The internet has undoubtedly increased my exposure to a network of “friends” that I could have never imagined while reaching this stage of my life. In particular, Facebook has been very kind to me by providing entreé to people who I might never have met and my life would have been less for it. One of those treasured friends is Vitalli Pleshkov who has reaffirmed to me that grit, determination and intelligence can overcome some of the most daunting of obstacles. By the way, there was also an issue of a language barrier for him which he has since overcome with glittering results as you will read here.
Today’s world of fashion is filled with misguided and ill-conceived notions and standards for everything from what is considered stylish and fashionable to whom and what is runway or print ready. We have reached this sort of interchangeability in both clothing and who models or promotes it. When I first met Vitalii I was instantly drawn to this man by his perseverance, yes of course by his looks, his carriage and demeanor. There was a kindness that was palpable and I had the feeling that this is a guy who will defy the odds. P.S. yes he exudes sensuality that so many of his so called peers seem to lack!
And so while there are models by the truckloads who think they are models because they stand in front of a camera and have tens of thousands of Instagram followers, then there is this guy. Vitalii is the face of a brand, he has done numerous commercials and print ads and yes he has been paid for his work while the others can boast followers and he can boast a career despite the road blocks. If that isn’t enough his talents extend to hair, make up and styling.
It’s my great pleasure and honor to introduce you to my friend Vitalii in his own words.
Jeffrey Felner: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your work, your history and why you decided that being a model is your calling?
Vitalii Pleshkov: I am from Russia. I moved to America in July, 2013. In Russia I received degrees in Engineering and Management in 2000. During that year my country was experiencing severe economic difficulties which resulted in many people losing their jobs. Being a new graduate, I was unable to find a job due to my lack of work experience. A friend asked me if I was interested in working as a hair stylist in order to obtain a more secure income and I agreed. I then went to a hairstyling school and worked in Kaliningrad for two years. Next, I decided to move to Moscow in order work as a hairstylist during photography sessions and do freelance work with photographers rather than in hairstyling salons. Several months after moving to Moscow I was fortunate enough to meet the photographer Yan Pouhoff and begin working as a hairstylist during his photo sessions. During that time, Yan taught me how to work creating a more total look of style in addition to hairstyling. He also photographed me and included these photos in his portfolio. When the manager of a large talent and modeling agency that included Yan’s portfolio saw the photos of me, he asked Jan if I would be able to work with him as a model. I was at first surprised because I did not have what I thought was the more typical body of a male model. But I agreed and began working in Moscow as a model in print, commercials, music videos, and several films. At the same time, I continued working as a hairstylist and learned how to be a makeup artist. I was then able to combine my skills and begin working with Russian celebrities who wanted my assistance in developing a more total look. Though I enjoyed this work, I began to dream of a different life in which I had power over my own destiny and my personal search for happiness and independence. Though I was appreciative of the support I received from friends and colleagues, I longed to learn more about what gifts and skills I possess as an individual. I began to explore moving to America to find out more about who I am as a man.
JF: Do you have any mentors or icons that you follow or admire/respect or possibly “model” yourself after and why have you selected them?
VP: Instead of following and being inspired by celebrity, icons and mentors, I have chosen to develop my own philosophy of what makes up internal beauty and how that can teach, inspire and be an example to others.
JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why?
VP: Ellen de Generes because watching her on YouTube videos helped me to learn to speak English. Watching Ellen also taught me about watching good people be good to others.
My sister Olesya Pleshkova. She is my best friend and has always welcomed me with help and acceptance and encouragement.
My friend Liumila Pavlishina who has always supported me with happiness and optimism.
My friend Daniel Mauk who has supported me and taught me to be a good person.
Though I was asked to list 5 people, I have chosen these four individuals above because they are the people in my life who are examples of individuals who recognize that beauty resides within. And they are generous and kind.
JF: Can you speak about how you overcame the many “obstacles” (age, height etc.) in the businesses of being a model as well as in fashion? To what do you credit your success?
VP: My experience has taught me that there are certain stereotypes in modeling, such as a model must be very tall and very young. As a man who is 5′ 9″ and who began modeling at age 25 (I am now 38 years old), I have found that there are three things that determine success in the world of modeling: charisma, a good manager, and luck. With these three things, a model can work successfully throughout life. For example, when we look at a photo of a model taken by a good photographer, we don’t know the height of the model, whether that be 5′ 9″ like myself or another man who might be 6′ 2″.
JF: If you could choose any “job” or collaboration, what or who would be with and why?
VP: If I could choose any job or collaboration, I would want to work with Tom Ford because he is a talented designer and director. I love his clothing, perfume, and cosmetics.