Le train transsibérien
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Новосибирск
красавицы Сибири

Novosibirsk’s Siberian Beauties

Le train transsibérien
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Novosibirsk’s Siberian Beauties

Night Train to Novosibirsk

Anna Yuzhakova takes her laptop computer with her to the restaurant car. She wants to show her international visitor the many charms of Siberian beauties. They are the result, she says, of years of mixed marriages by citizens from different republics of the former Soviet Union.

Anna is a scout. She discovers new talents for the Noah Models agency in St. Petersburg.

She is herself a former model. Four times a year she crosses her native region by train searching for the next top models, the ones who will one day strut the catwalks of Paris or New York.

Her travelling companion, Stephane Hababou, watches the photos of would-be models scroll across the screen. He’s also a scout. He represents the prestigious Marilyn agency in Paris.

It’s his first trip to Siberia. Hababou says it’s the best way for him to find new prospects ahead of his competition.

The Key to a Ticket Out of Siberia

There’s not a moment to waste. Anna and Stephane stop in every large city of the region, holding a casting call that is open to all.

About 50 teen girls in black undergarments and stiletto heels greet Anna and Stephane at every stop. Some move nervously. Others proudly show off their curves.

The presence of this visitor from Paris ramps up the pressure. Everyone knows Hababou holds the key to a possible career abroad. It’s an opportunity to follow both an American and French dream, a chance to escape the daily drudgery of life in Siberia.

Three Centimetres Too Wide

Anna invites Marina Korotkova to step forward. The 17-year-old barely has the time to take two steps before a cutting remark welcomes her into the world of modelling, even if pronounced under the guise of humour. “Marina is a little overweight.” At 93 centimetres, her hips are too wide. The visitors still take a few photos and recommend she go on a diet.

Russia’s largest modelling school is in Novosibirsk. It’s a unique breeding ground for girls who start training as early as age 10 or 12. They learn fashion photography techniques and how to sway their hips on a catwalk.

Fifteen-year-old Kristina Churina, a recent graduate, catches Stephane Hababou’s eye. If she loses a little weight, she could end up in Paris within the year, modeling the creations of top designers.

But few are chosen. Anna selects about 30 young women during each of her Siberian scouting trips. Only a fraction of them will ever end up with real modelling careers.

To be ready to seize the opportunity if presented with it, Kristina has been taking intensive English courses. She also has a plan B. She’s studying tourism and hopes to one day manage a large hotel.

Jean-François Bélanger

Le train transsibérien

Photos

Novosibirsk’s Siberian Beauties

Night Train to Novosibirsk

Anna Yuzhakova takes her laptop computer with her to the restaurant car. She wants to show her international visitor the many charms of Siberian beauties. They are the result, she says, of years of mixed marriages by citizens from different republics of the former Soviet Union.

Anna is a scout. She discovers new talents for the Noah Models agency in St. Petersburg.

She is herself a former model. Four times a year she crosses her native region by train searching for the next top models, the ones who will one day strut the catwalks of Paris or New York.

Her travelling companion, Stephane Hababou, watches the photos of would-be models scroll across the screen. He’s also a scout. He represents the prestigious Marilyn agency in Paris.

It’s his first trip to Siberia. Hababou says it’s the best way for him to find new prospects ahead of his competition.

The Key to a Ticket Out of Siberia

There’s not a moment to waste. Anna and Stephane stop in every large city of the region, holding a casting call that is open to all.

About 50 teen girls in black undergarments and stiletto heels greet Anna and Stephane at every stop. Some move nervously. Others proudly show off their curves.

The presence of this visitor from Paris ramps up the pressure. Everyone knows Hababou holds the key to a possible career abroad. It’s an opportunity to follow both an American and French dream, a chance to escape the daily drudgery of life in Siberia.

Three Centimetres Too Wide

Anna invites Marina Korotkova to step forward. The 17-year-old barely has the time to take two steps before a cutting remark welcomes her into the world of modelling, even if pronounced under the guise of humour. “Marina is a little overweight.” At 93 centimetres, her hips are too wide. The visitors still take a few photos and recommend she go on a diet.

Russia’s largest modelling school is in Novosibirsk. It’s a unique breeding ground for girls who start training as early as age 10 or 12. They learn fashion photography techniques and how to sway their hips on a catwalk.

Fifteen-year-old Kristina Churina, a recent graduate, catches Stephane Hababou’s eye. If she loses a little weight, she could end up in Paris within the year, modeling the creations of top designers.

But few are chosen. Anna selects about 30 young women during each of her Siberian scouting trips. Only a fraction of them will ever end up with real modelling careers.

To be ready to seize the opportunity if presented with it, Kristina has been taking intensive English courses. She also has a plan B. She’s studying tourism and hopes to one day manage a large hotel.

Jean-François Bélanger

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Credits:

  • Text Jean-François Bélanger
  • Photos Jean-François Bélanger, Alexey Sergeev
  • Editing Florent Daudens
  • Multimedia Design and Production Daniel Herrera-Castillo
  • Design Anne-Marie Duguay
  • Project Management Julie Gauthier
  • Translation Evguenia Kossogova, Genevieve Oger

Siberia is known around the world for its frigid temperatures. But in the world of fashion, the region is famous for being home to the most beautiful women in the world.

The measuring tape is king. Minimum height: 172 centimetres (5 feet, 6 inches). Maximum hips: 90 centimetres (35.4 inches).

Casting calls are open to all and attract about 60 hopeful young women every time they are held.

The measuring tape is unforgiving. With hips measuring 93 centimetres (36.6 inches), Marina Korotkova is considered “a little fat.”

Stephane Hababou, from the Marilyn agency in Paris, has come to Siberia to find the most promising beauties before his rivals do.

Anna Yuzhakova (centre), herself a former model, visits Siberia four times a year on behalf of the Noah modeling agency in St. Petersburg.

Anna discovers 30 to 40 fresh and interesting faces every month.

Anastasia Akhmameteva catches the eye of Stephane Hababou. Her ticket to Paris is within reach.

For the ones left behind, the rejection is often brutal.

15-year-old Kristina Churina just graduated from Novosibirsk’s modelling school and has caught the attention of the Paris agency.

But Stephane Hababou hesitates about Kristina: “If she loses weight, we’ll see see how she changes.”

Siberia is considered a modelling reservoir, thanks to ethnic mixing.

A little powder, and barely pubescent girls turn into femmes fatales.

A fashion show after the casting call allows scouts to observe the models in real conditions.

For many young women from small villages, modelling offers a chance to travel and earn a lot of money.