Mirror Magazine


A Dutch experience
By Ishani Ranasinghe
They have learned, integrated, exchanged knowledge and widened their horizons after a month-long stay in Holland.

Premila Gnanenthiran

Fathima Yasmin

Anne Romaine

Thilanka Perera

Premila Gnanthiran of Chundikuli Girls' College, Jaffna, Anne Romaine Ockersz of St. Cecilia Girls' Convent, Batticaloa, Dharmakeerthi Thilanka Perera of Royal College, Colombo and Fathima Yasmin Wazeer of Sacred Heart Convent, Galle are four young Sri Lankans, a Sinhalese, a Tamil, a Muslim, and a Dutch Burgher who went to Netherlands on a mission to strengthen Dutch-Sri Lankan ties.

Their visit was organised to commemorate 400 years of Dutch-Sri Lankan relations. They lived with different host families and were welcomed with open arms.

They all agree that Holland was filled with surprises.

"I loved the canals, I was living in front of one and this made it even more special," says Thilanka. He also went on to say what a wonderful experience it was to see a different way of life. He went to Holland wanting to open them up to Buddhism and Sinhala culture, and this he feels he was able to share.

"My Bharatha Natyam surprised them," said Premila, "I also learnt Yoga, which will in no doubt help me with my dancing." She shared many moments together with her host mother discussing yoga and dancing.

"My host mother opened me to painting. I was taken to painting classes with her. That was my first experience and I enjoyed it tremendously," says Anne.

For Yasmin too, living with her host family was a wonderful experience. " I was lucky to stay with them and be able to learn what family life in Holland was like. I was treated like one of their own."

During their stay, these youngsters visited many places. And they were fascinated by that enduring symbol of Holland, the windmill. " We were amazed at how it worked, and the whole idea behind it," says Premila. "It was something which was made so long ago that we were surprised that it was still used very effectively," she continues, while Thilanka half jokingly adds, "I am going to make one in Sri Lanka".

"When we visited Naareden Fort, it felt like home, it was just like the Galle Fort where I live, the only thing missing was the lighthouse," said Yasmin.

They all agree that Holland is far more developed than Sri Lanka." Their way of life is also very different from ours, they have more freedom. In our culture, there are times we are a bit trapped, but that is not necessarily bad," explains Thilanka.

"Freedom and responsibility are two things that go together, like the two sides of a coin," adds Roelof J. Munneke, Director, Netherlands-Sri Lanka Foundation. "I am very happy about this whole programme and the way they integrated," he adds.

"We were really sad to leave, but it feels like that we now have a family back in Holland. They have now become an important part of our lives," the four add.

A new generation of catwalk queens
London beauties such as Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss once dominated the fashion scene, but now a new gang of girls are taking over as the latest catwalk queens - and they mean business.

Super-cool ice maidens with long, long legs, striking Slavic features, pouting Bardot-like lips and laid-back attitudes are now flooding in from Eastern Europe.

The likes of Karolina Kurkova, Colette Pechek-honova and Inna Zobova are now staring out at you from advertising billboards and the covers of glossy magazines.

Not only are these girls gorgeous, they're building reputations in the fashion world as being easy to get on with and, because of their backgrounds, extremely hard-working.

Now Lifestyle Editor Karen Buglass says: "I think one of the reasons the East Europeans are so popular is that they're not just stunning, but well-mannered, polite and willing to give their all. They also seem very family-oriented and well brought up, so we never have any tantrums or prima donnafits on fashion photo shoots. It's a pleasure to work with them."

They arrive at UK agencies often unable to speak any English, except for the 'chin-up, chin-down' model language required for their photo shoots.

"Nowadays, so many girls are arriving that we can pick and choose. Now we want those who can speak English and have New York or Milan experience."

Their relative innocence in the Western world make Czechs, Slovaks and Croatians all the more appealing.

They're stunned by the amount of money they can earn for doing a job they enjoy. The average monthly wage in Russia is £90, so at least £200 a day for a magazine fashion photo shoot is a sensational amount.

And if they make it to the top of the modelling world and get to front a leading advertising campaign, a top model can earn between £50,000 and £25,000 for just one contract.

Wonderbra bosses are among those who are obviously keen on the East European girls.

Czech Eva Herzigova was the first East European to be chosen to promote the uplifting underwear. Her early '90s 'Hello boys' advert made the stunning model, now 29, into a household name and fashion world celebrity - not bad for the daughter of a coal miner.

Before being spotted at a modelling audition at the age of 16, Eva had only ever been to Bulgaria and on a camping holiday to the Baltic coast. In 1996, Eva was replaced as Wonderbra's front woman by Adriana Sklenarikova, a 6ft-tall Slovakian medical student who'd won a modelling competition in Prague.

The 30-year-old says: "I've changed my life from black to white. There was nothing like fashion in Slovakia. I'd like to keep working in this amazing world after the end of my modelling career."

Now that Adriana has moved on, Wonderbra has brought in a tall, leggy, blonde Russian called Inna Zobova. The 26-year-old had already modelled for Mario Testino and Armani and was picked from over 1,000 hopefuls to become the new Wonderbra girl last month.

Of course, there were a few Eastern European models as far back as the '80s. Paulina Porizkova was one of the first. The Czech was discovered by chance in her home town and became the face of Estee Lauder. She and Ukrainian-born model Milla Jovovich, who went on to become a leading Hollywood actress, emerged as worldwide fashion icons who inspired their compatriots back home.

As the Communist regimes started to collapse, wannabe models from the former Czechoslovakia, Russia, Ukraine and Croatia started setting their sights on an international career in 1989, there was only one agency in Moscow - by the end of the '90s there were more than 80.

Many budding models enter competitions to get spotted. One such hopeful was Slovenian model Ana Colja, who has appeared in several Now fashion features.

The 21-year-old says: "I got my break after coming third in a modelling competition in Slovenia. That's when I started getting offers of work and it went from there. I went to Milan and did some shows and now I'm happy in London."

"I even went to Las Vegas recently with Now, which was great. I love England. I've only been here for three months, but I've been working nearly every day. There's so much more work here than in Slovenia, which is brilliant for me." - Donna Findlay

Back to Top  Back to Mirror Magazine  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.