Because Ksenia will not answer unknown numbers, I had to go through her husband Ihor to arrange the interview with his wife. Being in Moscow at the time as guests on the television show, ‘Minute of Glory’, he told me that anything we decided to print would ultimately have to first go through him. I guess being in the spotlight changes people, regardless of how long the light’s been shining - it has in fact taken him very little time to get used to it. That said, I did get the interview and having done so, I have learned that Ksenia Simonova truly is the exceptionally talented, and remarkably kind girl that everyone says she is.
Ksenia Simonova and her husband Ihor Paskar along with their two-year old toddler Dima, live in the town of Evpatoria, Crimea. Modelling since the age of five, Ksenia has since hung up that hat, having graduated from the department of medico-psychology. She has also been in the publishing business finding herself in the seat of Editor-in-Chief with one of their local magazines. Unfortunately, ‘Chocolate’ went bust due to the financial situation that remains vague at best and instead, rather than being the decision-maker about the content of her magazine, Ksenia is being haunted constantly with calls from editors of glossy mags wanting her to pose naked for their cameras. “I’m not interested,” she says plainly. “Although I did agree to pose for Marie Claire, but they are different. My own magazine was different too; designed for people with intelligence and integrity. We didn’t write about celebs, show business or scandal. Instead we wrote about dukes, knights, renowned immigrants. Perhaps that was the reason the idea didn’t work and the magazine went under,” says Ksenia telling me a little about her professional background.
Her husband Ihor, educated in theatrical direction and law oddly enough, is also the owner of one of Crimea’s art galleries called Private Collection. He met Ksenia four years ago when he was out looking for models for an upcoming art project. Rather than simply stand and look beautiful, however, Ksenia, an artist herself, signed up for the latter, displaying her talent for manipulating sand into art during one of Ihor’s exhibitions. “Ihor knows many artists, each one of them thinking they could easily work with the animation of sand; but it can be very difficult and they weren’t able to find the right balance. I seemed to be the one to get it right,” she tells me as she remembers how this all started.
When Ksenia learned she was pregnant with Dima, however, the sand idea got pushed into a small oblivion for a while. But it didn’t take long to bring it back as with the fall of her magazine, she had more time on her hands and so decided to give it another shot. “Because my daytime was busy spent running after a toddler, the evenings were my time and that’s when I worked on my art. At some point, Ihor suggested that I take part in the competition and after thinking about it, I agreed for two reasons: The first was that I simply wanted to introduce the art of sand animation to a larger audience. And the second and more important reason had to do with a little girl in our community who is just a year-and-a-half old and in a coma. Little Nika has staphylococcus in her brain. I felt the need to help her,” continues the country’s newest sensation.
A Polished Performance
“To get myself ready, I lived and breathed the seashore for three months. I had to feel, to talk with and work with the sand.” And it paid off because her performance received the largest amount of audience support in the history of the show. It also made people cry.
“I presented several ‘sand shows’ before the show but it was the board that selected the one on World War II. I was rather worried that it might not be successful with the viewers because I thought it might play with their emotions too much,” Ksenia says about the worries she had before the show.If you’ve never seen it, make sure you take a look at it on YouTube – xensand. It is an absolutely amazing and incredibly touching account of a love story during the Second World War using a box of sand, some light and eight minutes.
As the show proved, the board was spot on in choosing which story to portray as even the jury’s hard-nosed Ihor Kondratyuk revealed his emotions that night, saying how he felt he had just gone through the whole tragic history himself.
In the beginning, Ksenia had no optimistic opinion about the show’s objectivity; thinking that there was no way the ‘real winner’ would in fact win the contest. “I was probably the most suspicious there, going on about how everything in Ukraine is so corrupt. But it was to my own surprise that in fact, I won!” When she thinks back on it, the young talent says actually, “The contest was very bright and professional. We even had fashion designers select the dresses we were to wear. I happened to wear one by Lilia Litkovskaya on the night.”
Grace & Nika
If she has a complaint at all about how things worked out, the only thing Ksenia says she would have liked to have had happened was a public announcement with regard to the charitable reasons that made her enter the competition in the first place. She was refused this due to the “different format” of this particular show.
The lucky winner has however received her prize saying, “The STB TV channel presented me with 1 million, 2 hundred thousand hryvnia, which, because of taxation, I received 1 million, as promised.”
The idea had been to help little Nika Fesenko; a little girl who is very cute, all plump and rosy. The only thing that’s wrong with her, as far as any passersby would be able to tell, is that she has a tube through her nose. But that’s not all that’s wrong with her because at the moment, she is living at the Kyiv Okmadit Children’s Hospital where Ksenia and her husband are trying to help. “The problem is,” Ksenia says, “the money I won is not enough to get her operated on in Italy where they would most definitely be able to help her. Here, the doctors just pass her back and forth and want to get her out.”
This isn’t the only good deed the sand-shifter is busy with these days. Half of the money she won has also been allotted to the Live Little Sun charity she and Ihor have put together advocating directions pregnant women can take other than having abortions.
The rest has been spent on personal items like a professional camera so that “I can take photos of sand and then perhaps showcase them along with my paintings in an art exhibition. That’s something I’ve always dreamed about,” says an excited Ksenia.
There have been a few problems, however, and running into a little real estate debt since the crisis, the family was forced to hand over their old apartment, so Ksenia has also put the money toward a two-room apartment in her home town of Evpatoria. She says she could have easily bought an apartment in Kyiv but asks, “why do people think that everybody wants to live in Kyiv? To wake up at 5 o’clock and go to work on the metro? Why would I want that? People who live in Kyiv work hard all year long to save their money so they can come to our provincial Crimea. I have the luxury of doing that all the time.”
Being the talk of all the Post Soviet countries, Simonova (unlike her husband perhaps) simply doesn’t have time to be star struck. She’s always busy with photo sessions, interviews and TV shows. About her new status she says, “Oleksandr Rybak was the last celebrity whose autograph I was able to get. But today, I understand that there’s only a very fine line between those who are celebrities and the general public. It’s only ever, about opportunity.”