In the near-decade since they formed, pop group Reflex has topped the charts in Russia over and over. Small wonder: the three blonde bombshells are hard to ignore. But Zhenia, Nastia and Alena rely on more than just good looks. “Reflex is the way we live. We work all the time, and Reflex is all we have,” explains Zhenia. After a night of shows, they get up between ten and eleven, walk their pets (Zhenia has a dog, and the other two own cats), work out (yoga, naturally), perhaps give an interview or jet to a photo shoot and then perform again in the evenings. The next morning they’re off to another venue. Mixed in are private voice lessons, and Nastia is learning to spin: “I take private lessons from the top Moscow DJs.” She’s the boxer of the group, too, in case anyone wants to know which of the girls to avoid in a street fight. “I’m really getting into it,” she says, “and I have a private instructor.”
Who says, however, that blondes are, well, less intelligent than other women? The Reflex girls have also managed to find time for education. Alena has a diploma with honours in production, Nastia has taken correspondence courses at the National Linguistics University in art research, and Zhenia used to study at Moscow National University, but left because of the constant touring and entered another academy. Of course, there’s time for leisurely pursuits as well. The girls are quick to list their favourite songs. Zhenia says hers are ‘Love You’ and ‘For the First Time’. “Recently we released a new album titled ‘Blondex 126’ and one of my favourites is ‘I Will Believe’. I always cry when I sing that song.” For her part, Nastia likes ‘You Are Not Mine’ by Nikita and ‘Paramibo’ by Kvartal. Alena, by contrast, says she likes songs from Soviet cartoons.
They manage to get some shopping in, too. Zhenia confesses, “I spend a good chunk of my spare time on shopping. When I’m in a bad mood, I buy myself something and it makes me feel happy.” Adds Alena, “I’m not a shopaholic. When the season changes I buy myself something. I try to avoid brand-new fashionable things. I try to spend my money conscientiously.”
Fans Staying Loyal
Despite their longevity, the girls say the demographics of their audience have remained remarkably stable. “In general, I don’t see any difference [in the audience]. Our concerts are packed with teens and middle-aged people. It’s really due to our songs and our producer Slava Tyurin. He manages to make music that meets everyone’s tastes,” says Alena, modestly.
One thing has changed, though: Irina Nelson left the band in January 2007. Alena is philosophical about the departure: “Art is like life, things tend to change. So I don’t see Ira’s leaving as a dramatic change in our band. The main thing is that we’re still extremely popular with our fans.” When asked about tension in the nearly decade-old group, Zhenia says, “We just hate each other! We cut the high heels off each other’s shoes!” She laughs. “Honestly, we love each other very much. We are more than friends. We’re sisters. If we don’t see each other, we call each other every five minutes. We share everything we have, discuss our relationships with our lovers, and help each other.”
One issue, at least with their parents, has been their status as sex symbols and their habit of posing nude in lad magazines like Playboy. The girls don’t seem to have a problem. “We work with very good photographers who make art. They make the naked body look beautiful,” says Alena. “My parents were shocked at first, but later they got used to it, as they understand that it’s part of my job. My mother supports me, because she thinks I’m beautiful and young, and there’s no reason to hide it.” Zhenia’s father is less liberal. “He still can’t open the Playboy with my photos,” she says. “He’s too conservative and a little funny.”
There’s also the issue of lesbian posturing, which is, of course, not unusual for Russian girl groups (they have toured with t.A.T.u.). The girls of Reflex admit that much of their collective persona is invented: they say they merely follow their music videos’ scripts, and then the audience dreams up the rest.
It certainly doesn’t discourage their fans, especially the men. But their supporters can be moving too. “Once a guy from a town in the north sent me a teddy bear in the mail. I was touched, and I still keep it at my place,” says Zhenia. Others push the limits of fandom: “One fan presented me with a diary she had kept for two years, with all our recordings and performances, as well as things we’ve said in public. Everything was thoroughly annotated with dates, hours and even minutes. It like she was living our life instead of her own. She gave me the album in order to break with that old life and start a new one. I still keep it around.”
The Good Life
Whatever controversies the group encounters, it’d be hard to argue that the girls don’t live a charmed life. The perks—like long vacations in exotic locations—more than make up for the problems. Says Alena, “I like to go to Thailand, as well. Europe is an option too.” Zhenia adds, “This summer we spent in America. Nastia and I visited California first, then later went to Jamaica, where Alena joined us. We got a room in a couples-only hotel, and made all the tourists’ wives jealous. To protect ourselves (who knows what jealous women will do?) we pretended to be lesbians. We walked everywhere hugging each other. The tourists relaxed after that. But you should’ve seen their faces when Alena joined us.”
Despite their very wide travels, the girls have great things to say about Kyiv. Zhenia says, “Kyiv for me is like Paris—it’s a city for lovers. I met my ex-boyfriend here, and the memories are still dear to me.” Alena continues, “We’ve been to Kyiv a million times. We adore the city. I’m really keen on wandering around the Dnipro embankment and Khreschatyk. St. Sofia Cathedral has an amazing aura to it. I like Ukrainian food. Kyiv is a truly gorgeous city, and everyone here is very kind.”