June Model of the Month: Kate Tumanova

We’re at Coffee Commissary off Fairfax just north of Melrose Ave. and it’s a standard, sunny California day.  It’s a bit noisy but in a good way, lots of energy and positive vibes and after taking an eternity to set up my recorder and connect to the wifi, Ekaterina Tumanova and I were ready to start the interview.  For starters, she goes by Kate but I thought it would be interesting to first introduce her by her full name.  On top of that, she’s the second Russian we’ve interviewed, so I don’t know if this is going to be a trend or anything but I find it pretty cool.  Last, her focus is on acting through and through.  When she’s not acting, she’s either modeling or working on developing new projects.

When discussing her name, she revealed that she initially went by Katia before she settled on Kate around seven or eight years old when she started traveling a lot.  Why did you travel a lot, I asked expecting some complex answer.  Because I could, she laughed.  My parents tried to show as much as they could, she explained.  We would have vacation breaks because the weather in Moscow is not great.  By the time she was fifteen, she was attending university where she would get her first degree in Sociology she started traveling on her own. I wrote my thesis for Sociology in Indonesia, she said.  

Her favorite place to travel to is India.  I asked her what put it above the rest of her destinations and without hesitation she said, The people!   They don’t have much and they’re so happy.  It’s so rich in culture and its history.  Another aspect she loved was the color palette that the country embraced — bold reds and yellows.  It was the artistry of other countries like India that Kate admired the most, and often, would influence her to buy and bring home a multitude of items from her travels. I always brought so many souvenirs back, paintings from Dominican Republic, rugs from Egypt, et cetera.  My dad was like, why Kate?  Stop bringing furniture to the house, she said.

When Kate decided to come to L.A., her initial plan was to live in the city for only a year while she attended an acting program.  Back home were her parents, a boyfriend, and friends but she fell in love with Los Angeles quickly and changed her plans.  I got here and I was like, this is it!  I’m not going back!   What convinced her was the constant movement of the industry, something that wasn’t quite present in Moscow.  Kate said that in L.A. she felt there was a way for her to break in even if she didn’t know anybody.  There’s websites, castings, and just sort of a step-by-step way of how to be an actress for dummies that you can take advantage of.  In Russia, she said in order to improve your chances is usually by either sleeping with someone well-connected or having family members already established in that industry.  It’s just not as easy as it is here [L.A.] but at the same time the competition here is fuckin’ crazy.  

Tumanova’s mom was a musician — composer and writer —  so at an early age she was exposed to that lifestyle.  I was always surrounded by those people.  Music video shoots and art galleries, I was surrounded by those people who smoked cigarettes and talked about art.  I loved it.  I thought to myself, that’s what I want to be.   Despite this allure, she wanted to go for a degree first because she’s realistic about the odds and wanted to have something to fall back on and be able to support herself if acting didn’t pan out.  I picked something that I love.  I love Sociology because it’s a mix of psychology and statistics and you get to learn everything.  Math, politics, everything.  You need to know all the ingredients to learn how society works, she said.

I had to bring up Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, who is arguably one of the greatest filmmakers of all time (yes even above Scorsese and Spielberg) but is virtually unknown to anyone who’s not a hardcore film buff.  The reason for that is due to the fact that Russian cinema has such a limited exposure outside of its own borders.  For someone like Kate who explained the limitations of being able to move up the creative latter in Russia, I thought it would be interesting to hear her take on his influence and what kind of effect, if any, it had on her own pursuit.

Coming from Russian drama techniques, I was always more influenced Stanislavski and Chekhov.  Stage people, not film directors.  And I purely think of myself as an actress.  For Kate, it’s about focusing on how to make her craft better and legends like Stanislavski were influential in perfecting and mastering the art of acting.  Tumanova said that in order to achieve that, she knew she needed to be in Los Angeles where the opportunity is greater than it is in Moscow.  

On the topic of transitioning from Russia to L.A., Kate admitted there were some cultural differences that made it a bit of a hassle upon arrival.  Everything I say always comes across as selfish and ignorant, she said.  Those concepts have a different context in Russia as opposed to the States.  In Russia, selfishness means you’re focusing on taking care of yourself and your family and not wasting energy on the things that affect you negatively while being ignorant is not worrying about things that are out of your control.  I think people should be more selfish and ignorant, she said with a smile.   If we cared more about our own business, we would have a more professionally and personally solid society.  Create something of your own.  She also doesn’t quite understand the pressure to be pridefully independent and that anything opposite of that one is considered “less-than”. Kate said she wants to have a husband, she wants to be home and cook and to have support from her husband.  That’s what I want and I shouldn’t be shamed against that.  

Kate’s parents were a big influence in her quick development into maturity.  At an early age they gave her a lot of trust and as a result, she learned how easy it was to lose that trust.  My mom kept a close eye on me early in my childhood and as I got older she started to let me learn things on my own.  Kate said having to deal with the consequences of her actions and mistakes helped her learn to take responsibility for unsatisfactory outcomes.  Along with her mom’s hands-off approach, her father was a boxer so he instilled discipline and self-sufficiency in her.  If she came home and complained about anything, he would tell her that unless it was life threatening she needed to learn how to deal with it on her own.   Kate says this trust and discipline has created an incredibly strong bond with her parents.  When my mom left after visiting, I cried the whole day.

An ethos Kate has come to follow in life is to have fun while also caring about your health.  I think the most important thing is, to be honest to yourself and be selfish the Russian way.  Deep down we all really know if we want to do a certain thing or not.  She also emphasized the necessity to get rid of people you don’t like and not to force yourself to be in friendships that bring stress and unhappiness.  We surround ourselves with a lot of fakeness and you get a fake sense of responsibility and you end up supporting a bunch of causes you don’t believe in.  Kate stated that last year was a mess and she’s taking responsibility for that.  This year, that’s what I’m trying to do — do what I want.

 

Kate would like to give a shout out to her BFF Elena for being an amazing friend!

I would not have been who I am without her! 

Trailer for American Exorcism, a horror film Kate was cast in.

Follow Kate on IG: @kate.tumanova

Article by @zachquinones

Photos by @joelfloraphoto

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February Model of the Month: Polina Sitnova

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.  Istill 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

Model of the Month Submissions Now Open

Cynic Brand has officially opened submissions for our Model of the Month search.  A model will be chosen and announced on the 15th of every month and be given a photoshoot with a Cynic Brand photographer and a feature article about them.  The model will be headlined on Cynic Blog and other social media outlets.

Submission Info
1. Minimum 18-years of age
2. Male or Female eligible
3. Must be local or able to travel to Los Angeles
4. Submit via Instagram, Facebook, or E-Mail (Cynic@CynicBrand.com)
5. Provide Age, Location, and Contact