The most important lady in the country is also the one who’s come the furthest over the past year. While she started out 2007 wandering in the political wilderness, everyone knew she would at some point find her way back to the forefront. However, her chance came much sooner than most people expected, aided greatly by her arch enemy Viktor Yanukovych who, secure in his self aggrandisement, allegedly started buying off lawmakers in an attempt to overrule the president’s veto. The president, for the first time in his presidency, showed some backbone and dissolved parliament, leaving the door open for the golden-haired goddess to make her way back to the top. Which she did with gusto. To celebrate, she even did away with that hairdo that looks like if it slipped she could hang herself, and let her hair down!
For a while there it looked as if this busty lady might not even get to represent Ukraine due to the controversial lyrics in her song, but the toe-tapping quality proved irresistible and Verka went to the Eurovision finals in Helsinki with probably the most Eurovision song ever written. The hopes of the country resting on her shoulders, she put on a first-class performance, with lots of countries awarding her top marks, apart from Russia who remained unconvinced by her claims that the lyrics were Mongolian for creamed butter, and not ‘Russia goodbye’. In the end, however, Balkan block voting got in the way of a fair fight yet again, and she was pushed into second place by a song from Serbia that everyone has already forgotten. Sad to say, with the finals now being held in Belgrade, the phenomenon is only likely to get worse. Ani Lorak – good luck!
Bogatyrova, the Party of Regions player (she’s Number Two on their party list) who’s currently the other big female figure in local politics, had a pretty good year. First of all Yushchenko named her head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, a surprising gesture across party lines that was interpreted as a move by which Yushchenko could counterbalance Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s influence in the government. (Talk to political insiders and they’ll tell you that there’s no one in the anti-Orange opposition whom Yushchenko hates quite as much as he hates Yulia.) Bogatyrova also became even more prominent as the public face of Regions, a more presentable televised alternative to the jowly Soviet-looking Yanukovych who is able to dilute her steely presence with the occasional bit of matronly warmth. Her newly surgically-lifted face will help her maintain her high media profile in this new year.
Sometimes Oksana Mas’ art strikes us as a bit derivative, incorporating fashionable art movements of recent decades, from pieces that recall Pop Art to others that gesture toward Julian Schnabel and Jean-Michel Basquiat and other New York artists of the 1980s, to yet others that channel the New British artists of the 1990s. Mas, we think, repackages these trends for people prepared to pay what she demands. But then at other times her big, bright canvases blow us away – as they did at last fall’s Kyiv Art Fair in the Ukrainian House, where Mas’ art stood out from the loads of Andriivsky Uzviz street-artist-style kitsch like a sapphire in a bowl of dirt. Not that the Odessan artist shows only locally: she’s one of the contemporary Ukrainian artists who has achieved a worldwide presence, showing in Maastricht, Moscow, Miami Beach, Madrid, and some cities that don’t start with ‘M.’
Sasha Nikolaenko, the socialite and former Miss Ukraine who runs the Miss Universe-Kyiv beauty contest here, battled her way into our collection of top women by marrying a 72-year-old American chap last year - who just happens to be a billionaire perennially on the Forbes magazine list of the world’s richest people. No fear of Sasha spending her old age counting the kopecks of her Ukrainian pension and flashing her passport to get free marshrutka rides. Nikolaenko also seems last year to have flown off to Paris on the public chit with disgraced former Transport Minister Mykola Rudkovky, who’s now on trial for corruption (Nikolaenko says she was at a party that day). As for that wedding to Kansas supertycoon Phil Ruffin, which took place at a Palm Beach mansion belonging to Donald Trump, Celine Dion and Justin Timberlake were on hand. Cheers, Sasha!
Olya Kurylenko certainly has done well for herself. A native of Berdyansk, on the Azov Sea, the then-adolescent Kurylenko was spotted by a scout on the Moscow subway and handed a modeling contract. Goodbye Berdyansk, hello Paris, New York, London, and Milan. Her A-list modeling career led to roles in movies like ‘Hitman’, ‘L’annulaire,’ and ‘Paris, I Love You’, in which she plays a vampire who chews on and seduces Elijah Wood. Last year the multilingual 28-year-old, who now lives in France, was chosen to be the new Bond Girl in the upcoming James Bond move, ‘The Quantum of Solace’. This arguably makes her the most glamourous and highprofile Ukrainian woman in history (apologies to Lesya Ukrainka, Roksolana, and Ani Lorak). Kurylenko is proof once again that Ukrainian girls are not only extremely beautiful, but good at lots of things as well.
Poustovit has been a leading Ukrainian designer for years, and now she’s making the jump to being a strong brand in the world fashion industry. Her collections usually open Ukrainian Fashion Week because the organisers of the event can be sure that whatever she comes up with will be good. Her NB Poustovit brand started in 1998 (in cooperation with Nota Bene, a big Ukrainian company that imports fabrics) and since then she’s created sleek new collections that are ideal for life in the big city. The clothes are urban, eclectic, individual, comfortable, and radiant with positive energy. Liliya will dress her models in light feminine dresses and sporty canvas shoes, for example, the better to get across the idea of casual city style. Starting in the late nineties Poustovit has been showing her collections during the pret-a-porter weeks in Paris and Milan. She’s proved that Ukrainian clothes can sell not only in Kyiv but in Bologna, Zurich, Moscow, and London.
Last year this veteran of the Ukrainian contemporary literature scene was in top form after a couple years of silence. She was all over TV, commenting on literature and giving her tart, intelligent opinion on political and social events, and spring of 2007 saw her publish her massive book about Lesya Ukrainka, ‘Notre Dame d’Ukraine: Ukraine in Conflicting Mythologies. A big launch event at the Teachers House marked the book’s publication. Meanwhile, her bestselling 1996 novel ‘Field Work in Ukrainian Sex’, which is already canonical in Ukrainian universities, was being staged at the Molodoy Theatre, to sold-out houses. She remained one of this country’s foremost and necessary public intellectuals, and one who’s increasingly making her influence felt abroad.
Last year saw Viktor Pinchuk’s Interpipe corporation restructure and spin off a new company, EastOne, the deputy chief of which became Yulia Chebotaryova, 42. The position wasn’t granted by chance. Since 1993 Chebotaryova had headed Interpipe’s financial department. A geological engineer by education and a member of former President Kuchma’s circle, she was the one who, among other things, reformed the financial system at the Nikopol Ferro-Alloy plant. Her landing a top position at EastOne, a consulting company, represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in the resolutely male business world in the last year. The mother of a 19- year-old son, Yulia manages to combine business and motherhood perfectly, and we wish her luck in her new endeavor.
After more then two years of non-stop work as a society journalist covering parties here in Kyiv and abroad on the Tonis channel and then on First National, Katya Osadcha has earned a reputation as a core component of the social scene across the whole country. ‘Social Life with Katya Osadcha’ has watched its rating rise since it went on the air. Today people are falling over each other to invite her to events, provide her with designer clothes, and put her on the covers of magazines. Forget the silly hat – she’s doing a great job reporting on the fun and foibles of the social scene and she’s not afraid to throw provocative questions at local celebrities or chat it up with Giorgio Armani or Victoria Beckham. After she changed channels and the format of her program last March, Katya became more widely known outside of Ukraine. Word has it, by the way, that in real life Katya, mother of a small son, doesn’t like hats at all.
“Liking your life is good. If you’re not excited about your life, it’s also good. Why? Because the most important thing is not to be impatient about your life, as that can make you blind to what is the most important thing. And what is that? To love and be loved,” Larysa Denysenko once wrote. And indeed, everything that this lawyer-turned-crime-writer has done seems charged with passion toward life, whether it’s turning out another detective novel or hosting a TV programme. Since winning the Crowning Word writing competition in 2002 she’s been prolific, cranking out five novels in the last three years. Last year her ‘Dances in Masks’ won the Harmony of Words award and made the BBC’s Book of the Year short list.
Participating in the second season of the popular TV show ‘Dancing with the Stars’ didn’t bring this blonde singer victory, but it did hand her a lucky ticket in her private life. Together with her partner, 22-year-old Dmitriy Dikusar, she spent a wonderful week in Paris, and soon after that they announced their engagement. The couple had a wonderful wedding in Rio de Janeiro, following local traditions. They seem to be happy, and they’re expecting a baby. They’ve performed concert tours in 21 Ukrainian cities and are preparing to release an album called ‘We’ll Be Together’. Irina seems to look younger and happier with time, and in addition to her other accomplishments she’s got to be the established local pop star with the youngest husband.
Here’s a woman artist who’s all about provocation and making some noise in whatever environment she’s in. What’s she all about? Communicating on a global scale, coming up with funny experimental Internet media projects, and continuing to crank out skillful selfportraits. Shubina photographs herself in a variety of poses and contexts: standing up or lying down, alone or with a friend, overdressed or underdressed, straight-up or with surreal accoutrements. Then she uses the photographs as source images from which to create her paintings. Her portraits are always different but always memorable, and they jump right off the canvas. Shubina loves to play with colours and is besotted by glamour. Usually she’s laughing at the high-glitz lifestyle of Kyiv, but at the same time she takes part in it, usually in the company of her boyfriend Ilya Chichkan. Masha’s narcissi paintings have sold well here in Ukraine, but at the same time she wields a lot of influence in Moscow and she’s had group and personal shows in London, Berlin, and some other art capitals.