Kazakhstan: Untapped Source Of Models

Kazakhstan has a population of over 17 million people and is the ninth largest country in the world. However, the nation has next to no modelling industry. Their only success story is Alyona Subbotina who is based in New York and forged a successful international modelling career.  American Fashion Photographer Daniel King travelled to Kazakhstan to photograph potential models as well as to immerse himself in the Kazakhstan culture.

Image by DazedDigital. Photographs by Daniel King

Subbotina is currently signed with Trump Model Management and recently shot an ad for Sephora, the French cosmetics and skin care brand. Subbotina has started an independent modelling agency with models from Kazakhstan in order to give young women from Kazakhstan the opportunity for an international modelling career.

The Russian government’s policies on visa’s restrict the women in Kazakhstan from travelling internationally and therefore from pursuing a modelling career.

“They have real issues traveling anywhere in Europe and especially the US because of the ties to the Russian government and its influence on how easy it is to get visas.” Said Daniel King

Alyona Subbotina’s agency that focuses on giving women from Kazakhstan a modelling career faces visa issues with the Russian Government. Two of her models are from Almaty, two from Kostanai and one from the capital. It is a very difficult for her to get visas for these women.

“We really have to fight for it. I want to stand up for the rights of our models and want to work with Kazakhstan’s models first of all,” Said Subbotina

Image by AstanaTimes. Subbotina’s Modelling Agency

Subbotina plans to establish her agency in Almaty and wants to offer free courses for models with potential to teach them how the industry works. Although only working with six or seven models, so far they have found success.

“I am happy for their success; the models are already being shot for numerous magazines and are expected in Paris.” Said Subbotina

The culture is very different is Kazakhstan. Young women marry and procreate very early, at around 18 or 19 years old. To be unmarried by the time you are 25 is highly unusual. Entire families from grandparents to young children live under one roof regardless of how rich they are.

Aya is another model from Kazakhstan on models.com and her unusual ethnicity is a drawcard because it is hard to place. She looks exotic and racially ambiguous. Subbotina on the other hand does not look like she is from Kazakhstan.

“Even though I don’t look like a typical Kazakh, when people knew I was from Kazakhstan I was given this nickname up until today. This actually helps my career a lot, because it impresses people that I’m from this country but look different,” said Subbotina.

She was nicknamed “Kazakh Girl.”