Af­ter ‘Danc­ing With the Stars,’ Ka­maliya read­ies char­ity ball


She still re­mem­bers the time when her fam­ily had no money to buy food and she had to work hard to sup­port her fam­ily.

That’s why now, singer, ac­tress and 2008 Mrs. World win­ner Ka­maliya, wife of Kyiv Post pub­lisher Mo­ham­mad Za­hoor, pays a lot of at­ten­tion to char­ity.

“I have been poor, and now I take plea­sure in help­ing other peo­ple,” says Ka­maliya, born 40 years ago in Rus­sia’s south­east­ern Chita Oblast as Natalya Sh­marenkova. She was born in a mil­i­tary fam­ily and re­calls the times when her fa­ther wasn’t paid his salary for up to eight months.

To de­liver her sup­port, in 2014 she es­tab­lished St. Ni­cholas Char­ity Night, run by her Ka­maliya Foun­da­tion. The event is held in the first part of De­cem­ber for dif­fer­ent pur­poses each time: to raise money for chil­dren of killed Ukrainian sol­diers, chil­dren with Down Syn­drome, med­i­cal equip­ment and win­ter cloth­ing for or­phans. The shows have dif­fer­ent themed mu­sic — one year, for in­stance, it was diva mu­sic.

Last year, she raised more than $18,000 that went to the Kyiv Li­ons Club, an in­ter­na­tional ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tion, that has raised and spent more than $3 mil­lion in Ukraine — mainly to help needy chil­dren and pur­chase med­i­cal equip­ment for hos­pi­tals.

This year, the event is sched­uled for Dec. 6 at the Hil­ton Kyiv, the night af­ter the Kyiv Post Tiger Con­fer­ence in the same place. The theme of the char­ity ball will be Os­car-win­ning songs. Or­ga­niz­ers plan to raise up to 50,000 eu­ros, and the money will go to pur­chase mo­bile den­tal clin­ics in Lviv Oblast for 6,000 chil­dren 15 years of age and un­der. The re­cip­i­ent is Ger­many-based Regine Sixt Chil­dren’s Aid Foun­da­tion and the project is run by Mal­teser In­ter­na­tional.

“Den­tal surg­eries are of­ten lo­cated in dis­tant cities and den­tal treat­ments are not af­ford­able for the im­pov­er­ished pop­u­la­tion. A doc­tor

ap­point­ment usu­ally only takes place in case of emer­gency,” ac­cord­ing to Mal­teser In­ter­na­tional’s ex­pla­na­tion of the project. “Due to the fact that many young peo­ple re­turn into poverty af­ter leav­ing the chil­dren’s home, their den­tal care does not im­prove and many do lose teeth in young years.”

Ka­maliya hopes her in­volve­ment will pro­mote a “cul­ture of char­ity for oth­ers to fol­low.” Un­for­tu­nately, she said, phi­lan­thropy is not al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated in Ukraine.

“The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple be­lieve that if you have money you ei­ther stole it or earned it in a very dis­hon­est way,” says the singer-ac­tress. “Some­how, they pre­fer to for­get that my hus­band pro­vides workspaces to thou­sands of peo­ple in Ukraine, in­vests in this coun­try his own money and we both give a lot for char­ity.”

With such strong sup­port from her hus­band, a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire, she is por­trayed in some me­dia as a spoiled wife who would not have a ca­reer with­out Za­hoor. The re­al­ity is that Ka­maliya broke into show busi­ness long be­fore meet­ing Za­hoor 14 years ago.

On her way to suc­cess

Be­fore get­ting mar­ried in 2003, Ka­maliya was a young, as­pir­ing singer with po­ten­tial. She had a band and used to sing at wed­dings, cor­po­rate par­ties, hosted TV shows and recorded mu­sic videos. By the age of 25, she had al­ready re­ceived numerous mu­sic awards.

Tall, blonde and gifted with an en­chant­ing voice of great range, Ka­maliya al­ways had more than her share of at­ten­tion from men. Some book­ings to sing at cor­po­rate par­ties were mo­ti­vated by men look­ing to meet her. Ka­maliya came up with a way to de­flect un­wanted in­ter­est. “I would sim­ply send all these fel­lows to my mother,” Ka­maliya says.

Her mother even be­came her man­ager and helped Ka­maliya to or­ga­nize con­certs. “It was a time when I did not rely on men and called my­self a fem­i­nist,” says Ka­maliya.

When her fu­ture hus­band stepped in, she paid no spe­cial at­ten­tion at first and re­ferred him to her mother.

Hap­pily ever af­ter

July 11, 2003: This is the day that changed the lives of Za­hoor and Ka­maliya. They met for the first time at a busi­ness party. She came with a friend of the fam­ily and Za­hoor was there to talk busi­ness with his part­ners.

Back then, he adored Sarah Bright­man, a Bri­tish singer with a strong so­prano. But af­ter meet­ing Ka­maliya, Bright­man faded to No. 2 on his list of fa­vorite singers. Ka­maliya has been his No. 1 ever since.

In 2003, Za­hoor knew noth­ing about Ukrainian mu­sic. He found out about Ka­maliya’s pop­u­lar­ity only af­ter be­ing in­tro­duced to her.

“Could you sing some­thing?” he asked. She could — and did. “It was a one-two punch,” re­calls Za­hoor. “She was both beau­ti­ful and had an amaz­ing voice.”

Ka­maliya says that Za­hoor made a great im­pres­sion, although she had no idea who he was or his suc­cess in busi­ness.

“It came to my mind that he was not a sim­ple man, but that was all I knew,” she says.

In a week, she re­ceived a call.

“Good af­ter­noon. My name is Za­hoor,” she re­mem­bers a con­fi­dent voice say­ing. “Do you re­mem­ber me? I would like to in­vite you to sing at our cor­po­rate party.”

Although Ka­maliya did re­mem­ber him well, she wor­ried that his in­ten­tions were not se­ri­ous.

“Please, talk to my man­ager,” she said, send­ing him to her mother as usual.

But the voice over the phone did not give in.

“My man­ager will talk to your man­ager,” he said. “And I will talk to you.”

And that’s how their re­la­tion­ship started.

In a week, Za­hoor in­vited Ka­maliya to sing at a cor­po­rate party. She did not know yet about Za­hoor’s pen­chant for do­ing things on a grand scale. ( He sold his steel busi­ness in Donetsk in 2008 for close to $1 bil­lion, a year be­fore he bought the Kyiv Post for $1 mil­lion from its Amer­i­can founder Jed Sun­den.)

The party turned out to be a per­for­mance at the Me­tal­lurg Arena, with a ca­pac­ity of 15,000 spec­ta­tors. Their re­la­tion­ship de­vel­oped quickly. In less than two months, they got mar­ried.

Ukrainian mu­sic scene

While her mar­riage bloomed, Ka­maliya found it harder to de­velop her singing ca­reer in Ukraine.

“My songs are listed in the top charts all over the world, peo­ple know me there, but in Ukraine at ra­dio sta­tions, I was told my mu­sic is not the type they are look­ing for. In Ukraine, I am por­trayed as the spoiled wife of a rich hus­band who does noth­ing but spends her hus­band’s money.”

As an ex­am­ple, she brings up “The Rich Also Cry” TV show aired on 1+1 TV chan­nel in 2012 which, ac­cord­ing to her, por­trayed her as a lav­ish spender but did not “show hours I spend in the record­ing stu­dio work­ing hard on my new songs and how se­ri­ous I am about my singing ca­reer.”

Ka­maliya rose to the peak of her pop­u­lar­ity world­wide by par­tic­i­pat­ing in the UK re­al­ity show “Meet the Rus­sians” where she was the lead­ing char­ac­ter. Ka­maliya was also among the first Ukrainian artists to openly sup­port equal rights for the les­bian-gay-bi­sex­ual-trans­gen­der com­mu­ni­ties.

Another piv­otal event took place when Ka­maliya took part in “Danc­ing With the Stars” in Ukraine. In­vited to par­tic­i­pate, she took note of Za­hoor’s skep­ti­cism.

“If she won, peo­ple would say I paid for that,” says Za­hoor. “So I did not see the point for her to par­tic­i­pate.”

But Ka­maliya con­vinced Za­hoor that par­tic­i­pat­ing in the show was im­por­tant to her, re­gard­less of whether she won or lost the com­pe­ti­tion.

“Danc­ing With the Stars” kicked off on Aug. 27 on 1+1 TV chan­nel. With her danc­ing part­ner, ball­room danc­ing cham­pion Dmytro Zhuk, Ka­maliya per­formed samba, pa­sodoble, rumba, con­tem­po­rary and jazz live on stage and caught the at­ten­tion of the Ukrainian au­di­ence.

“I have re­ceived so many e-mails, had such a huge sup­port,” Ka­maliya says. “I think peo­ple got to know me bet­ter as a per­son.”

Zhuk helped Ka­maliya to feel con­fi­dent on the stage. Yet the judges crit­i­cized the cou­ple. “Dmytro and I were the ones to be crit­i­cized,” she com­plained.

She also se­ri­ously in­jured a mus­cle, com­pli­cat­ing her per­for­mance and forc­ing her to dance on painkillers.

“I would split my time be­tween work­outs and vis­its to the doc­tor to se­date my pain,” she says. “It was a very tense time.”

Af­ter the show, she would watch the record­ings of her danc­ing. Ka­maliya no­tices that the ill­ness in­flu­enced the way she per­formed on stage.

“If it wasn’t for the pain, I would do much bet­ter,” she said. “I knew the moves.”

Ka­maliya left the show on Oct. 1 be­cause she and her danc­ing part­ner didn’t win enough votes from judges and the au­di­ence.

Yet these five weeks of hard train­ing paid off in greater fit­ness and strength, which she’s keep­ing up by stick­ing to a healthy diet.

Now, be­sides rais­ing their 4-yearold twin daugh­ters, Ara­bella and Mirabella, she has re­cently recorded her new al­bum called “Time­less.”

Ka­maliya’s mu­sic has changed over the years. She started her ca­reer singing techno and now sticks to dance, lyric, pop and clas­si­cal cross­over.

The happy mother and wife is do­ing what she loves — de­vel­op­ing her ta­lent, mu­sic and voice — while re­mem­ber­ing to raise money for Ukraine’s need­i­est chil­dren, just as she can­not for­get her own hum­ble ori­gins.

(Daniel Dol­go­polov)

Ka­maliya Za­hoor, wife of Kyiv Post pub­lisher Mo­ham­mad Za­hoor, talks about her ”Danc­ing with the Stars” ex­pe­ri­ence, char­ity work, ca­reer and fam­ily on Oct. 3.

(Kostyan­tyn Ch­er­nichkin)

Ka­maliya per­forms at her third an­nual St. Ni­cholas Char­ity Night in Kyiv on Dec. 12, 2016.

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