Somewhere, off in the distance––Paris, there is the faint roll and rumble of a bombshell making a boom. Considering, the bombshell in question, Ivanka Smilenko, has been riding and jumping horses since the age of 4, maybe the sound is actually a gallop. Those whose jobs it is to pick up such movement on the modeling Richter scale heard and are now paying close attention to the 18-year-old French model. To be fair, Ivanka is unmissable: even if she hasn’t made her first international blitz––yet––Chanel, Vivienne Westwood and Hermès ad bookings are already buoying up the Botticellian beauty beyond humble beginnings.
It was a Twilly d’Hermès campaign photographed by Liz Collins that confirmed Smilenko was a luxury brand’s dream girl, but her career started with the Parisian brand Soeur, working with Domitile Brion for 6 years since the age of 10. “She found it very interesting to make her brand grow with a girl growing in size and age,” she explained, timelining her start, “I always wanted to become a model and when I was 14 I called IMG. They signed me in when I turned 16.” Hermès was quick to christen the equestrian as a favorite: “I attended the casting for the perfume “Twilly d’Hermès”. I had to dance for the casting so I decided to give everything!” Ivanka told us over email, continuing, “I chose the song Footloose hahaha. My parents burst out laughing when I told them about my choice (it became hard convincing myself I was going to be confirmed!). Competing in riding events herself, she’s a natural choice for a French brand that has a line dedicated to riders and sponsors a lavish show jumping event at the Grand Palais called Saut Hermès. This year will be the annual event’s tenth. “I have gone to Saut Hermès every year since the first one. I admire the great champions and love to spend time there. It’s a competition of beauty, mixing excellence and Parisian life; it represents all my values. I was lucky this year to be invited to ride inside the Grand Palais to try the new saddle. What a wonderful opportunity!” She describes riding as “the story of my life” breaking into rhapsodic detail, “Riding is sincerity, we have to focus to perform. It is excellence, the power of two lives and bodies working together, the story of sharing and complicity.” To be clear, this is not going horseback on the beach on vacation. Ivanka explained more, “Jumping is a technical discipline that might look powerful, but in reality, it is very delicate. It requires technique, concentration and years of work before reaching the podium. Competition gives me the feeling of being free and of surpassing myself.”
Once we had the model speaking on matters of horses, it was difficult to shift the subject back to her burgeoning modeling career. Her most recent accomplishment is also one of her favorite experiences so far––that is, being photographed by Juergen Teller on a roof backdropped by the Eiffel Tower for Vivienne Westwood. Without jinxing anything Ivanka’s modeling to-do lists includes Vogue covers and and a pair of Angel wings. If she is as competitive as she is on the back of a horse, then soon all the industry might be saying Vive la Ivanka!