No matter what you’ve seen on television, or in movies, the life of a model isn’t easy, and the modeling industry isn’t easy to break into. Not every model is a drug addict or serial actor’s arm candy. Most are young, hardworking girls who take the industry very seriously.
During New York Fashion Week, the city is packed with early-20-somethings looking for that big break or that big show to launch their careers or just pay their rent. Model Elena Kurnosova, 21, is no exception. Without an agent or a visa, Kurnosova came to New York from Moscow a few years ago, landing many big shows (even closing out Betsey Johnson's show at Fashion Week!) She tells amNewYork the real story behind New York Fashion Week.
How did you get to New York? I was modeling in Europe for Armani, Gucci, Hello Kitty, John Galliano and Valentino. Since I didn’t have any editorial, I went to Mexico to shoot for magazines. I couldn’t come to New York first for I needed to come on my own, and New York agencies won’t bring you here. I was on all the runways, and all the big editors saw me. No one in New York would bring me here. Even in Europe I went to Milan with my mom. Without a visa or good English, I started to model and test [take photos without getting paid] with some photographers. I stole my friends’ castings and got shows like that.
What shows did you do this week? Betsey Johnson, Joanna Mastroianni, Alice + Olivia, Marc & Estel, Fashion Palette, Rita Vinieris ...
What do you wear to castings? I wear shorts, a plain tank top and heels to show my legs and body. I don’t wear makeup.
Do you consider yourself a great runway model? I heard a lot of compliments that I walk good, so I feel I’m a good model.
How much money do you make per show? It depends. Around $2,000 to $5,000 a show.
How many shows do you walk in a day? ... Two to three shows a day.
How many shows a day do you walk in Europe? I wasn’t put in the show packages ... but I did nine shows this season, and a few seasons ago in Europe, seven to 11 shows.
What’s your favorite thing about New York? The city holds a lot of energy. ... New York is the place to get your career to the top.
Do you still see a lot of models do drugs? Some models do drugs, but not the working ones. I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs. I work out every single day.
What do you eat for lunch every day? A Cobb salad with shrimp and avocado and juice from Organic Avenue. The CFDA helped all the models get a discount so we’d eat healthy during the week.
What’s the worst thing that happened? The first time I came to New York, I had no friends or agency. ... It was good for [me because] I spent a lot of time alone, and I worked on myself. It’s not easy to be alone in New York and struggling.
Where do most models hang out? Lavo, 1 Oak and The Darby.
Any advice? If you want it, you have to work for it. I’ve worked so hard to get where I am today.