Israeli Teen ‘New Face’ Of Dior
search

Israeli Teen ‘New Face’ Of Dior

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers trends among youth and millennials, progress and pushback in the Orthodox world, women's issues, the Jewish LGBTQ community and Reform and Conservative Jewish life. She also heads the Investigative Journalism Fund, a special project of the Jewish Week to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting, and 36 Under 36, an annual special issue profiling 36 exceptional young leaders. Reach her at hannah@jewishweek.org

Move over, Bar Rafaeli — there’s a new Israeli “It girl” model.

Sofia Mechetner, a 14-year-old from Holon, a Tel Aviv suburb, has been signed — seemingly out of nowhere — as the “new face” of Dior, one of France’s top fashion houses. Israel’s Channel 2 accompanied Sofia for several days leading up to Paris Fashion Week, where she opened the show.

The daughter of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Mechetner’s story is a classic tale of rags to riches. Before being discovered by Israeli modeling agency Roberto earlier this year, she told Channel 2, the lanky blonde teenager helped her mother clean apartments and looked after her younger brother and sister in order to make ends meet. In the modest one-bedroom apartment she shared a bedroom with them — sleeping on a mattress on the floor — while her mother slept on the living room couch.

At 5-foot-10, people were constantly telling her she should pursue modeling.

The Roberto staff was so impressed by her look, they suggested her to the exclusive Viva Agency in Paris, which works with only 70 models worldwide, none of them Israeli. Upon her arrival in Paris, Mechetner was turned away because of her age.

While wandering around the city with her chaperone from the Israeli agency, the two walked into a Dior store and recognized Dior’s head designer, Raf Simons, who happened to be there.

Simons, struck with Mechetner’s look, called Dior’s casting director. The Paris agents, though surprised Simons was interested in a young Israeli model with no prior experience, immediately rushed to call her back.

When Mechetner found out she had been signed with Dior, with a contract around $250,000, she immediately called her mother. “You can quit your job, mom,” she said in the Channel 2 footage.

Mechetner is not the first Russian model to be discovered on the fly and delivered from a life of poverty. Natalia Mikhailovna Vodianova, known for her seven-figure contract with Calvin Klein and one of Forbes’ top-earning models, grew up in a poor district of the former Soviet Union with her mother and two half-sisters, one of whom has cerebral palsy. As a teenager, she helped her mother sell fruit on the street. Similar to Mechetner, her father had left the family. Discovered at age 15, she singed with Viva and moved to Paris by age 17.

Earlier this year, Israel banned models with a body mass index of less than 18.5 (a female model who is 5-foot-8 can weigh no less than 119 pounds). The legislation, nicknamed the “Photoshop Law,” was an attempt to reform the industry, which has become infamous for causing models (and young women in general) to develop eating disorders.

With such a young new face in Mechetner, the question of age could be the next issue for the industry to tackle. For the time being, Mechetner told Channel 2, she plans to spend her earnings on a new apartment — with her own bedroom.

editor@jewishweek.org

read more:
comments