You may know Irina Shayk from Instagram, where she posts photos of herself with friends like Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci daily for 6.5 million followers. Or perhaps from the tabloids, where she's regularly featured with her boyfriend, the actor Bradley Cooper, in paparazzi shots. Maybe you recognize her face from the pages of fashion magazines like W. With her slender, shapely figure and impressive social media following, Shayk defines the idea of a modern supermodel, much like how Cindy Crawford, with whom she's paired in W's royals portfolio, did in the '90s.
Which part of Russia are you from?I’m from a very small village in the middle of nowhere, four hours by airplane from Moscow. Yemanzhelinsk – you wouldn’t find it on the map. Don’t even try it. It’s super, super tiny.
Did you always plan to become a model?No. I hadn’t planned to be a model. It just happened by pure chance. I went to a beauty school with my sister, and I got discovered pretty late. I was discovered when I was 20-21. I didn’t speak English very well, not that I do now. It’s a little bit better but not so perfect. So I went to Paris, and I started to learn English, and take my first pictures for my portfolio. So it was a pretty hard time, you know. But my mom was very supportive, and here we go. Ten years later, I’m here.
What was the first big job you got?I didn’t get a big job in Paris because Paris is a very specific market. I went to Spain, and my first job was for a catalog for Lacoste. I started my career as a swimsuit model. My first big break in America was 2007, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. And I’ve done it for 10 years, and 2011 I was on the cover. The first Russian model to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
You’ve done something which is really hard, which is going from being a swimsuit girl to being a high-fashion girl.Yes. It’s completely two different kinds of fashion worlds, to be a swimsuit model and to be a fashion model. But I have like a really great team, and I have so many supporters in the fashion industry. So I’ve been really, really lucky to go from swimsuit model to fashion model and to be part of W.
What’s the hardest part about being a swimsuit model? Because I’ve always heard that with Sports Illustrated, you’re filming in all kinds of weather.I mean, I’m Russian, so I never imagined that I would be with the swimsuits. Coats and warm clothes for me sounds a little better, because I grew up and was raised in the snow. But I love my job, so I wouldn’t say it was hard for me to do swimsuit modeling. Maybe you have to stay in shape, and travel – a little jet lag. But, everything is easy. I’m pretty lucky.
You’re a queen of social media. When did you start doing social media?Oh, thank you. Well social media is a big part of my life. And I’m so glad that I have so many fans who are supporting me. And I want to share like a little part of my life with my fans. I started on Facebook because Facebook is a big platform on social media, as you know. I started probably like eight years ago. Instagram is my favorite thing because it’s fun. I’m not on Snapchat yet. I’m kind of getting into this Snapchat mood, but I’m not there yet. I’m [on] Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Oh, you Tweet too?I’m not really good at Tweeting. I’m pretty good with Instagram--and Facebook, but Tweeting, I’m okay.
How many times a day would you say you post on Instagram?I try to do once a day, but sometimes I’m taking a little break, and I would go like one picture in three days or four days. On the holidays, I try to like take it easy. To do social media it’s a hard job, let me tell you that. So around holidays, maybe I’ll snap some food pictures and something like that.
Do you like to travel?Oh, I do. I love traveling. I hate jet lag, but I love, love, love, love traveling, to meet new people, to try different foods because I’m a big foodie. I love food, even though people think models don’t eat. We do eat.
Do you cook?No. I don’t cook. I love to. I’m very Russian. I don’t cook. I love to eat. I love to go to the restaurants. My mom, she’s a great cook. You know, pirogue, borscht. I love borscht, and I love Pilemeni, meat dumplings. Every time I go to visit my grandma, she’s like – you have to eat. And she would cook like a huge Russian meal. And when you go to a Russian dinner, you have to eat; otherwise, like you know people are getting offended that you’re not eating. They’re like – oh, it doesn’t, it doesn’t taste good? And you have to eat, and a little bit of drink too, even though I don’t drink. But my grandma she’s like – we have to do it for health. We always drink for health. It’s a good reason. When I grew up, my role model was my grandma, because she’s just the best. She had a really tough life, and [when she was 19] she went through the second war to protect my country.
Did you have any fashion models you looked up to, growing up?I love the models from the ‘90s, like, Cindy, Christie – those like sexy, beautiful girls. And they just walk down the street, and all the guys look at them. So that’s what I like.
You’d be a great Bond girl. Have they asked you yet?Ahh, not yet.
I think you’d be great.Thank you. Well, I definitely have a Russian accent.
I know, but Bond girls can. That’s what’s great. They’re all exotic.Yes. I think it’s kind of sexy to like hold a gun and be like a bad ass.
They’d have to get a taller Bond.I can be a Bond girl without high heels. I’m fine with that too. Just give me guns. No high heels. I’m fine.