Karolina KURKOVA


Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Front Page -

Karolína Kurková’s jour­ney from awk­ward teen to fash­ion star. Styled by Ken­neth Goh. Pho­tographed by Gan.

Karolína Kurková waltzed into the restau­rant (Morsels in Lit­tle In­dia, Sin­ga­pore) with the grace of a dancer. It was right af­ter her fash­ion shoot with

BAZAAR, and we were ac­tu­ally late – 30 min­utes af­ter the restau­rant had an­nounced the fi­nal call for or­ders. But of course, not many can re­sist Kurková’s nat­u­ral charm, and be­fore you knew it she was pre­sented with a rain­bow of tan­ta­lis­ing dishes. She smiled warmly as each one was placed be­fore her, apol­o­gis­ing pro­fusely to the host and singing the praises of each sump­tu­ous cre­ation.

“The food here is so fresh and sim­ple but so tasty!” she ex­claimed be­tween bites of the restau­rant’s sig­na­ture squid-ink risotto. Sud­denly aware of all eyes at the ta­ble on her, she paused. “Sorry, but I can fin­ish this on my own. Can we or­der more?” Be­fore any­one could nod, she scanned the menu. “I want to fig­ure out what they use in the dish so I can try to repli­cate it at home,” shared the mother. “I love the en­tire process of cook­ing. Or­gan­is­ing my kitchen cab­i­nets, look­ing at recipes, shop­ping for in­gre­di­ents, and prep­ping the food ... I want to make de­li­cious, healthy meals for my fam­ily.”

Kurková’s hobby may seem like an un­con­ven­tional choice for a fig­ure-con­scious supermodel. Then again the Czech bomb­shell has never been or­di­nary. Burst­ing onto the scene at 14, she caught the at­ten­tion of in­dus­try greats with her stat­uesque frame, lus­trous blond hair, and hyp­notic gaze. Fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher Mario Testino once said of her, “The pro­por­tions of her body and her face, as well as her en­ergy level, make her a model who could fit al­most into any mo­ment.” Marc Ja­cobs de­scribed her look as an­gelic, with a dark side: “She’s sweet and fun but looks like she could be an evil be­witch­ing child.”

In re­al­ity, the “child” is mother to Tobin Jack Drury, who turns five in Oc­to­ber. Kurková was only 24 when she and her ac­tor/pro­ducer hus­band Archie Drury dis­cov­ered she was preg­nant. Nev­er­the­less, she fully em­braced the un­ex­pected bless­ing. “When I found out I was preg­nant, I thought, ‘Oh my God! Is this a good time? Am I ready for this?’” she re­called. “You go through all th­ese thoughts be­cause it’s some­thing dif­fer­ent and new. It’s never the right time. Yet, it felt right to me.” Most likely be­cause by then, Kurková was al­ready a vet­eran in the mod­el­ling world with 10 years of ex­pe­ri­ence, and was con­fi­dent she could have it all – ca­reer, mar­riage, and chil­dren. “It’s just like be­ing happy,” she mused. “It takes ef­fort to make it work. Noth­ing ever stays per­fect. You have to con­stantly com­pro­mise and sac­ri­fice. You learn when to give or let go. It’s the con­stant dance of life.”

She may make it sound pretty easy, but if there’s any­one who un­der­stands the strug­gle to suc­ceed, it’s Kurková. Grow­ing up in Decin, a small town of 50,000 in the Czech Repub­lic, with cruel taunts about her lanky frame, long legs, and huge smile was enough to make the teenage Kurková self-con­scious about her ap­pear­ance. She be­lieved she was just a “tall, skinny nerd”, and de­spite hav­ing walked the run­way at Vera Wang, Louis Vuit­ton, Miu Miu, and Valentino, even open­ing the show at Emanuel Un­garo and Hel­mut Lang, it was years be­fore she fi­nally got over her low self-es­teem. She even told her­self to never break into a smile in front of the cam­era as she be­lieved her teeth were too big and un­flat­ter­ing.

It wasn’t un­til her first Amer­i­can fash­ion mag­a­zine spread with pho­tog­ra­pher Steven Meisel that she was made aware of her nat­u­ral beauty. “He said to me, ‘Open your mouth and smile! You have a beau­ti­ful smile, don’t you know?’ That was life chang­ing.”

It was this pow­er­ful com­bi­na­tion of knowl­edge, ex­pe­ri­ence, and self-re­al­i­sa­tion that she wanted to pass on to as­pir­ing mod­els when she agreed to join Naomi Camp­bell and Coco Rocha on re­al­ity TV se­ries The Face. “It was about do­ing my part,” re­vealed the men­tor and coach. “I’ve been work­ing for 15 years now and have a trained eye for a lot of things – styling, make-up, hair, light­ing, and even art di­rec­tion. There’s so much I can share.” And share she did, as proven by first sea­son win­ner Devyn Ab­dul­lah of Team Karolína. More re­cently, Kurková brought her light and ef­fer­ves­cence to BAZAAR. Af­ter con­sult­ing Ken­neth Goh, cre­ative di­rec­tor for fash­ion and beauty, on the per­sona he wanted, she brought out her lap­top and played dee­jay to get her­self into the role. To the beats of Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, Lana Del Rey, Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, The XX, Kings of Con­ve­nience, and Solange Knowles, Kurková teased pho­tog­ra­pher Gan with one sex­u­ally charged shot af­ter another. Though she did slip into her trade­mark play­ful­ness be­tween frames – mak­ing faces, danc­ing, and singing – not once did she com­pro­mise on her pro­fes­sion­al­ism. “When I com­mit my­self to things, I re­ally care about what I do; I put all my en­ergy into it,” she said later over din­ner. “I chan­nel ev­ery­thing I have into my work. Peo­ple are count­ing on me to de­liver, so I have to bring it. I’m con­stantly in front. I’m a front per­son.”

She does, how­ever, ad­mit that grow­ing older scares her. “I feel like I’ve so much to do be­fore I turn 30 [this month]. But I try not to get too caught up with age be­cause it is just a num­ber.” In­stead, Kurková chooses to fo­cus on what’s more im­por­tant. “Many women are chal­leng­ing fem­i­nine stereo­types and that’s very in­spir­ing. I didn’t want to get mar­ried so young be­cause I didn’t want to be owned by some­body,” she re­vealed. “There’s a free­dom and light­ness to life but things change, and we should be open to change be­cause life is never that straight­for­ward. My hus­band of­fers me that free­dom and light­ness, and that al­tered my pre­vi­ous mind­set about mar­riage.”

Af­ter dessert – oh yes, this model en­joys the sweet life, too – Kurková bade us farewell, and as she left she sang un­der her breath the im­mor­tal words of Queen: “We are the cham­pi­ons, my friends, and we’ll keep on fight­ing till the end … ” No doubt, she will.

“Noth­ing ever stays per­fect ... You learn when to give or let go. It’s the con­stant dance of life.” – Karolína Kurková

Tweed dress; em­bel­lished metal and chain ban­gles; and leather booties, all from Chanel. OP­PO­SITE PAGE: Pearl ear­rings; multi-strand pearl neck­lace; and lace and tweed shorts, all from Chanel.

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