihuatanejo, Mexico to shoot Ralph Lauren ads. We were shooting at a private house, located on a cliff facing the ocean. We had private chefs who prepared food for us. I have never eaten so much, or eaten such good guacamole as I had there! The hotel I stayed at was located right on the beach. It was the time of the year when sea turtles lay eggs on the beach. The hotel staff had collected tiny little baby turtles in a special pool, and at night all of us guests of the hotel had a chance to release baby turtles into the ocean! It was like an episode from National Geographic. These are the type of memories I will never forget. We had to stay an extra couple of days because some of the outfits didn’t arrive on time. A couple of crew members and I used this opportunity. We took a van and drove to the city. I bought a nice handmade necklace for myself. We had a chance to visit the farmers market and flea market. I love when I get to see local places. At the end of the shoot, the owner of the house hosted a dinner party with the best Mexican food and margaritas! We also enjoyed the live band a lot! Wow! It was by far the best trip I’ve ever had.Plus, the pictures came out absolutely stunning – one of my favorite ads.”
What do you do on a day off?
“When I have a day off, I use it as much as I possibly can! For instance, I organize my desk, my closet, and old stuff that has been lying around that I haven’t decided what to do with. I also use my day off to take care of myself – pedicure, manicure, massage, and facials are involved. I check my fridge and see if I need to make a trip to the farmers market to buy fresh, local produce.”
What are your favorite pastimes?
“My hobbies are reading inspirational books, searching the internet for more info on raw food and a healthy lifestyle, skiing, wake-boarding, capoeira, cooking, creating new smoothies and juice recipes, watching movies on Netflix, and writing for OYL.”
What is your secret skin care regimen that leaves you looking so healthy and beautiful?
“It is more important what you put inside your body, than what you put outside. So I eat lots of fruits and veggies. I mean, really a huge amount – I make vegetable juice first thing in the morning (cucumber, fennel, kale, oranges, celery) followed up by big fruit smoothies (apple, banana, celery, strawberries). Then I snack on more fruits in between the meals, and I have a big salad or two during the day. My skin care routine is quite simple: I wash my face before I go to bed, using a toner followed by a treatment serum (Vitamin C). First thing in the morning, I dry brush my face with a very gentle face brush. It helps to remove dead skin and helps to renew my outer layer (better than a scrub!). After that, I spray Evian water (I try to stay away from tap water as much as possible) and, using cotton, I wipe my face with alcohol-free toner. Then, I take moisturizer and add a few drops of Argan Oil. I apply it all over my face, and then I use light eye cream. That’s all I do!”
Your favorite workout?
” I have a few favorite work outs:
1. I practice capoeira in New York with a private trainer twice a week.
2. Sometimes I take a yoga class when I feel like I need a good stretching or just to release stress.
3. I just discovered Pilates! It does wonders to my body.
4. If I’m in Miami, I go for a run on the beach. Running helps to clear my mind and to release negative emotions. “
What do you do to relax and/ or pamper yourself?
” I can truly relax at home doing nothing! I put on some music without lyrics. I call it “spa music.” I make myself a cup of herbal tea, read books, or watch movies that make me feel good.”
You are into raw foods. Why do you think it is so important to eat foods raw?
“This is one of my favorite topics of conversation. I can go on and on. But I’ll try to explain it in a few sentences. When we cook our food, we destroy 50% of the vitamins and up to 80% of the minerals. Worst of all, we completely destroy essential enzymes that every living food has. We need these precious enzymes to digest the food that we eat. When you eat cooked food, in order to digest a meal, your body must steal its enzymes from itself. By doing this, we age slowly and different sorts of diseases start to appear (cancer, heart decease, diabetes). It is very important to include as much raw food in your diet as possible. I’m not suggesting to go 100% raw, but start to add more salads, juices, and smoothies to your diet. And, by “raw food” I don’t mean sushi or steak tartare! I’m talking about fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.”
What is your favorite recipe?
” I love this recipe for gazpacho tomato soup. All you need is blender to make it. No cooking involved, and it takes 3 min. to make it:
•4 tomatoes •1 celery stalk •1/2 red bell pepper •1/2 cucumber (skin removed) •1
clove garlic •2 Tsp olive oil •Sea salt + pepper Blend everything in a blender. Ready!”
What do you eat when you cheat on your diet?
” I love seafood pasta! I have it, when I am in a really good Italian restaurant. I like milk chocolate, so I look for organic/fair trade chocolate. I can’t get enough of Laduree macarons from their store in Paris! “
“I like ”Caravan of Dreams” in NYC. It is a vegan place with lots of raw food options. For fresh seafood I go to “Avara” Greek Restaurant. “Le Pain Quotidien”, they have great vegan and vegetarian choices, plus they mostly use organic ingredients. I go to “One Lucky Duck” it is a raw place with a great juice bar and amazing salads.”
Fashion, design & shopping.
” I shop at Ralph Lauren all the time. I always find great items. Sometimes I go to Intermix, as well as Barneys. I love the vintage market on Lincoln Road for unique jewelry.”
What is your favorite thing to shop for?
“I love to shop for natural beauty products: essential oils, organic skin care, natural sunscreen, chemical-free shampoos, natural tooth paste, aluminum free deodorant… I like to shop for kitchen tools: new pots, a new blender, glasses, etc. I also like to shop for fruits and veggies at farmers markets, because I always discover new things. I also like to go through vintage jewelry at flea markets.”
Have you ever made a mistake purchasing something that you did not like in the end?
“This used to happen to me all the time, but now I only shop if I really urgently need something. I was going through my closet and found out that I have so many clothes that I bought but never wear, or only have worn it once! I was able to make four big bags and send it all to my sister and cousins in Russia.”
“My best buy is my juicer! It was money well-spent, because I juice every day, even sometimes twice a day.
Favorite piece of clothing you own?
“My absolute favorite piece of clothing is a Ralph Lauren cashmere wrap sweater. I use it everyday: at home, underneath the jacket when I go outside, and I wear it on the plane when I travel. I’m thinking of buying it in all the available colors.”
Favorite designer or artist?
“Favorite designers would be Ralph Lauren and Stella McCartney. Their clothes are timeless, classic, and beyond chic! Both of them do not use real fur.
ORGANICE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS:
What do you like to do most with friends?
“We like to go out and dance, catch up over lunch, and discover new and healthy restaurants.”
Best way to stay in contact with friends?
“The best way to stay in contact with friends is to pick up the phone and call them. Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, Vkontakte, Skype, etc. And I think this is a great way to find your friends and stay in touch with them. But nothing compares to lunch or dinner with a group of friends.”
Are you in a relationship, if yes, Why is this person so important to you?
“I have been with the same person for almost 7 years now. He always supports me in every situation no matter what. He is always on my side and is always there for me when I need it most. With the time passing by, I’m falling more and more in love with him. I’m so incredibly lucky to have found a person like that!”
What do you see for yourself in the future when I say: baby?
“I can’t wait to be a mother! I truly hope my husband and I will be a great example to our kids as loving and caring parents. I will do my best to raise my kids to be healthy and happy.”
What is your favorite thing to do on a special day like Valentine’s Day?
“To me, every day with my boyfriend is Valentine’s Day, but to make it even more special on the 14th of February, I’d like to give him a sweet little present, cook a dinner at home, open a bottle of wine and cosy up on the sofa.”
ORGANICE YOUR GOOD HEART:
What charity do you support?
“I support the breast cancer charity Polo Pink Pony. Money goes to a cancer research center. Also, I support a charity called LakayPam. Donations go to victims of the earthquake that happened in Haiti a few years ago.
What else have you done to help others in your life?
“It’s hard to remember everything, but the first thing that comes to mind is:
•sometimes I send donations to a charity that provides food for homeless people.
I send money to children cancer research center.
•I send money to my family in Moscow, and with it they were able to build a country house.
•I adopted my cat from a vet hospital in Miami.
•I buy organic produce from local farmers markets. By doing this, I’m supporting small farmers and helping them grow.
•I have signed up for one of the local and organic home delivery services, that way, I can also support small farmers.
•Animal: Siberian Tiger
•Color: White, green.
•Tv Program: ”SMASH” & “Downton Abbey”
•City: New York City
•Travel: Caribbean Islands & Brasil.
•Car: Tesla Model S (all electric car)
•Movie: Documentary “Food Matters”
•Song: “Coming Back” by Citizen Cope
•Inspiring person: Dalai Lama
•Favorite quote: “Value who you are. Enjoy your uniqueness and don’t compare yourself with others and put yourself down. Love is everywhere!” Deepak Chopra