Mariia Cherniakovych knew as a teenager that she wanted to be a model. At the time she was growing up in Donetsk, Ukraine, she was so committed to learning the craft that she began studying at a modelling school. She was always interested in books and magazines that highlighted the fashion industry and modelling, and she was drawn into the artistic aspect that the career could offer her. However, she learned quickly that it was much more than that; it was a lot of work.
“I love learning, but I believe that any skill you learn means nothing without the practice. Watching TV, reading about different designers and photographers and their techniques was very interesting, but to meet professionals and get to work and exchange experiences was what I really strived for. I understood early on that I was getting into a huge industry, and one that I was eager to explore and be a part of to see what I am capable of,” she said.
Now, Cherniakovych has become one of Ukraine’s leading models, recognized around the world for her talent and work ethic. She has worked with major brands like Coca-Cola and Samsung, been featured in iconic publications such as Vogue and graced the cover of Marie Claire. She has collaborated with famous photographers such as Bharat Sikka and Tarun Khiwal. She has walked major runways like the L’Oreal Fashion Tour, Mercedes Benz World Catwalk India, and India Couture Fashion week, and appeared in commercials for Nissan, Axe, Hunter Douglas, and more. Her resume is extensive and formidable, and it feels like a lifetime ago that she was an uncertain teenager wondering what to do with her life.
“The understanding and chemistry that I sometimes get to experience with the team is something that inspires me for many days after the job is done and keeps me going. Long hours, traveling and not enough sleep can be worked through with a great sense of joy and accomplishment when you are surrounded by such a talented creative force,” she said.
When Cherniakovych steps onto a set or runway, she transforms. She takes away her personal opinions and pushes aside her personality, almost creating a character targeted to the consumer of the company she is representing. She asks questions and talks to the photographer to know just what is needed of her when she embarks on a new project, figuring out exactly what she can bring to the table to create a dynamic image.
“Very often clients choose models because they simply like their personal styles, but sometimes we just have to act, and I think I manage that really well. I once heard a client whispering that I was too much of a tomboy and they were not sure if I could manage to convey the femininity that they expected from me and the stylist, who by that time had worked with me a few times, answered to them ‘wait and let her show her magic!’”, she described.
Magic is the correct word for it. From the moment Cherniakovych modelled in her first major campaign, she has been enchanting the globe with her talent. It was shortly after she graduated, and was shooting a commercial for the famed clothing brand Levi’s.
“Even to this day I think it was one of the most exciting experiences of my career, and not just because of the famous brand that I got to work for. It was my first modeling trip and I had some previous experience but still wasn’t confident enough and of course felt pressure to show my best. The team was huge! There were so many people on set for that tv commercial that it was impossible to even be introduced to everyone. Of course, there had to be a famous photographer who I luckily had a great understanding with. The entire experience was so much fun that I didn’t want to leave the set. My agent actually had to come and get me so that I wouldn’t miss my flight. I was ready to take as many shots as they asked me to,” she recalled.
From that moment, Cherniakovych knew she was meant to be a model. She still remembers it and describes it as the highlight of her career, even with all of her extraordinary success since that day. The success of that shoot launched her international career, allowing her to appear in major magazines and other major commercial campaigns.
So what’s next for Cherniakovych? Well, she plans on continuing working on major campaigns and walking big runways, but her plans also extend beyond being the star. She is currently planning workshops with young girls that are hoping to pursue their own careers in modeling. She has done something similar in the past and found it an immense pleasure to share her knowledge of the industry and some of the steps they can take to achieve the success.
“There are just so many things that young girls should be prepared for and encouraged to do and not do before leaving home and start working hard towards their dreams,” she concluded.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Mariia Cherniakovych. It is a name that is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Photo by Sasha Jairam