These days, Czech supermodel Petra Němcová is more than just a pretty face. The former winner of Elite Model Look competition and friend of Chopard has leveraged on her supermodel power to become a philanthropist who’s eager to promote the welfare of the less fortunate worldwide. A quick scroll through her Instagram reveals that in between attending the Oscars and other red carpet events, she’s done a lot of volunteer work at disaster-stricken zones to give back to the society.
The impetus for her passion in volunteering has its roots in a terribly tragic experience in 2004. She and her late fiancé Simon Atlee were in Khao Lak, Thailand to spend the year-end festivities together but the celebrations took a harrowing turn when the Indian Ocean earthquake hit the bungalow they were staying in. The pair were parted by the strong waves and Petra had to hug onto a palm tree for eight hours before she was rescued by the locals. Simon, unfortunately, didn’t survive the incident.
The painful and deeply personal loss led Petra to set up the Happy Hearts Fund the following year. Its mission? To rebuild schools for children in places that have been rocked by natural disasters. Currently, the organisation has helped to rebuild 162 schools and counting around the world.
At a charity cocktail event yesterday, Petra announced that in the next five years, Happy Hearts Fund Indonesia will work with WorldVentures Foundation to build 200 schools in Indonesia. “Through this, I hope to inspire more people to do the same by helping the less fortunate,” she tells us.
Ahead, five other things we’ve learned about her during our one-on-one interview.
Modelling in the ’90s is different from modelling today
“When I started modelling professionally, it was the ‘heroin chic’ era which was preceded by the ‘supermodels’ era led by Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford...all these beautiful women.
And because they were so famous and influential, there was a movement that went in a completely opposite direction. Fashion brands chose girls who were skinny and ‘less than perfect’ because the designers wanted the focus to be on the clothes instead of the women. So the girls had dark circles and looked more like boys than girls.
Since I’m naturally curvy, it was very hard at the beginning and I had to go on crazy diets to be on the runway shows. Thankfully, the modelling industry has now diversified and it’s celebrating women of all body types and that’s great!”
Modelling isn’t as glamorous as it looks
“It can be physically and emotionally taxing, especially when you’re just a young girl. I remember going to 13 castings a day in Milan, wearing flats and running around the city and then changing into heels to look ‘model-esque’ at the castings.
Back then, not everyone was nice. Couple that with the exhaustion from running around and the process can be very exhausting. I also had to wait for hours before meeting the casting directors and each session only lasted for a few minutes.
Even after being booked for shows, some brands may cancel at the last minute and this often made it an emotional roller coaster ride for models.”
She went on a crazy crash diet to fit into clothes
“In the lead-up to fashion week, I ate very little food because my body is naturally curvier than the rest of the models. So I ate mostly lots of vegetables like chard and tomatoes to stay in shape and it wasn’t fun at all!”
She’s most excited about...
“I’m obsessed with anything that’s sustainable. If I find new sustainable brands, I get very excited. I was told that younger Singaporeans are now more interested in eco-conscious fashion and that’s a good sign. But I think a lot of us are still unclear of how to go about it. There are many sustainable labels doing their part for our environment. Re/done, for example, recycles old jeans and turns them into limited-edition new ones.”
Her red carpet style must include this…
“For me, a beautiful dress should also send a right message to the public. That’s why I’m passionate about the Green Carpet Challenge by Eco-Age, which includes Chopard’s Green Carpet collection that I love.
For example, the gown I wore for this year’s Oscars was done in partnership with Eco-Age and made from certified organic silk. I try to go the conscious way too for the rest of my outfit but it’s not always easy. Finding a pair of high heels that’s vegan, ethically made and will work for the red carpet is definitely a challenge!”