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Valentina Zelyaeva
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Valentina ZelyaevaValentina ZelyaevaValentina ZelyaevaValentina ZelyaevaValentina ZelyaevaValentina Zelyaeva

Valentina Zelyaeva was born October 11th of 1982 in a little town called Ula-Ude in Russia. Her father and mother moved there from Siberia as a young newly married couple at the age of 21. Her father was serving in a Russian army and her mother had graduated from college having dreams of becoming a teacher. When Valentina was 7, her parents moved to Moscow from Leningrad - now known as St Petersburg. Growing up she never even thought of becoming a model. She thought it was some kind of unrealistic dream, but at 16 on her way to university an agent came up to her and asked if she would like to be a model. Valentina thought he was joking and never went to the agency. About 2 years later she heard about the Elite Model Look contest while listening to a radio station. Her friends were pushing her to try her luck and she decided to give it a chance.

Valentina took one of her best friends with her and remembers a huge line around the block to enter the agency. They waited in the line for 5 hours and was chosen from among hundreds of girls. Valentina became one of the finalists in Russia, but didn’t score high enough to go to the international finals. Fortunately, one of the jury saw potential in Valentina and invited her to go to Tokyo for a couple of months. So, she went to Japan with the intention of staying for 2 months, return home and continue with her education. But, Valentina stayed in Japan for 2 years shooting for local catalogs as well as working with Japanese clients. She learned English and was making enough money to support her family and herself.

At the end of a second year in Tokyo, Valentina knew that she wanted something else. She wanted to grow as a professional model and knew that New York City was the place for her to go. It was always her dream to live in New York City, but knew that the City was very tough for newcomers. But with a great agency and excellent familial support she packed her bags and left Japan and went to New York City. First time she came to New York she fell in love with the City. New York City felt like home to her and as a new model Valentina was seeing a lot of clients every day and building a new portfolio. It was difficult to adjust to a new life, but she was determined. The big breakthrough came when she went to see Ralph Lauren for his fashion show in 2003. Valentina ended up opening the show, following up with a gorgeous campaign for Ralph Lauren. After that Valentina signed an exclusive contract and has been the face of Ralph Lauren ever since.

Currently she lives in New York City, travels the world and loves to share her experience with others. In July 2008, Valentina and her fiance revealed to family and friends that she was expecting a child to be born in February 2009. Valentina has appeared on the cover of Spanish, Chinese, Greek, and Mexican editions of Vogue Magazine. Valentina has been featured in print advertisements for Tommy Hilfiger, Coach, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren, with whom she signed a seven-year deal as well as appearing in several high-profile campaigns for the designer. In addition to her Vogue covers, she has appeared on the covers of Elle and Harper's Bazaar. Her runway credits include Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Lanvin, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Gucci and Valentino. As to the controversial issue of banning underweight models from Milan Fashion Week, Valentina said:

"I think it's discrimination. We are skinny - this is our work. There are lots of overweight people working in offices but I'm not going to say, This girl is fat, she can't work in an office".

As Valentina says:

“Value who you are. Enjoy your uniqueness and don't compare yourself with others and never put yourself down. Love is everywhere!”

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FASHION-GROUP - Valentina Zelyaeva for PF Magazine - March 2012

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