by julia ford-carther| September 22, 2014 |
Former model, beauty queen, and Parisian spa owner Julia Lemigova builds an inspiring new home base for family and business in Coconut Grove.
Russie Blanche founder Julia Lemigova with her dogs in the backyard of her “happy, hippie” Coconut Grove home.
“There’s nothing square about me,” says the statuesque Julia Lemigova, a former model and the founder of Russie Blanche skincare, when explaining why she was drawn to Miami’s “happy, hippie, hidden” Coconut Grove.
After falling in love with Miami two years ago while visiting friends, the one-time Miss USSR made the move from Paris just a year later. Now, she’s enjoying her neighborhood’s local flavor with her two daughters; partner, tennis great Martina Navratilova; four dogs (two from Paris and two “locals”—the last one adopted from the Humane Society of Miami), a cat, a tortoise, and an African Grey parrot named Coco. “It was a fast move,” says Lemigova. “[When] I came to [visit], I thought, How long am I going to be wishing that I was here? Just stop wishing and do it. It’s as simple as that.”
The move was also an opportunity for the Moscow-born Lemigova to make good on a vow over two decades old. “When I was doing Miss Universe in 1991, I didn’t speak a word of English,” she says. “Dick Clark was hosting the show, and he asked me a serious question and I couldn’t answer because I couldn’t speak English. I made a promise [to myself] that one day I’d learn the language and come back to this country with a project, with a life.”
Now fluent, Lemigova has mastered that “project” goal as well with the launch of her beauty line, Russie Blanche, which she debuted in the US this year at Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour. Today, the line is also featured at the spa at the Delano. “Growing up in Communist Russia, I remember how women struggled to be beautiful,” she explains of her inspiration. “They had no makeup, no skincare. The women still managed to look their best using traditional remedies.”
Lemigova moved to Paris at the age of 18 to pursue modeling, and in 2003, made her first foray in the beauty business, opening the high-end spa Joiya. By 2009, she had multiple locations in France and the UK, and began offering services with the beginnings of her Russie Blanche products. “I wanted to create a line which would have Russian heritage and Russian beauty secrets mixed with French technology,” she explains of the silicone- and paraben-free formulas, which include Siberian adaptogenic plants, plant-sourced stem cells, and aromatherapy oils.
Here in Miami, Lemigova is finding that this city’s health-conscious lifestyle is as good for family as it is for business. Her daughters, ages 12 and 8, have taken to activities like swimming, tennis, and bicycling, and “Martina loves [Florida],” says Lemigova. “It was a very mutual choice. You can have such a rich life here.” Neiman Marcus, Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-865-6161; Delano, 1685 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-672-2000