Anna Duritskaya: How I Became a Model

December 15, 2020

I was born in a small town Bila Tserkva, not far from Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. While studying at school, I had no idea what the modeling business was and who the models were, I was a rather modest girl who stood out with her height and thinness, and was terribly shy of it. Often my classmates moсked of my height and my slim figure, that gave me the lack of self-confidence and a lot of complexes at that time. Every year, beauty contests were held at our school, and my teacher of literature, who was the school principal, said in front of the whole class that she noticed just one girl who could represent the class and named me.

I blushed terribly. Being modest, I could not imagine that the school principal herself could select me. Because of my suspiciousness, insecurity and indecision, I could not give the answer for a long time, whether I would participate or she needed to start looking for another girl from my class. Right before the contest I finally agreed — I wanted to prove my classmates that I could still make it, and maybe even win it. And at the end that actually happened — I became the winner of this contest called “Miss School”, where I was wearing a puffy pink dress while reciting my own poetry standing on the stage.

duritskaya nemtsov

That was the first time I felt how pleasant it was to see the whole audience staring only at you, and how great it was to be in the spotlight, when everyone applauded you, and recognized you when seeing at school after that. After finishing school, I went to the university to study economics, because my mom wanted me to become an accountant, which she considered as an excellent education for the girl. During the second year at the university, I realized that it’s not what I really wanted, and decided to go into something more creative. 

Right at that time I received an invitation to participate at the contest “Miss University”. Again, I was thinking too much and had my doubts, but nevertheless I decided to participate. I didn’t win the competition that time, but the director of a known modeling agency noticed me and invited to visit their modeling school. I listened to her carefully, but because of my fears that it would be too difficult, that I was not slim enough, beautiful enough, tall enough, and still not strong in acting, I did not agree and continued my studies at the university. My mother assured me that entering the model school would draw me back from my education and this would not be serious. 

Anna Duritskaya

The director of the modeling agency called me several times and assured that my model appearance could help me to become a top model and work around the world with famous designers. They even offered me to join the modeling school for free or just come to the agency to see the inner world of modeling, but every time I started thinking about it — my fears and doubts were taking over and I didn’t dare to look into the modeling agency after that. The address of the agency was on the business card given to me at the contest, so I knew where their office was located — in the very heart of the city — Khreshchatyk Street. Pretty often I used to walk around there with my friend and, every time while passing by the agency, I raised my head up and saw the light in their windows, which meant that girls were practicing the model walk. The girls who were more confident and stronger than me. And during one of such evenings, I plucked up my courage and went on the top floor of the building to visit the agency.

“Good evening, Anna, we have been waiting for you for two years and a half and finally you came to us!” — she said. That was a well-kept stylish woman with a short fancy haircut, named Marianne, who appeared to be the director of the modeling agency. Then she asked me to stand at the wall and measured my height: “5′ 9″, not bad. Suitable for working in Europe… Now step on the scale” — she asked. Timidly, I stepped on it and saw that the arrow pointed 130 pounds. I noticed Marianne’s surprised look and her eyes wide open. “You have a gorgeous face, ideal for commercial photoshoots… but what shall we do with your weight?” She measured my hips and I saw 38,2 inches. “If you want to work as a model in Ukraine, moreover abroad, you need to lose 20 pounds and your hips should be 36 inches. With your face you have all the chances to get the best modelling contacts from world-known agencies.” 

Anna Duritskaya

Hearing the word “contracts” made me nervous, and I understood that I was very scared to fly abroad and stay there for a long time. I was explained that at first, I had to collect my portfolio here in Ukraine, thus having some extra time to gain more experience. To reach this I had to learn how to walk at a runway show, how to work with the camera, how to act, and of course to shape up. Starting from the next month, I took evening modeling classes. Everything was completely new for me: new friends, books on my head, wearing heels three hours in a row, photoshoots. I had to learn how to pose and express sadness, happiness, surprise, passion while shooting. I really enjoyed all that! I saw the camera and felt like a fish in water. As well as I had to take some nutrition classes and start practicing sports. My strict diet was something like that: fat-free cheese for breakfast, yogurt or an apple for lunch, and fat-free fish with seaweed salad for dinner. I had as much coffee as I wanted, the same with water. From morning to evening, I was taking the city subway to reach various castings with a handbag where I kept my heels, yogurt, a bottle of water and apples. I started losing weight and the more I was losing the more job offers I got.

During the fashion show, one of the models told me she got to Moscow to work at the runway show for the whole week. The Moscow agency signed a contract with her, and since that time she was often invited to work at various fashion weeks, shows, and photoshoots. This girl gave me the phone number of the manager from Moscow and mentioned she’s sure I would be approved, since my height, weight and other parameters should definitely suit the agency. I realized that model requirements were high-demanding. I had never been abroad before and I really wanted to have a look at the new country, moreover take part in the fashion week in such big city as Moscow. I was excited and looking forward to it! 

Anna Duritskaya

After coming back home, I started to measure my hips and weight — and the results pleasantly surprised when I saw 34 inches and 103 pounds. Immediately, I called the manager of the model agency in Moscow and made a deal that I would create the new snapshots and send them. After seeing my photos, they answered that I suit the agency and, on the weekend, I could head to Moscow for a runway show of one of the known Russian designers. If I pass the designer’s casting — the following day I could stay and take part in two more shows. They sent the train ticket the next day, and by Saturday morning I went to Moscow with fear of uncertainty in my eyes but joy and anticipation in my heart.

I took the train and — thanks God — I met there another model, whom I recognized by her slim body and impressive height.  We barely slept at night, as none of us had been abroad so far. In the morning, the modeling agency’s driver picked us up at the railway station. Then we joined 10 other girls sitting and waiting in a bus. We started getting to know each other, and soon I felt relieved, because their speech was full of inspiration, and many of them have been working for that agency for several years already. I have become friends with some of the girls since then. I was worrying less and less and finally I felt calm when I saw the model apartments, and there were nice and friendly girls from Russia in my room. It was not new for them to take part in the runway shows, photoshoots and castings. The next day the show began, everything was on another level, the catwalk seemed incredibly long, camera flashes were brighter, the backstage — wider, and the number of models and spectators was impressive too! 

Anna Duritskaya

I passed the casting, so the following day I took part in two more fashion shows, as promised. Moscow astonished me, as well as my adorable job, and the results of my self-improvement: I took part in the runway shows of the most popular Russian designers, model agency signed a contract with me, and that brought me the new contracts with different fashion shows, exhibitions, and photoshoots on an ongoing basis. Moscow left an imprint in my heart for the whole life together with its noise, traffic jams, skyscrapers, Red Square, beauty of the night city and its majesty.

Over time I went to Italy to model there, and I can tell you that being a model is a tough work, and to become noticeable and sought after — you have to work really hard. Models usually live in one room, so often those who get up early or come back late don’t let you have a good sleep. You have to become an early bird, because the make-up, hairstyling and rehearsals can start early and finish late. I couldn’t let myself eat pizza or pasta, and often got stressed when I heard that my modeling type “is not suitable”, after standing for hours in line for another casting. Models often work when it’s extremely cold or hot, but they have to show happiness without a single hint of tiredness on their face. 

Anna Duritskaya

The funniest story happened to me in Florence, when three models, including me, had to take part in the photoshoot of 40 wedding dresses in two days, so we were sitting in a bus cruising around the city searching for the locations, while it was around 95°F above zero. We were not allowed to enter the park on the bus, so we chose the location near the castle. Florence is an incredibly beautiful city, but for me it became memorable because I nearly lost consciousness due to a sunstroke, because we had to wear heavy wedding dresses with long veils under the scorching sun to shoot half of them per one day. These days were “hot”!

But one by one. Getting over the heat at 7 a.m., with a new hairstyle and make-up, I was ready to work. Suddenly we noticed that our driver had gone. And without the keys from his bus we would neither be able to get to the needed location nor grab our wedding dresses because they had been locked inside the bus. Luckily, the photographer and the makeup artist managed to break into the bus through the trunk, using it as the entrance. Then me and other models had to bear all those heavy dresses to the location ourselves, walking all the way on foot, while wearing the heels. After midday, our driver appeared out of the blue, telling us he had got lost somewhere in the city on the day prior to the photoshoot. So, he decided to just stay at some local pub because couldn’t find the way back, and slept there till the very afternoon, and only then finally found the route to our model apartments.

Anna Duritskaya

Anyway, working as a model is very inspiring and it gives you the opportunity to see the world, new cities and counties, the lifestyle of other people, visit world-famous places and make wonderful friends. 

During one of such travels, while relaxing on the beach in Turkey, I met a man with whom I started a romantic relationship. It was my first love, but life can be unpredictable sometimes, and unfortunately our story ended tragically — my beloved man (editor’s note: Boris Nemtsov, a known Russian liberal politician) was assassinated in the very center of Moscow in February of 2015, and I was next to him at that very moment. I experienced intense fear and incredible shock… at that moment I was afraid that someone would kill me too.

After this, I could not come to my senses for a very long time and went through a depression which lasted for several years. Perhaps, if I had not experienced such a grief, I would have continued to work in the modeling business. However, fashion is still a part of my lifestyle, and I am very grateful that the fashion world has opened its doors for me!

Anna Duritskaya