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Individuals of all economic strata are shedding their jobs, hometowns, and lifestyle to embrace a wider experience and a more meaningful existence.

Irina Pantaeva

Irina PantaevaIrina Pantaeva, born October 31, 1967 in Ulan-Ude, Russia is a model and actress. Born into a family of artists and shaman on the banks of Lake Baikal in Siberia, she possesses a foundation representative of the unique culture she is of. She is an ethnic Buryat who started working as a model with a designer Larisa Dagdanova in 1988 in Ulan-Ude, Siberia. She participated in several fashion shows with the Larisa collection in China. In 1989 she won the first ever beauty contest in Buryatia called ″Miss Ulan-Ude″. Later that same year she went to Moscow to the audition for the film Vozvrashhenie Xodzhi Nasreddina , and began filming afterwards. Then she joined the Avant-Garde Theatre of fashion run by designer Irina Molchanova.

"My people were nomads for a millennium," Pantaeva wrote, "and in time their blood compelled me across the world."

In 1991 she took part in the first major fashion show of her life, the Pierre Cardin show in Moscow. In 1992, she moved to Paris to pursue her modeling career where she succeeded in getting an appointment with Karl Lagerfeld, that allowed her to join in his fashion show and the world of haute couture. Irina signed a contract with The Marilyn Agency. In 1994, Irina moved to New York City to further her career, and later appeared in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, as Jade as well as the filmsAs Far as My Feet Will Carry Me and bit parts in Celebrity, Zoolander and People I Know, in addition to filming a guest appearance on the television series3rd Rock From The Sun with John Lithgow. She also featured in the off-Broadway play called Jewtopia.

Irina PantaevaPantaeva walked the catwalks for renowned designers and fashion houses such as: Christian Dior, Versace, Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, Issey Miyake, John Galliano, Yves Saint Laurent, Anna Sui, Chloé and Kenzo. She also appeared in fashion campaigns for Calvin Klein, GAP, Kenzo, Missoni and Levi's Jeans. She also graced the covers of top fashion magazines: Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Elle and others. By the second half of the 1990s she was one of the favourite models of British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.

After winning a Moscow beauty contest, Irina had moved to Paris, however, it took her a long 3 years to get a US work visa which ended up seriously hindering her career. She was the first Asian model to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and she appeared in the 1997 Pirelli Calendar. In addition, Irina now designs and markets her own jewelry line called Irina in New York City. In 1998, she wrote her autobiography called Siberian Dream: A Memoir, which was published by Avon/Bard. The book has been translated into 16 languages and published in 18 countries. Along with fellow models Veronica Webb, Naomi Campbell, Waris Dirie and Kate Moss - all these supermodels have come down with the writing bug. Pantaeva, born a Buryat Eskimo in the Siberian city of Ulan Ude (population: 300,000) wrote a delightful, moving and often harrowing saga of her struggle to make it as a fashion model in the West. Irina co-produced a documentary based on her book, Siberian Dream, which recieved a CINE Golden Eagle award.

Irina PantaevaPantaeva is a published writer who has written pieces for both US and Australian Vogue Magazine, Travel and Leisure Magazine, the New York Post, Clio and El Nuevo Dia Da Moda for whom she wrote articles about filmmaking, exotic travel, food and fashion. Her interest and background with theater led to her participation in a multi-cultural collaboration of producing A Midsummer Nights Dream, directed by David Kaplan in her native city of Ulan-Ude. In addition, a special performance was staged at the National Arts Club in Manhattan for the artistic community and to celebrate this extraordinary achievement which embraced three distinct cultures. She has also appeared on Oprah Winfrey, Entertainment Tonight, CNN, Extra, Access Hollywood and VH-1 MTV among others.

As a child in the U.S.S.R., Pantaeva repeatedly rebelled against the Stalinist educational system, while struggling to maintain a strong bond with her parents, who worked in the theater and subsisted through the long Siberian winters on a diet of cabbage and carrots. Early on, it became clear to Pantaeva that she wanted more, and she soon embarked on an arduous journey. Her narration is ike a comedy of errors - from a local fashion house to Moscow's Gorky studios, a kind of Soviet Disney Company including, at one point, even meeting up with the Dalai Lama. Pantaeva finally arrived, penniless, in Paris with dreams of modeling for a famous designer and manages to catch the eye of Karl Lagerfeld, but not before having to hear most of the fashion cognoscenti deride her exotic beauty.

Irina PantaevaThat was in the early '90s, however, when thin waifs and grunge were the order of the day. By the final chapter, tastes have changed, and an ethnic chic trend has swept Pantaeva onto the runways, as she marries her soulmate in New York in the wake of the collapse of the oppressive government that drove her away. Irina was married to Latvian photographer Roland Levin and they have two children.


Siberian Dream

Irina PantaevaFashion Shows

Ready to wear - Spring/Summer 1997 {Carolina Herrera}
Haute Couture - Spring/Summer 1997 {Thierry Mugler}

Ready to wear - Autumn/Winter 1997 {Christian Dior, Ellen Tracy, Hervé Leger, Issey Miyake, Jacques Fath, John Galliano}
Haute Couture - Autumn/Winter 1997 {Christian Dior, Gianni Versace, Givenchy, Thierry Mugler}

Ready to wear - Spring/Summer 1998 {Betsey Johnson, Christian Dior, Chloé, Erreuno, Issey Miyake, John Galliano, Kenzo, Krizia, Salvatore Ferragamo, Stephen Sprouse, Vivienne Tam, Vivienne Westwood}
Haute Couture - Spring/Summer 1998 {Givenchy, Thierry Mugler}

Ready to wear - Autumn/Winter 1999 {Vivienne Westwood}

Ready to wear - Spring/Summer 2000 {NYC 2000}

Irina PantaevaFilmography

People I Know - 2002
Summerwear Showroom Receptionist
As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me - 2001
Zoolander - 2001
Normal, Ohio (TV series) - 2000
The Other Lisa (original pilot)
Celebrity - 1998
Friend of Supermodel
3rd Rock from the Sun (TV series) - 1998
36! 24! 36! Dick!: Part 1 (1998)
36! 24! 36! Dick!: Part 2 (1998)
New York Undercover (TV series) - 1998
Drop Dead Gorgeous - 1998
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation - 1997
An Eyewitness Account - 1997
Vozvrashcheniye Khodzhi Nasreddina - 1989
VH-1 Where Are They Now? (TV series documentary) - 2002
Ford Supermodels - 2002

Irina Pantaeva - Mercedes Benz Fashion Week New York City 2009


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Irina Pantaeva - Siberian Dream
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Yabanci is a book by a Dutch woman who moved from Holland to Turkey to start a new life in a Turkish village overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. A great read for those who are considering a move abroad or have lived in a different culture. Available in English as an ebook or in Dutch in both print and popular ebook formats... take a look

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