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BY JARED SHAPIRO | February 1, 2014 | People
UPDATE 3/20/15: Have you heard the news? Our former cover star Anne V is expecting. Congrats to the supermodel and her boyfriend, Yahoo! exec Adam Cahan.
Here, read our February 2014 feature where Anne V talks mean girls and sharing the screen with Naomi Campbell.
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Born in Russia, in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, the tall and lanky Anne Vyalitsyna never dreamed of being a supermodel. Well, that’s not true. She dreamed of it, but certainly never thought it would actually happen.
But within six months of being discovered at 15, “Anne V” appeared in campaigns from Chloé to Chanel; a nine-year consecutive run in the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue followed. Now as a new host and mentor on Oxygen’s The Face (season two premieres in March) alongside Naomi Campbell, she’ll search for the newest face of Frédéric Fekkai.
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What was it like growing up in Russia?
I come from a very normal family—both of my parents are doctors. But in Russia, doctors and teachers are the lowest-paid professions. So we never traveled; we didn’t have much money. But I always wanted to be a model.
How did the modeling dream start?
It was one of those dreams I never thought would come true. Every kid has an unrealistic goal like, “I’m going to be an astronaut,” but no one becomes one. I know it sounds so clichéd, but I never thought I was pretty. I was the tallest in my class and very skinny, and no boys liked me.
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But you persisted.
I was at a casting at IMG, and they asked me to do a modeling contest. I had never done anything. And the only way my mom would let me do it was if she came with me. It was my first time on a plane, and I didn’t speak any English. It was also my first time in a five-star hotel, so I was just psyched I was somewhere else. My mom met all the models; Gisele was part of the show, Heidi Klum…. She was like, “This is actually not so bad!”
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Did you want to leave Russia at this point?
Russia is amazing during the summer. It’s warm and green, with so many fields and rivers. It’s stunning. But Russia during the winter is the most depressing place ever. Now I’m living an American dream. I just became an American citizen, and I feel like America is my home now.
What are some of the downsides to modeling?
For the young girls, it’s an industry that makes you not very confident. You’ll hear things like, “Not pretty enough.” “Too fat.” “Too skinny.” “Your nose is too big.” I learned how to deal with it, but I’m 27 years old and I know how hard it was when I was 18 years old to deal with those things. I was a child.
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But today, do you recognize that you are pretty?
I’ve been modeling for 12 years and I can do it with my eyes closed. I know I’m pretty. But there are a lot of things that I don’t like about myself. I wish I wasn’t this white. I never get tan. I wish I could eat everything and not put on weight. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have freckles.
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What about dating in the spotlight [Vyalitsyna is currently dating baseball star Matt Harvey and previously had a high-profile romance with rocker Adam Levine]?
Honestly, it sucks, but it is what it is. People don’t really realize that at the end of the day we all want to be loved. We all want to have normal families and relationships and kids. No one wants to get divorced and have someone create stupid dramas and articles about your relationship.
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Did you ever struggle with modeling? Body issues, eating disorders?
When I was 18, I put on a lot of weight because I was eating pizza and pasta, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I never ate salads in Russia; we didn’t have salads. The only salads we had were with tons of mayo in them. It was really hard, and I’ve battled with it for many years.
Let’s talk about The Face. What makes the perfect supermodel?
You have to see beyond the beauty and beyond the height. If everyone knew how to become Gisele and Kate Moss, then everyone would be taking that path. There is no manual for the making of a supermodel. But no mean girls last a long time.
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Speaking of… models… what was it like working with Naomi Campbell?
She’s awesome. It was quite an experience, because she is one of my idols. We would fight a lot, but we were all one big, happy family. I was mentoring girls, but in a way I was getting mentored by Naomi, too.
In the end, what is important to you?
I work with the charity called Red, which deals with mothers transferring HIV to their babies, and we went to Zambia in June—and really for the first time in my life, I realized that even though I’m not technically saving lives or donating millions of dollars and I’m not a doctor or a teacher, I have this opportunity that people see my face and know who I am. I have this opportunity to help, in this case my charity. When you come to this realization that you can use your success and fame to do something in the world, I think that’s a really fantastic thing.
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PHOTOGPRAHY BY RANDALL SLAVIN; Styling by Taryn Shumway; Hair by Bryce Scarlett at De Facto using Bumble and bumble; Makeup by Quinn Murphy for Chanel at Art Department; Manicure by Julie Kandalec using Dior Vernis