saint laurent star valery kaufman’s best beauty advice is to be yourself
Valery Kaufman is a chameleon. Since her first turn at Fashion Week four seasons ago, the Russian stunner has used her passion for acting to transform herself both on and off the runway.
One minute, she's marching down the "Boulevard Chanel" with a picket sign in hand, fired up for Karl's feminist revolution. The next, she's channelling a dark and brooding Jane Birkin or Penelope Tree for Hedi Slimane's Saint Laurent autumn/winter 14 campaign. But through it all, she's found the most success by staying true to herself. i-D caught up with Valery to talk growing up in Moscow, working with Hedi, and why being yourself is always the best look.
Can you tell us about growing up in Russia?
Growing up in Russia was amazing. I love my city, it's the place to be. I love the people, I love the mentality. It's really evolving. Right now, it's kind of a new chapter for Moscow because we're building in this new architectural style where the buildings are really high towers everywhere. It used to be different, it used to be kind of like a village. The buildings used to be small and the same pattern, but now there are a lot more business centers and offices. Still, historically and culturally, it's so evolved. It was an amazing place to grow up!
How did you get into modelling?
I always knew I'd be doing this. My sister and I used to do a lot of beauty contests during our childhood. Since I was 9, I've been dancing like crazy. I didn't know how it was going to happen, but I always knew I would be doing acting or modelling. I wasn't scouted, but I sent my pictures to different agencies. First, Ford contacted me so I came to New York, but then I went around to different agencies and I chose Marilyn before moving to The Society, where I'm represented now, so that's how it all started. But after only one week I started doing Fashion Week! That was four seasons ago. It's crazy, you just get into it. There's fittings and castings every day, but then when it slows down, the next thing you feel like nothing is happening. You almost want to keep on going because you're so used to it.
What was it like working with Hedi Slimane?
It was amazing. For me, he's such an inspiring and creative person. He has a massive influence on fashion; he chose an attitude, he chose the style, and he sticks to it. He's totally inspired this grungy silhouette. He wants to send a message: that fashion has to communicate with the audience. For me, it goes beyond fashion. It's deeper.
Who are some of your other favorite designers or ones you'd love to work with in the future?
Tom Ford, for sure! I love his clothes, I think they're just perfect. He really speaks to women. The silhouette, the texture, the material, everything just resonates. I love Frida Giannini as well; she's amazing and so feminine. I love her clothes as well, they make women look so beautiful. Valentino as well, it's really couture-like, princess. Dior as well, he's amazing, he has such clean lines. I've been blessed to work with amazing people and I feel really lucky.
We've heard you're a pretty big Michael Jackson fan! What's your favorite MJ track?
I grew up listening to Michael Jackson and Bob Marley. I think they're idols, they're both kings of music! My favorite tracks are "Billie Jean," of course, "Bad," "Thriller," I used to dance "Thriller," everything! This is It is my favorite album, it was one of his last.
How do you spend your free time?
I love art, I visit a lot of galleries. I love pop art, Andy Warhol especially, Keith Haring. I also think Damien Hirst is amazing, especially those butterfly pieces! I love his style. I also take acting classes at the New York Film Academy. I'm planning to enroll at NYU next season for theater, so we'll see how it goes. It's a big passion of mine.
Who are your friends in the industry?
I'm tight with a lot of girls, especially Nastya Sten, Kate Grigorieva, ha, I'll start naming all Russian girls! Sam Rollinson is amazing and Natalie Westling is so beautiful and great. A lot of girls, everybody!
What's the most challenging aspect of your job?
Just being yourself can be challenging. Everything is constantly changing, so it's important to remember to be yourself through ups and downs because it's always gonna come back to you. Always stay to your truest self.
What's the most beautiful thing about New York?
Everyone is so different, so free, and provocative and challenging. Everyone's doing their thing and doesn't care about what anyone else says. So I think New York is really risky and still brave.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I think I'm going to continue in modelling, but I want to further evolve some more hobbies so I can do different things. I just want to keep on going and keep on trying new things, because I don't really know who I am right now, you know? At this age, it's really hard to decide who you want to be, it's always uncertain. But I like this kind of mystery as well.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Kathy Lo