Tall, fierce and beautiful.
Ever since the mid 2000s, Eastern European models began storming the world’s most fashionable catwalks in their droves. With their relatively healthier lifestyle than the West, including fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of exercise, and organic dairy, women from this part of the world generally maintain a slimmer, almost boyish frame, perfect for the modelling world. The Soviet bloc was a cold, hard regime that bred equally tough women.
Paulina Porizkova, who hailed from what was then Czechoslovakia in the eighties, was among the first Eastern European models to grace the covers of fashion magazines and global runways. She first burst onto the scene as a relative unknown in 1984 when she landed the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition. She went on to appear in The Cars’ music video “Drive” when she was just 19, where she met and began an affair with the band’s lead singer Ric Ocasek, who was married at the time. They later married and the couple had two children. The model and actress recently posted a picture of herself celebrating her 50th birthday, looking similar to her younger self as a twenty-something year old. She captioned herself :“Florida, time off. #brian Magallones #fiftynomakeup.” We couldn’t agree more.
10. Anja Rubik
This Polish beauty with the big eyes and intense stare is a favorite among fashion designers. Although now in her 30’s, the supermodel is still in high demand. She’s perhaps best known for her work with DKNY. Anja Rubik lived in Greece, Canada and South Africa, and became a model following her graduation from the British high school in Paris. She’s the editor in chief of 25 Magazine, an edgy fashion magazine based in Milan and also has her own perfume out, “Original.” She’s just been signed as the face of Kerastase, the French hair product giant. Rubik is also married to fellow model, Serbian Sasha Knezevic. The two have done numerous campaigns together including DKNY and Gap. They married in the Spanish island of Majorca in 2011.
9. Natasha Poly
Natasha Poly celebrated her 30th birthday this year with an extravagant Gatsby-themed soiree for her and her fashion pals. It seemed fitting for the Russian beauty, who first made her modelling debut in her home city of Perm (a geographic location, not the hairstyle) upon entering a modelling contest. After going to the national final, she placed second but still caught the eye of a modelling agency who booked her to walk in her very fist catwalk show for French fashion house Ungaro. Since her breakout year in 2004, she’s been seen on the most glamorous runways. Her classic looks and steely stare are the perfect fit to sell diamonds and fur. She’s known for her walk, high cheekbones and legs and was picked by Tom Ford to become the face of Gucci in 2005.
8. Magdalena Frackowiak
With her square face, high cheekbones and round eyes, Polish stunner Magdalena Frackowiak knows how to work the camera. The brown eyed brunette can most recently be seen on the web shutting down a sexist reporter backstage at the Victoria’s Secret show for asking her a stupid question about eating after the show. She told the reporter to ask a smarter question after which the dumbfounded reporter became flustered and she waved her hands as if to say: “I’m done with you. Get away from me.” This model takes no prisoners. Besides VS, Frackowiak is a favorite with the German prince of fashion himself, Karl Lagerfeld, who shows collections for Chanel, Fendi and his own eponymous label. Magdalena also has her own jewelry line, featuring simplistic but quality, one-of-a-kind artisan designs from her native Poland.
7. Anne V
She seems like the archetypal California surfer girl: tall, blonde and with cute freckles. But don’t let her American features fool you. The multi-year-consecutive Sports Illustrated model actually hails from Russia. Anne V is perhaps best known as appearing in Maroon 5’s “Misery” video, where she’s seen sharing passionate embraces and teasing the band’s model-loving front man and former boyfriend, Adam Levine. The freckled model recently gave birth to baby Alaska, the gender of the baby never made public since its birth this summer. Known for her smile and upbeat personality, she first started modelling in her St. Petersburg and landed a contract for Chanel’s Chance perfume at 16.
6. Barbara Palvin
This Hungarian model has been the subject of a teen pop backlash for her supposed hook up with Justin Bieber, an accusation she vehemently denies. According to Palvin herself, it all started when Selena Gomez re-Tweeted a picture of her, Bieber and Lil Twist hanging out. It didn’t help matters when she and Bieber were seen at various events together including her Victoria’s Secret show and in Cannes on a yacht. Still, the soccer and singing-loving, dark-haired, blue-eyed girl is maintaining their friendship status. She made her acting debut in 2014’s Hercules, playing Antimache, the Queen of Mycenae, wife of Eurystheus, who made Hercules’ life hell.
5. Karmen Pedaru
Born in Estonia, this blonde, long-legged beauty was a serious athlete before taking up modelling full-time. She even played in her native country’s Under 19s National League as goalkeeper. She’s perhaps best known as the glamorous, jet-set model in Michael Kors’ television commercial featuring Duran Duran’s Eighties hit “Girls on Film.” She’s also worked for Victoria’s Secret, Gucci, Givenchy, H&M, among dozens of other labels. Pedaru most recently married REM Creative Agency co-founder, the Italian Riccardo Ruini. At their wedding, despite rumors of a traditional dress, Pedaru opted for a crisp white suit and fur coat, leaving fashion watchers salivating for more.
4. Carmen Kass
With her delicate features, including slim lips, this Estonian model turned heads with a controversial ad by Gucci featuring her pubic hair shaved and shaped into the Italian brand’s “G” logo. The brand’s then Creative Director Tom Ford, came up with the concept which received both praise and criticism. She was among the first of the wave of Eastern European models and is known for her less glamorous hobby of chess in her off-time. Kass does have a head for business, running her own modelling agency: Baltic Models and also has an interest in acting, having attended the Lee Strasburg acting school. She’s best known for her fierce strut on the catwalk, which caught the eye of former flame and model-lover Leonardo DiCaprio.
3. Karolina Kurkova
This Czech-born beauty is known for her incredibly long legs but her head is all business. A favorite of American Vogue’s Anna Wintour, Karolina Kurkova was teased for her height when she was younger but after a friend encouraged her to go into the world of modelling, Kurkova took that advice. She moved to New York City at 17 and quickly rose to the top of the fashion world. She was known primarily as the model with the perfect proportions, according to famed photographer Mario Testino, and Victoria’s Secret came calling. Kurkova’s appeared on various modelling shows including Naomi Campbell’s The Face and Germany’s Next Top Model.
2. Natalia Vodianova
From rags to riches, Natalia Vodianova’s life is the stuff that dreams are made of. She grew up in abject poverty in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, selling fruit at a stand for her single-parent mother, when Natalia was discovered. She moved to Paris at 17 and since then her ascent into the highest levels of society and fashion has given her the name “Supernova.” Known for her tireless philanthropic work for her Naked Heart foundation, which performs a variety of tasks such as building playgrounds for children, to helping orphanages and children’s hospitals. Famous friends Karlie Kloss, Stella McCartney and Nick Jonas often lend a hand to the charity. The Calvin Klein model has four children herself and has often said she grew up fast because of her childhood and her mother giving birth to her sister who has autism.
1. Irina Shayk
With her tanned skinned and dark hair, many mistook this model for one of the 2000’s Brazilian brigade but Irina Shayk hailed from much further east. This Russian-born beauty has seemingly captured the heart of one of Hollywood’s biggest heartthrobs and serial dater, Bradley Cooper. The blue-eyed, brunette with the pillow lips first caught the public’s attention when she first started dating one of the world’s best and richest soccer players, Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal. She became the face of Intimissimi lingerie and landed the cover of the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition in 2011, the first Russian model ever to do so.