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.