SUPERMODEL SECRETS OF A REAL WOMAN
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.