Petra Nemcova Lights the Way
PHOTOGRAPHS BY WARWICK SAINT
Is Happy Hearts responding to the tsunami in Japan?
We will definitely go to Japan when the first responders leave. We made a commitment to Japan, and will go in December or January to help rebuild schools. Haiti’s still in flux. There’s a new president, Michel Martelly. What are the biggest challenges there? We were there for the inauguration of President Martelly, and he’s been demonstrating a focus on education, whether it’s visiting schools or trying to build his educational fund. Haiti has incredible challenges, but the best way to rebuild is to bring opportunities for it to rebuild itself.
Ruffled-neck dress, Gucci ($8,500). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave.. Large Twig cuff ($11,200), small Twig bangle in rose gold ($2,560) and small Twig bangle in yellow gold ($5,025), K Brunini Jewels. Sabbia, The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, 455 Grand Bay Dr.. Simplified cuff ($660) and Playing Cats bracelet ($900), By Natalie Frigo. Fish House Art Center, 4745 SE DeSoto Ave., Port Salerno
Tell us about Happy Hearts’ developing relationship with President Martelly.
We came in a few days before his inauguration and started learning about his agenda, and from what we see there is definitely a huge focus on education, with one of his goals being free education for all children in Haiti. Our focus is getting the 500,000 [children without education] to school. Martelly came to our Ecole Nouvelle Zoranje kindergarten opening. In November, our Land of Dreams: Haiti gala in New York will showcase the country, from dance to costumes, art and music. President Martelly has agreed to attend with the first lady.
When it comes to Haiti, what has been the most powerful moment for you?
We came for the first time in 2007, and we visited [impoverished Port-au Prince neighborhood] Cité Soleil, which even the UN couldn’t enter because it was very dangerous. [I saw] children without shoes, without clothes, naked, with swollen tummies, malnourished and eating cakes made out of mud.
Yes, it’s definitely overwhelming. What can people in Miami (and elsewhere) do to help the Happy Hearts Fund and Haiti?
There are a few ways: first, by supporting our Land of Dreams fundraiser in New York on November 5, which will focus on Haiti. Second, we have one of our ambassadors in Miami, the photographer Robert Curran, helping to expand our Schools Connect program internationally. It’s an opportunity for US schools and universities to open up Happy Hearts Fund clubs, which matches schools in Haiti to those in other countries.
We can’t let you go without asking about fashion—you’ve been so immersed in it. Who are some of your favorite designers today?
Tommy Hilfiger—I love the preppiness and simplicity, but with an edge. I also adore Dolce & Gabbana very much, and Balenciaga. Shoe-wise, it would be Giuseppe Zanotti, and in terms of casual wear, I love Diesel Jeans. One more: Alice Temperley, the English designer.
Every model seems to have a connection to Miami. What’s yours?
I used to work in Miami quite a bit. On one occasion I worked long hours and was so tired, and a friend of mine said, “You have to meet this photographer. He’s looking for a foundation to support.” The last thing I wanted to do was to have a meeting. But I went and there I met our future ambassador, Robert Curran. He gave a percentage from his book sales to Happy Hearts. You just never know where you’ll meet good people.