Karolina Kurkova has graced count­less cat­walks, bill­boards and mag­a­zine cov­ers. Now she’s em­bark­ing on a ca­reer as an en­tre­pre­neur and men­tor to young women, writes Madeleine Ross

Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

Karolina Kurkova has graced count­less cat­walks, bill­boards and mag­a­zine cov­ers. Now she’s em­bark­ing on a ca­reer as an en­tre­pre­neur and men­tor to young women

f Karolina Kurkova hadn’t be­come a su­per­model, she might have been a ter­ri­bly at­trac­tive ar­chae­ol­o­gist, chemist or philoso­pher. “I never thought mod­el­ling was go­ing to be my ca­reer. At the be­gin­ning it was a way for me to learn English and travel, but at school I was amaz­ing at chem­istry and very artis­tic. I had big plans to study mu­sic or phi­los­o­phy or ar­chae­ol­ogy, but you never know where life will take you and the best things in life some­times hap­pen un­ex­pect­edly. My work has been the most amaz­ing school. I’ve learned about ev­ery­thing from pho­tog­ra­phy and styling to busi­ness and mar­ket­ing.”

Raised in a small town in the Czech Repub­lic, Kurkova was “dis­cov­ered” at 15 when a friend sent her picture to a mod­el­ling agency in Prague. She graced the cover of Amer­i­can Vogue the fol­low­ing year, pro­pel­ling her to run­way star­dom. Since then, her tow­er­ing frame and strik­ing Slavic pout have ce­mented her place as one of the most suc­cess­ful and high­est paid mod­els of the mil­len­nium. Her port­fo­lio spans high fash­ion and high street brands in­clud­ing Chanel, Victoria’s Se­cret, Ver­sace, Jean Paul Gaultier, H&M, Roberto Cavalli and IWC Schaffhausen.

But it wasn’t just good looks that el­e­vated the 32-year-old mother of two to star­dom. Kurkova is known for her in­de­fati­ga­bil­ity and rig­or­ous work ethic. Mario Testino once de­scribed her X fac­tor as a com­bi­na­tion of the “pro­por­tions of her body and her face, as well as her en­ergy level.”

That much is ob­vi­ous when we meet for a cof­fee on a sunny au­tumn day in Hong Kong. In­ter­view­ing the ef­fer­ves­cent blonde is more like a chat with an ex­tro­verted BFF. Her run­way days may be over but her sched­ule is still jam-packed as she di­vides her time be­tween du­ties as mother; phi­lan­thropist (she supports Happy Arts’ tsunami relief work and food char­ity Feed­ing Amer­ica); brand am­bas­sador (she’s in Hong Kong for an event with watch­maker IWC Schaffhausen); and build­ing her own busi­nesses. “Given that I’ve been in the in­dus­try for 17 years it would be ex­cit­ing for me to be part of a com­pany not just as a face, but as a cre­ative di­rec­tor or a mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor,” she says. “I’m cur­rently look­ing at a lot of dif­fer­ent start-ups with peo­ple that I like. They’re not nec­es­sar­ily fash­ion-re­lated—one is food, one is jew­ellery. I’m open to all sorts of ideas.”

Kurkova is also plan­ning to launch her own Tedx-style dis­cus­sions on is­sues af­fect­ing girls, moth­ers and work­ing women. The idea is still in its in­fancy, but Kurkova has a strong sense of its mis­sion. “Back in the day, women used to sit in a cir­cle to­gether, they would dis­cuss things, they would help each other give birth, they would be there for each other. I like that,” she says. “I want to bring to­gether women from dif­fer­ent fields (teach­ers, Wall Street bankers, women in fash­ion) to talk about things that mat­ter be­cause, at the end of the day, I’m sure we have the same ques­tions and is­sues and we can learn from each other.”

The fo­rums would also be a chance to men­tor young girls on body im­age. “I want to make sure teenagers have good role mod­els, some­body help­ing them and lis­ten­ing to them not as a teacher or preacher, but more as a friend. I want to talk to them about how to look af­ter your skin, how to dress, how to present yourself ... I think it’s im­por­tant for young girls to un­der­stand the im­age they are putting out there.” This may seem ironic given Kurkova has spent most of her work­ing life clad in un­der­wear on the cat­walk, but it has pro­vided insight into the chal­lenges of cre­at­ing a per­sonal brand that is au­then­tic and re­spected.

When she’s not work­ing, she can be found at the gym or in the kitchen ex­per­i­ment­ing with her slow cooker. But time with her hus­band Archie Drury, and sons Tobin and Noah, is most im­por­tant to her. “Time is so valu­able, there’s not much of it in a day and there are so many things that need to be done. I’m pulled in ev­ery di­rec­tion with my kids and my work. I want to make the best de­ci­sions for my chil­dren and pro­vide ev­ery­thing I can for them. It’s de­mand­ing but it’s so re­ward­ing.”

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