Victoria Ilina is 25 years old but looks much younger. Petite and pretty, she has long brown hair and the most startling blue eyes. She has modelled before and this becomes obvious as she poses for the camera. She needs no guidance. This is someone who knows exactly what she is doing. She enjoys the photo shoot and isn’t the slightest bit nervous.
Victoria was the overall winner of the Face of the Cheltonian but also the winner of the 18-30 category. She has enjoyed every aspect of the competition, but she almost didn’t enter. When she originally saw the advert she didn’t have time to go along to the shoot, which is why she ended up being a last minute entry, the very last in fact, but still won the competition by a huge majority. When she made it to the last three she had to cancel a trip to Germany in order to attend the ceremony in the Beechwood Arcade last September when the winners were announced. She was delighted when she won her category, but even more so when she was voted overall winner.
Winning appears to come naturally to her and the list of competitions she has won plus other achievements in the modelling world so far is enormous and includes:
• First photo-shoot for Vogue Studio in London in 2004
• 1st runner-up to Miss Deaf UK 2008
• Miss Cheltenham 2009
• Got through to the semi-finals of Miss England 2009 after winning the public vote at the Miss Cheltenham beauty contest
• Professional photo-shoot for Miss England 2009
• Representing Deaf Beauty of the UK at the Miss Deaf World & Europe in Prague, Czech Republic 2009 and then Tbilisi, Georgia 2010
• Representing Deaf Beauty of the UK at the Miss Deaf International in Las Vegas 2010
• 3rd runner-up in Miss Gloucestershire 2010
• Other professional photo-shoots locally
• And of course winning the overall prize of the local magazine “The Face of The Cheltonian 2010” of which she is immensely proud.
In Las Vegas she was chosen for the fashion catwalk in the competition by a very talented Deaf designer and then received an invitation also for the fashion catwalk for the “Finale di Italia Sorda” on 24 September this year.
These are not just personal achievements though, but an achievement for deaf people as Victoria is deaf. But she isn’t going to let that hold her back. She wants to be a famous photographic deaf model and prove that deaf people can achieve the same as everyone else. She is determined, ambitious and intends to fulfil her dreams.
Victoria has met most of her friends at Exeter College and while taking part in competitions, some of which have become very close ones. Most of them live abroad and she visits them from time to time. She has visited them in France, Thailand, Germany, Poland, Holland, Belgium, Hungary, Slovakia and Italy.
Victoria says: “I would like to have my own flat as it will give me more independence and I could put my own stamp on it with the decoration and furniture and learn how to cope/survive with my disability on my own. I have always had my mum around me but it is time to move on.
“I started to travel on my own, I went to the Caribbean last year, it was a bit scary and frustrating at first but in a few days I actually started enjoying my own space.”
She says that: “Since my childhood my life was not easy for me, but I am trying very hard to not concentrate on the bad aspects, but every new achievement gives me more and more confidence to achieve my life goals.
“I was born with normal hearing, but became deaf when I was 14 months old after I had severe meningitis. I attended Beaufort School (this was the only school in the immediate area with a deaf unit) and later went on to attend Exeter College for the Deaf, where I graduated with higher Maths, English, IT, Sign Language, Book Keeping and Health Care.”
After finishing college she worked at the Chelsea Building Society where she really enjoyed working. Even though Victoria had to leave there due to her health issues she has been looking for alternative office work but has not yet found anything. She is not working at the moment so she is hoping to concentrate on her modelling career.
During the photo shoot, we communicate with the help of her mother Svetlana, who interprets my questions using British Sign Language. Victoria and Svetlana came to England to live from Russia 12 years ago and they now live in Charlton Kings where they share their home with a tabby cat. Victoria enjoyed playing sport at school, particularly netball and badminton and competed in swimming as a child in Russia.
Her mum says: “Victoria was a lovely child, always posing in front of the camera any time, as her father was a photographer. She always loved pretty clothes. I remember when she would choose to sleep with curls in her hair the whole night as she wanted to have curly hair for a New Year Eve children’s party and she was only 5-6 years old then. My school friend made her a beautiful red dress for the party from some fabric presented to little Victoria by my mum, and she looked stunning. She looked like a princess and that is why now I call her my Princess. When we were leaving Russia for good a friend of mine told me: “She has to be a model she has got the looks for it”. This was long before we knew that Victoria would get her achievements here in UK.”
She loves to watch films like Fast & Furious and the James Bond films and names Daniel Craig, Paul Walker, Jessica Alba (Into the Blue) and Eva Langoria amongst her favourite actors. She likes Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, Top Model and Home & Away. She also likes romantic chick flicks and horror – quite a contrast! Her role model though is probably Victoria Beckham as she loves her sense of style, as it is very similar to her own.
Victoria herself is into fashion and enjoys designing her own outfits, altering to suit or just putting outfits together.
“I have a keen interest in photography,” she says, “and I like to create artistic pictures, creating something out of the ordinary.... and I love to make people laugh.”
Victoria loves to travel and would really like to complete a World tour. “I love to be able to communicate with hearing people and I would like to teach more people about deafness and sign language so that myself and other deaf people can communicate more freely. To become a professional model would be my ultimate dream.” We wish her every success.
Victoria styled her own hair for the shoot and her make-up was done by Alison at Absolute Beauty.
The front cover photograph was taken by John Moore of Two Front Teeth Photography in Cheltenham.
Tel: 01242 708468