Photos Casey Vange for Models.com
Iana Godnia‘s striking face has become a familiar presence on top tier runways and in the pages of glossy magazines, but the Ukranian beauty isn’t some flash in the pan. The hardworking Iana has been steadily rising through the ranks, approaching her career with a dedication that is inspiring. During the fall shows Iana was one of the industry’s most in demand beauties, racking up an impressive lineup of shows including an exclusive spot on Calvin Klein’s influential runway and place in Nicolas Ghesquière‘s Louis Vuitton debut collection. With her star on the rise and a series of prestige bookings on the horizon Iana is having the time of her life, taking in every new accomplishment with modest grace.
When were you discovered?
IANA: I was discovered when I was 16, I was just discovered by an agency in Ukraine. I wasn’t sure if I was really going to be doing it or not – I just went to the agency, then they took some polaroids and said, “we’ll get in touch with you.” I wasn’t thinking much of it because I was just going to college and focusing on my studies. A few months later I received a call and they said, “We would like you to come! We have scouts coming from Paris and they’d like to see you.” I said, “Okay!”
What was that experience like?
IANA: I didn’t really know anything, I didn’t speak any English, and I had never traveled outside of the country. I went to the casting and afterwards I received a call from my booker and he said “Iana, there was a filmmaker there and she wants you to be a part of her project.”
I remembered I did one short interview besides the casting but I wasn’t sure what it was for. Afterwards, I was like, okay… maybe I could meet her and try to talk to her and figure out what this is about. I couldn’t speak English so she hired translators, which was really sweet of her. She explained that she was making this movie about modeling, using her own experiences and that of a newer girl. She wanted to find a girl from Ukraine who was going to be the new up and coming top model or something. She decided to go to Ukraine because she was always told that she would never be big because all of the girls that are successful are from Ukraine!
What was it like to be a part of a documentary?
IANA: It was wonderful, we hung out for a few days and she filmed my normal life. She interviewed my mom, my friends, and a few days later she left. When she was there she was like, “Iana you will see, you will do so well, and I really believe in you and I’ll see you in Paris!” I didn’t know if I was going to Paris, I was a first year in College and I was just trying to do that and didn’t think much of it. At that time, my booker said, “Iana you need to go to Paris soon, we’ve got an agency and I was like, ‘ oh my god! It was all so excited, I had never done anything. I’m from a small town so just hearing about a trip to Paris was exciting to me.
Was heading to Paris the first time difficult?
IANA: Parts of the trip were hard – I went to Paris with no understanding of the language and $200 in my pocket, but I was like, ‘okay, I’m going to try this!’ It was definitely an experience because being out of your country and being alone you learn a lot about yourself. You need to be responsible and smart, learn how to just look out for yourself. When I look back I understand that now I would never do anything like that because it’s so crazy to go by yourself with no knowledge, but I think that’s the beauty of it. When you’re young you find the courage – you’re just open to trying anything new. It was an amazing experience and it was just really great to be surrounded by fashion. I was at the model apartment, so I just tried to learn as much as I could. When I look back I realize I would not be the person I am now without that experience.
You’ve been modeling for some time now, but this season things went to another level.
IANA: I started almost 5 years ago. This season was like a breakthrough though which is amazing because I think when you really want something and you believe that it’s got to be something it happens. I quit college and for me that was a big deal. I knew that I could have gone back home and gone back to school, but at the same time I just wanted to prove that I could do this. When it happened this season, it was amazing. My family was so excited and proud. My mom said, “I told you! You’re going to do great.” Obviously at some points you get down on yourself and it’s a really complicated industry.
You’ve really grown up in the business – how do you feel you’ve changed from the start of your career until now?
IANA: It’s really hard to start at such a young age – for girls especially, because you’re so young and immature and you just want to always feel pretty – that’s all you want to hear, but with this industry you just feel like you’re not good enough sometimes. You think, “maybe I need to get skinnier, maybe I have pimples, or there is something wrong with my hair?” All the time, you’re finding these things that make yourself unhappy which makes it harder to go to castings. It is hard to make people happy, because you’re not happy inside.
I think it’s very important to find a peace that helps you to be yourself. As you grow you understand the person you are and I think people love when you can express that. I didn’t give up on myself. I used to think ‘oh my god I’m not 16 anymore! I’ve got to like, hurry up because there is a time limit. But that doesn’t matter as much in this industry anymore. As long as you look good and people are happy working with you that is what matters. There are a lot of models today who are older and gorgeous, they’re mature and intelligent. It’s a pleasure to work with them and I’d like to be like them as I continue in my career.
So true. That is a great way to look at things.
IANA: When it happened this season, it was amazing and I’m really thankful to people who decided to make me part of their show. I think that it was meant to happen now because I had met all of these people, but this is when it all came together. This season when it happened the people I’d worked with before were just so supportive, I had people come up to me and say “Iana I’m so happy and so proud! You’ve been doing this for so long..” I was like, ‘Yeah, my god it’s been so long I can’t believe it.’When I talk to some other girls they’re like ‘yeah I’ve been modeling for 8 years and it just happened now’ so I understand that it’s normal. Sometimes you can think, ‘oh my god it’s not happening right away, it’s not going to happen.’ But it’s different for everyone and I’m happy that it wasn’t some overnight success. I had that experience because I think I worked hard enough to be where I am right now, so I think it gives me more appreciation than if I were a model who blew up overnight.
Now I look back at some of the experiences I had in the past and it blows my mind how many incredible things I was exposed to. I was working with Azzedine Alaia when I was 17 for a fitting and I didn’t even know who he was! When I go back and shoot for his lookbook, now I’m like ‘oh my god!’ I think it’s really important to develop that understanding and knowledge. If you don’t have it, it’s hard to get there because you need to know who you’re working with and why it is important. This industry gives you so many opportunities to learn, to meet people, to see the world – it is important to appreciate that.
It really is –
IANA: It’s crazy when you think about it! I remember I was dreaming of working with Calvin Klein but sometimes you put this barrier between you and the things you want. You think, ‘oh I’m never going to do that..’ at some point I was like, ‘why not? There’s nothing wrong with me! I’m tall, I’m professional, I have the same opportunities as other girls! You just need to go out there and try.’