Anne V and Lydia Hearst aren’t your typical supermodels. Yes, they both have clear porcelain skin, toned abs and legs for days, but that’s pretty much where the model stereotype ends. It’s a blistery cold day in early February, the kind that causes ringing ears and numb fingers, yet when the ladies are asked to pose, topless, on the snow-covered terrace of Hotel Plaza Athénée, they smile, and simply ask if there’s time to eat lunch first. Living in a thin-obsessed society where many women skip breakfast before a day at the beach, it’s both shocking and refreshing that Anne and Lydia don’t flinch about eating a full meal moments before their Haute Living photo shoot.
“You just have to be confident about the way your body looks and who you are,” Anne explains. Coming from a woman that’s appeared in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue for 10 consecutive years, her advice seems trite, but the 5-foot-10-inch blonde haired beauty swears that even she feels insecure at times. “We all have our insecurities,” she says with earnest sincerity. “I’m not from Brazil. I didn’t grow up near a beach. I rarely wore a bathing suit. When you’re photographed in a bikini you don’t really have anything to use. There aren’t accessories or props to work with… there is just your body.”
“I think that whether you’re clothed or not, you are exposing a piece of yourself in front of the camera,” adds Lydia. “Some of the images may be provocative, but you don’t feel that way when you’re on set. There’s a very big difference between modeling for Vogue nude and doing porn. No one is checking you out or making any sort of sexual remarks.”
As the girls glide seamlessly from pose to pose in the icy conditions, wrapping their arms around each other for warmth in-between takes, they exude a chemistry that only exists between close friends. The two have known each other for more than a decade and recently joined Naomi Campbell as judges in season two of Oxygen’s The Face. “I was petrified because I had never done television before so having someone that I knew well was really comforting,” Anne admits. In the show, which premieres on March 5, the supermodel coaches mentor 12 young hopefuls using the lessons and skills they have absorbed throughout their career. “It’s really flattering when someone looks up to you this way, but it’s also scary because I don’t know everything either,” Anne concedes. “I really had to put on a brave face and tell myself, I don’t care what happens in my life, I don’t care if I don’t know something, but I’m going to do my best to give them everything and make them feel confident.”
Following a series of challenges, the three judges vote off a different contestant each week, a decision that often caused heated arguments and rising tempers. “I think it made it easier to deal with the conflict because we are all friends,” Lydia explains. “You still love and respect each other at the end of the day, even if there are tense moments. We all understand that there can only be one winner at the end.”
Even though only one girl is chosen to become “the face” of Frédéric Fekkai’s 2014 national ad campaign, both Anne and Lydia have remained close with all of the contestants even after filming wrapped. “I never really had a mentor in my life,” Anne confesses. “I came here when I was 15 years old and I had an agency and good friends, but I never had that older model that I could look up to. I truly believe that if I had had something like this, I would be in a totally different place in my career and in my life. I’m so thankful for the journey that I’ve had, but it would have been so nice to have had someone.”
Nevertheless, Anne has had a career that would make most models green with envy. Six months after winning IMG/MTV’s “Fashionably Loud” contest in Milan, the Russian native appeared in campaigns for Anna Molinari, Chloé and Sportmax and signed a four-year contract to become the face of Chanel Chance perfume. Since then, she’s walked the runway of major fashion houses including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy and Roberto Cavalli. Though Anne is often celebrated for her strong runway walk, she remembers an instance when not tripping was the only thought racing through her mind. “I was doing a Prada show and they had me wear the craziest shoes I have ever seen! They were ginormous platform heels that were three sizes too small—and I had to wear a sock too,” Anne reveals with a laugh. “I was wearing the tightest skirt and I could barely walk because the shoes were so high and my toes were so scrunched. In that show, five girls fell! I typically feel really comfortable with my walk, but it was one of those times where I kept repeating please don’t fall… please don’t fall… please don’t fall.”
“I NEVER REALLY HAD A MENTOR IN MY LIFE. I NEVER HAD THAT OLDER MODEL THAT I COULD LOOK UP TO.”—ANNE
Like Anne, Lydia has also experienced close calls on the runway, but one in particular stands out in her mind. “I almost fell during the Life Ball [a fundraising event for HIV/AIDS research in Europe] when I was wearing Agent Provocateur on a raised stage that was on fire,” she exclaims. “I am so happy that I didn’t fall because I would have plummeted down and caught on fire. Luckily, I just tripped.” Though Lydia was lucky to walk away from the show unscathed, the fiery redhead did succumb to a few bumps and bruises while shooting five feature films last year. “They were all completely different, but in all the films I get mutilated and killed in various ways,” she divulges. “I’ve been shot, strangled, drowned, contracted a flesh-eating virus and pretty much anything and everything you can think of.”
Despite her petite build and delicate exterior, the 29-year-old did all of her own stunts, a feat she deems exciting rather than terrifying. “One of the craziest experiences was running up and down a mountain in Colorado in negative 19 degree weather, sliding down ravines and being shot. In another movie, I did a fight sequence while covered in full body prosthetics. My skin was literally rotting off and I was vomiting blood, which actually tastes like breakfast syrup,” she adds with a giggle. “I’ve also been strangled and thrown out of a moving car. I love challenging myself.”
Though Anne’s career hasn’t necessitated any on-camera maiming or mutilation, it has enabled her to challenge herself physically beyond what she ever thought was possible. In 2009, she was asked by the charitable organization Achilles International to guide a disabled Russian athlete named Alexander Dmitriev during the 26.2-mile ING New York Marathon.
“I’ve done track and field my whole life, but the marathon was only two weeks away when they asked me. I didn’t think I could prepare in such a short amount of time, so I suggested guiding him in the beginning and the end,” she explained. “He had other guides but they couldn’t keep up with us, and I was like, I can’t leave this man! I felt responsible for him. Plus, I felt so great running—you’re just kind of high during the whole marathon—that I finished the whole thing with him. It was honestly the highlight of my year.”
Anne is also a big supporter of (RED), the annual TOMS shoes campaign “One Day Without Shoes,” Charity Water and Model Alliance. “I’m not beyond wealthy and I’m not beyond famous, but I’ve realized that there are people that I can inspire and that I can use what I’ve achieved to help others. I think that giving back is the most wonderful thing,” she says. “When I look back at the end of the year, it’s never like, what campaign did I do or how much money did I make? For me, it’s always like, what was the good thing that I did this year?”
Philanthropy also plays an active role in Lydia’s life. The fashion maven currently serves as an executive committee member for Operation Smile, an international children’s medical charity. “I’m always giving speeches and helping to raise funds and awareness, and hopefully, I’ll be able to do a documentary on the impact of the surgeries. Right now, it’s still in the developmental stages, but I will be going on a mission trip later this year. It’s really rewarding to help the children through the screening process and the surgeries, and then see the transformation and know that you literally saved a life. They may not know who you are and they may never remember your name, but they’ll never forget the act of kindness that you bestowed upon them.”
After a long day of shooting, Anne and Lydia give each other a hug, promise to talk soon, and head back into the bustling metropolis, where the first night of New York Fashion Week celebrations are already underway. “I never had these goals in my life like I want to do this, this, this and this,” Anne says wistfully. “I’m so fortunate to have all these opportunities come my way, and I like to take them all in. The universe sends you what you can handle, and you just have to take every opportunity and see what you like.” ∎
Why did you decide to shorten your name to Anne V?
When I came to New York, I started using my full last name, which is Vyalitsyna, but my agency put Anne V on a comp card without me asking. I was so mad for the longest time! At a certain point I realized that no one could pronounce it, so I said, well, it’s short, people can remember it, and it’s kind of weird and cool. Plus, it sounds kind of like Jay Z.
What is your favorite designer to model?
I’ve always loved walking for Prada. I’ve been working with them for 12 years. The styling, the music and the makeup are always different in every show. You never know what to expect—it’s always such an exciting show.
What do you think about when you’re walking down the runway?
It is always nerve-racking walking onto the runway, but the minute that I’m out there, I just kind of space out. I don’t see anyone, I don’t hear anyone, and it kind of feels like I’m on top of the world. I feel really empowered every single time.
What’s your advice for taking flattering photos in a swimsuit?
A spray tan makes any woman feel better about her body. Good posture helps too. Be confident in your body and just kind of rock it and have fun… that’s the most important thing!
How do you stay in shape?
I mix it up. I don’t like to run on a treadmill, so when I’m in warm weather I love to run outside. I also do a lot of dancing, yoga and stability work with my trainer.
What are your favorite beauty products?
I use a lot of natural and organic products.
What do you think about when you’re posing during photo shoots?
I sort of embrace the moment every time I step in front of the lens. I think about my family and my friends, but above all, I try to have fun.
How do you think that modeling has prepared you for television and film?
It helped me discover who I am as an individual and actually learn to love myself, especially the unique little eccentric quirks that make me me. Modeling is basically acting without using words.
Who do you consider your idol?
Gwyneth Paltrow is definitely a big influence, especially when I launched my fashion, lifestyle, entertainment and beauty blog called www.lovelydiahearst.com.
How do you pick yourself up when times get tough?
I love every single day so I think I’m fortunate to wake up with a smile on my face every single morning. I don’t really get sad often.
What are your top beauty tips and tricks?
Stay hydrated. I drink a gallon of water every single day. Always wear sunscreen, moisturize, and wash your face before bed. If you don’t, your skin can age eight days in a night.
What three items should every New York woman have in her closet?
A pair of fabulous stilettos, a leather bomber jacket and a great pair of jeans.
Photography by Alexandra Nataf