An Interview with Karolina Kurkova

Karolina Kurkova for JONES magazine

Words by Nadia Bailey
Photography by Nicole Bentley
Styling by Caterina Scardino

The supermodel, entrepreneur and mother-of-two swapped self-doubt and insecurity for a sunny outlook on life. Here, Karolína Kurková talks social media, the secret to looking and feeling good, and the importance of living a balanced life.

It’s increasingly rare – unbelievable even – to meet someone who doesn’t regard a wi-fi connection as a mandatory condition for living. Most people panic if their phone isn’t within reach. If we don’t Instagram it, it may as well not have happened. It comes as a surprise, then, that Karolína Kurková – supermodel, former Victoria’s Secret Angel and businesswoman – isn’t really fussed about the whole internet thing. “You know, I don’t really hang out online,” she says. We’re driving back from a long day of shooting in a private inlet on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and Kurková’s lanky frame is elegantly draped over the car’s leather seats. “If I’m working, I’m working. Otherwise I’m with my family, so I’m really engaged with that.”

This assertion turns out to be true. Ask Kurková about her digital habits, like who she follows on Instagram, and she’ll vaguely offer that she likes accounts about food, travel and wellness (“I don’t really follow many fashion people per se,” she says) but stops short of naming any that particularly interest her. She barely touches her phone during the eight-hour cover shoot – instead she dances between shots. You get the sense she could go on a digital detox and suffer zero withdrawal symptoms.

Karolina Kurkova for JONES magazine

I think social media is a great tool, but you also have to use it wisely. Once you put something out there, it will stay there forever.

“I like it because it’s one place I can share things with my friends and family around the world and everyone can see what I’m up to, where I am, what I’m doing…” In other words, it’s a convenient way to maintain a connection with the people who matter most to her.

This attitude feels refreshing, subversive even. While the new generation of models like Cara Delevingne and Gigi Hadid are digital natives – social media has always been part of their lives and careers – Kurková’s relationship to her online presence seems both unusually moderate and at odds with the Zeitgeist. Perhaps it’s because she is 34, an age that means she can remember a time before the internet. 

Kurková was born in the Czech Republic’s Decín, a pretty riverside town of approximately 52,000 residents. As a child, she’d spend summers at her grandmother’s house in the country, exploring nature, climbing trees and plucking wild blueberries and raspberries from the forest floor. She was active and outdoorsy. Later, she started training as a gymnast. It was about that time that people started noticing her looks.

Karolina Kurkova for JONES magazine

When I was young, I was different. I came from a small town, I had long legs, long arms and a big mouth and teeth, so I didn’t smile much.

She explains; “I drew a lot of attention and it was not always nice. People would look at me, point at me, laugh at me. So I felt insecure.”

When she was 15 years old, a friend sent some pictures of Kurková to a modelling agency in Prague and she was promptly signed. It wasn’t long before she was walking for Prada and appearing in campaigns for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier and pretty much every high-end brand you care to name. It was, she says, working in the fashion industry that helped her develop a sense of self-confidence. The camera loved her very specific beauty – her elongated limbs, aquiline nose and expressive mouth – and photographers encouraged her to embrace the things she’d been made to feel ashamed of; to make what she’d perceived as flaws into her point of difference. That positive feedback left an impression.

Karolina Kurkova for JONES magazine

“They said, ‘You have great legs, you should show your legs’ or ‘You should smile, you have a really beautiful smile’. Even though that shouldn’t be important, for a girl who’s insecure about those things, it really meant a lot to me,” she says.

These days, she is at peace with herself. She understands that feelings of self-doubt and insecurity are normal. “Criticism, rejection… we all have to deal with that,” she says. “As a human, you’ve just got to learn those things. The more willing you are to be open, to look inside, to learn and grow, the more you discover different things. It’s all about the attitude. But we don’t just wake up and know it; we have to somehow learn it.”

Learning is something she’s passionate about. So is business. She enjoys listening to podcasts with entrepreneurs and motivational speakers – anything that “feeds your mind and your heart”. She’s constantly inspired by the women in her life: “I really love women who represent women well – who are beautiful, who are elegant, who are graceful, funny, strong. Who manage to do whatever they do well.”

But more than anything, her children are her guiding force: Tobin, nine, and Noah, two. “My kids are my teachers,” she says.

Karolina Kurkova for JONES magazine

When you have children, you realise what life is really about. It makes life so much more meaningful, purposeful, beautiful, because then it’s not just about you anymore.

This is an excerpt. For the full story, photoshoot and more on Karolina Kurkova and her latest project, pick up a copy of the JONES Summer 2018 issue, in store now.

Browse the JONES magazine Summer issue edit online now