We had been going back and forth for a few days now trying to set up this interview. A combination of anxiety and being under the weather had postponed the first initial set-ups but eventually on a muggy night in L.A., Polina Sitnova and I connected through FaceTime.
Her noggin popped up on the screen, she was completely in her comfort zone. No make-up, hair in a bun, and plopped up on her bed. She smiled, a little nervous, and gave a friendly wave. I had already done some quick research on her background through her social media — model, artist, vegan (boo), et cetera et cetera. The one tidbit that stuck out and gave me the best starting point for our interview was her Russian roots.
My memories of Russia are mostly bad she said. Oops. Maybe shouldn’t have brought that up. I loved playing in the snow though, but it was just too cold and I don’t really remember having much fun living there. Despite Russia’s less than ideal memories, Sitnova’s childhood was a happy one and she credits her mom for being her primary source of zen and inspiration.
She’s strongest person I know, she said. She had me when she was twenty and raised me completely on her own after everyone she knew tried to force her to get an abortion. Her mom had been through a lot of traumatic events. Russia was, as Polina put it simply, just not a safe place and her mom dealt with a lot of loss. [She] had a dream of getting me to America and taking me to Disneyland while everyone doubted her.
Her mom would take her on trips to Moscow and through Europe despite having no car and little money. Sitnova said she admired her mom’s sense of adventure and was encouraged to be the same. At night, her mom would sing Russian lullabies to put her to sleep. I really love everything about my childhood because it taught me so much and molded me into who I am today.
At age six they moved to Norway and a year after that she was in the Houston, Texas where she experienced her first culture shock. In a rather embarrassed manner, she admitted that in Russia she never once saw a black person. I was taken back when I saw a black person for the first time. She started to blush. This is so embarrassing, but when I saw him, I actually called him the n-word. Thank television and movies for that one and the brutal innocence of adolescence.
By the time middle school had rolled around Polina had settled in Clayton, Missouri. The constant movement had made it difficult to form close friendships. I was always the new kid and really shy. Basically I was a loner growing up, she said. The solace would ultimately help Polina mature earlier than her peers and that growth would lay the foundation for strong friendships. My best friend from middle school, we can go a long time without talking but once we do, it’s as if we never missed a beat. Their friendship is confident and secure she would add.
High school is when Sitnova began to look towards the arts and pursuing that as a career. I wanted to be an actress but I can’t really act. I wanted to be a singer too but, I can’t sing either. She looked to the next closest thing and joined, as she puts it, a janky modeling school in St. Louis. It was there she began to consider modeling as a career opportunity. It still required some sense of acting to pull off a successful shoot, she said.
At one point, she did get a normal job at a Ruby Tuesday but the long hours, low-pay, and rude customers made that endeavor last but a quick minute. Polina then pursued modeling full time despite some fears on the uphill battle that it may entail. She started to network through her social media and focused on improving herself as often as possible. You have to take risks she emphasized, you really have to put yourself out there.
Polina would also discover how her childhood experience conditioned her for the constant traveling for modeling jobs across the country. It doesn’t seem to phase her but she admitted that it scares her sometimes to be so comfortable with the constant movement and alone time. People always tell me I’m fearless.
She stated a big factor for her stability is choosing to stay in St. Louis as opposed to settling in Los Angeles or any other major city that models from across the world flock to. I’ll be honest, I actually hated St. Louis until this year but then I realized that I have my friends, rent is a whole lot cheaper, I still get to travel and get paid, and most importantly I have my family here.
In between modeling jobs, she takes time to exercise her creative needs by playing guitar, painting, and doing arts & crafts. It’s really a way to release stress. It’s just so relaxing and I love it. That artistic desire is also spilling into her modeling as she plans to expand her portfolio into fashion. It [fashion] fuels my creativity more. A lot more ideas and creativity goes into it. Sitnova said that she’ll always be involved in glamour and aims to accomplish publications from top magazines in 2017 such as FHM and Maxim. I’m really grateful for all the connections and friends I’ve made through modeling, said Polina. It’s been really beneficial towards my life and has helped a lot with my shyness and introverted ways.
I asked her if she could share any paintings with us and her shy side began to show again. She smiled and her eyes wander for a moment, thinking. I might have a couple I can share. Ones that I think are pretty good. Deal.
It had been an easy 45-minutes since we started and the interview went on a more conversational tangent for a moment before we reeled it back in. I asked her what advice she would give her younger self to which she replied, I’m twenty-two, so that’s not that far ago. Scratch that. New question: What would you tell anyone looking to get into modeling?
Stop thinking about what everyone else is doing and focus on you. Get better every day. No excuses.
Polina Sitnova will be participating in the Prestige Workshop with Mike Prado (Instagram @mikepradofoto) in L.A. Woodland Hills. The workshop is still accepting submissions and you can find info HERE.
Follow Polina Sitnova on Instagram @polinasitnova
Some of Polina’s art:
Sometimes I paint with oil, sometimes acrylic and sometimes both. I really just make whatever inspires me at that moment. I craft more than I paint now and mostly just made things for my loft. I make all the artsy things and paintings that I hang up at my place. – Polina Sitnova