Monika leová first became known to the public eye, when she took part in the Czech Miss competition in the year 2013, where she earned the Blesk Award, Czech Miss Earth. The exotic beauty, who is now almost notoriously known from the evening news on TV Prima recently got married after an almost 9 year relationship. With a Czech. She herself was born here, so despite some clear Asian traits, she feels herself to be only Czech. In the interview for Luxury Prague Life, she however revealed, that as a child she had to endure many racist insults. It took some time, before she turned her ‘difference’ into a ‘virtue’.
What’s new with you?
Nothing much, apart from the fact that I got married. (Laughter) I finished my doctor’s degree, and I’m still on Prima on the evening news (Odpolední zprávy). I also recently started to work as a speaker for a car showroom. I’m the voice there, I describe all the cars, their performances and so. I’m also trying to find out and learn the most I can as I’m completely new to this, but it’s really great and I really enjoy it. Hopefully, I’ll appear on screen as well. They‘ve also promised me some rides with Pepa Sršeň, because I ride a motorcycle, so he could give me a bit of training and show me a few tricks. I’m really looking forward to it.
Do you ride a motorbike?
Yes, as a hobby.
Recently we rented a Suzuki GS500E
Is it not too heavy for you?
Kind of. We rode on it with Martin (husband Martin, edit. comments) in Prague for about three weeks, and we were absolutely thrilled. Now we’re thinking of getting one of our own. I’ve had one before, when I first got my driving license, but a car hit me. I was in very bad condition, I couldn’t walk at all, but I put myself together in about six months. Then I was afraid to get on it again. But when I was in Bali, I rented a big motorbike, and fell in love again.
If it were me, I‘d never get on a bike again. You‘re also quite a fragile girl…
I have to get good and quality clothes, and then it should be fine. I don‘t go very fast, I try to be careful and attentive. Especially since I had the accident. I‘m seriously always on the look-out, and I always set off with the knowledge that anyone could hit me. Most motorcyclists aren‘t responsible for their accidents, many drivers of cars don‘t really take bikers in consideration, and they don’t notice them, that’s when an accident happens. That’s how my accident happened, a car was taking over from the adjacent lane and it didn’t see me. To this day, I still can’t bend my leg a bit, and I’m missing a bit of my bone. But it doesn’t limit me in any way.
Let’s get back to the wedding. I still remember, when you got engaged, but that was quite a while ago!
Today I remembered, that we got engaged exactly three years ago.
So it took a really long time before you got married…
It took two and half years. I wanted to finish school as a priority. I wanted to enjoy the preparations, and I knew that if I was going to deal with the school and the wedding, then I wouldn’t enjoy either. I wouldn’t dedicate a hundred percent to either of them. Apart from that, I was also working, and I was a full-time student. We didn’t rush anything, I’m so glad that we waited, and it turned out that last year was the time to do it.
Was it nice?
It was amazing, we carry the moments with us to this day. Everytime I see our wedding guests, we love to bring it up and talk about it. I have six close friends at the moment, who will have a wedding this year. I’m trying to be active in helping them, because I’ve been through it before. I’ve learned from some of the experiences, and I know that there are many things one can’t predict. I don’t want the things that weren’t such a success for us to happen to them, I want to be able to advise them, so that they can have a perfect wedding.
What went wrong?
Of course, they should consider the fact there could be a “wet” option. I had no idea, we could experience such bad weather. At the last moment, we were trying to find a big tent. In the end we found one at fire department. They lent to it to us for the price of one slivovice (liquor), it was brilliant. I told myself, it can’t be cold and rainy the whole day. In the end it was so cold, and it rained from three in the afternoon until morning.
Then the electricity kept switching off, or we had trouble with parking. It’s really important to put phone numbers on cars, because when someone’s trying to leave and can’t get out of his parking space, then he can phone the owner. Those are some of the ideas that we benefited from, and our friends didn’t know about these. We had a coordinator, she made us aware of some things, and I’m just trying to pass it on. I really enjoy it, especially living through it with them again. But honestly, I myself wouldn’t do it again, it’s too much stress for one day.
What changed in the marriage?
Probably nothing. I think, that the change comes naturally with children. Me and Martin are always on the same wavelength, and we’re great. We didn’t even really need the wedding, but we wanted to move our relationship forward. We’ve been together for nine years, everyone kept asking us, but the marriage certificate itself didn’t really change anything. Rather the memories from the wedding did… We realized how many loving people we have around us, and that we’re lucky to have found each other, and that it works.
I even kept my surname, officially I’m Košínová Leová. But we’ve gotten approval from the council, that we can be called Le Košínovi. That‘s the other option, so that we could have the same surname. Maybe we have children, to be a family under one name, we could be Le Košínovi.
What will it look like – will there be a dash?
Normally like ‘Le Košín‘, like Le Penn for example. We like this variant, I don’t want to get rid of the exotic ‘Le’. It’s the foundation of my surname, I only have the suffix ‘ová‘, my brother is called Čeněk Le. I feel like it belongs to us. I used to want to distance myself from Vietnam, due to my exotic name, but now I think that it really suits me, and I wouldn’t want to lose it.
Maybe that came with age… (laughter)
Maybe yes, maybe I became just happy with myself. When I was little, I was often a target of ridicule, and they bullied me. But step by step, especially thanks to modelling, I started to believe in myself more, and now it seems like an advantage to me.
Back then, when you were ten, were there not many Vietnamese people around?
We were the only ones in a small town. It was quite hard. It took me a while before I made peace with my Asian appearance, I feel completely Czech inside. Our father didn’t raise us much, because he was always at work, so we grew up with a Czech grandmother, grandfather, and mother.
I was quite sad, when we were walking with mum in the street, and everyone thought I was adopted, because my mum is a blue-eyed tall blonde. I always felt sorry that I didn’t look like her. I have two other siblings, but I’m the one, who is most similar to my dad, my brother and sister don’t look very Asian. Sometimes, I think that they didn’t harrass them as much as they did me. But I take it in my stride on one hand, because it made me a lot stronger. I’m happy that I showed that, that if a person is dedicated, humble and professional, he or she can reach places, they couldn’t even dream of. And that neither skin colour, nor ones roots really make a difference.Whatever I have, I earned, and I’m really grateful, and I really appreciate all of it. And I’m not done yet… (laughter)
Did you ever ask your mum, why you don’t look like her?
I did, but she always answered, “because your did is like that”, but inside you take after me. My mom always liked the exotic types, and I admire to this day, that she got together with my dad. My grandfather on the other hand never accepted him, he didn’t even come to the wedding. But mum loved father, and she told me she never regretted meeting him, and that she had us. They did get divorced after about fifteen years, but it was the best she could do. She has three good children, that she’s proud of.
You came a long way – you got an award at the Czech miss, and you work in Prima TV, you’re a public figure, people want autographs and so on. Did you meet anybody who made fun of you as a child? Or did anybody come to you and apologize?
No, that didn’t happen. I’m not even sure, which children were making fun of me anymore, it’s such a long time ago. Now I just laugh when they call me things like ‚Ťaman‘ (slur) and such things. But my friends call me Ťami, and it doesn‘t sound so harsh. I always wanted a nickname, now I have one and I like it a lot.
How long have you had it?
Since I was fifteen. My friends from Vysoké Mýto gave it to me, I used to go there for dance lessons. Ťami seems cute to me, and I know they don’t mean anything bad. I make fun of myself, and I make jokes at my own expense.
You mentioned that you don’t speak Vietnamese, but now you’re learning?
I always understood a bit, but I learned the language when I was seventeen, when my dad sent me all by myself to Vietnam for three months. I learned quite a lot there, but Vietnamese is a really difficult language. When you intone one word in seven different ways, it has a different meaning each time. So I was really afraid to speak, because they sometimes made fun of me, when I said something stupid. They didn’t mean anything bad, but I got a block.
When I go into a Vietnamese grocery store, and the vendor starts speaking to me, I understand him, but I rather tell him that I don’t, so that it doesn’t get complicated. I know basic words and phrases. When my grandmother from Vietnam came to visit us at the wedding, I managed to understand her. I’m able to ask her how she is, if she needs anything and so on. But I guess I won’t be speaking with her for hours.
And is it thanks to your teacher?
She keeps me going. I think I would have otherwise forgotten quite a lot. I don’t have Vietnamese friends to practice and speak Vietnamese with. I learned the most of the langauge when I was in Vietnam all alone for three months. I learned in the way, that I went around asked in Vietnamese “What is that?” and I wrote it phonetically in my journal.
I learned a lot by doing that, but I also forgot a lot, so I’ve had a teacher the past two years. A young girl, about eighteen years old. She comes to my home, and it’s great. I’m surprised, however, that she is so patient with me. We’ve now been learning how to pronounce one word, which has different intonations, and it seems to me that I’m reading it the same way every time. It’s like singing… I’m not even surprised that everyone sings karaoke. (laughter)
Do you have any special goals with your Vietnamese?
Due to the fact that Martin has never been to Vietnam, I wanted to take him there. We thought , “Maybe in two years”. When Vietnam came to our wedding – grandma, auntie and cousin – we thought we’d wait and go later. Of course, I’d like to be able to speak, because we want to travel. Everyone thinks, that if I have a family in Vietnam, I know where to go, and they want me to recommend to them where to go. I’ve been there three times, but most of that time I spent with my family, and I didn’t travel much. But I’m happy though, because I can see it all now with Martin. This time I’d like to turn the ratio around – I’d like to spend twenty percent of the time with my family and eighty percent of the time travelling.
I’m surprised that when you go into a Vietnamese store, that Vietnamese people speak Vietnamese to you. Is that a given? Since the “younger generation” doesn’t usually know much…
They learn as a necessity, but most don’t know how to write. What they learned they have from their parents, because they speak Vietnamese with them, but otherwise they don’t use it. Most of the time, older people – the parents, work in the store. The kids are in school, and sometimes help out. People are often taken aback, when they find out I can’t speak Vietnamese. I regret, that my dad never taught us any Vietnamese, we could have known another language.
You’ve been with your husband for nine years. When will you have children?
I’d like to have my first child before I turn thirty, so we thought we’d start trying in about two years. We know that it doesn’t have to be a success straight away. I’m surrounded by a lot of friends, who are struggling, so we’ll see. We’ll take it easy.
All of a sudden, all the journalists from Prima started getting married and having children…
So far I’m content, that I don’t need another person to be happy. I think, that it’ll happen in its own time. Me and Mark are enjoying ourselves at the moment, and we’re enjoying the fact that we’re free, and we can travel, and enjoy each other’s company. Many of my friends have children, and their lives have changed. I wouldn’t want to blame my child, that I haven’t been there or somewhere. I want to experience what I can, travel the world, so I could tell myself, that now is the time to have a family, and I can dedicate myself to it fully. I know, that Martin is hyperactive, so I’m going to have a hyperactive child. I won’t sleep, I won’t be doing anything else than running around and chasing after him.
It’s possible to travel with children later on.
Exactly, but so far we’re still living in a rented apartment, we have a flatmate. We’re searching for our own place, and we’ve been at a few viewings, but it wasn’t what we’re looking for. I don’t want to make excuses, of course we’d manage, if a baby came a long, but we’d rather have a foundation on which to build.
You made yourself at home at Prima, but you’re still thinking about modelling?
Rarely. Last year it was still quite okay, I’m curious what this year will bring. I have some photoshoots planned, some fashion shows, I was abroad a few times, that was nice. But I get more work as a host these days, I host parties, conferences, it’s better paid and it’s here.
Is it better paid than being a model?
Yes, modeling isn’t paid that well. It seems to me, that there are many models who agree to go to fashion shows for a lower pay, just so that they could go. And they drag the pay down.
When you were a model, and you displayed yourself in underwear, or a swimsuit… What did your dad say?
I never showed that to him. (laughter)
He doesn’t live under a rock…
I think he just looked the other way, he only wanted me to work a lot. It surprised me though, how he reacted to the Miss competition, because when it comes to privacy, the Vietnamese keep a lot to themselves, and don’t show themselves in public much. But dad is such a riot, he doesn’t care, so he supported me a lot. I don’t think he’d be wild about the underwear, but he knows that I’m a smart girl, I know my limits, and I know what I can afford. It’s a job, and I get reasonably well paid for it.
Your dad doesn’t live in Prague?
He lives in eastern Bohemia, he still lives, where he and my mum met.
And your mum?
My mom lives in Lysá nad Labem. She found herself a partner… Or now a husband already.
That means you have quite a large family!
Us from Eastern Bohemia return there every weekend, because we have a big family house, my grandmother and grandfather, and Martin also has family there. I see my dad, and I see my mum in Prague, we go for lunch or we get up to something. Dad cooks dinners a lot. He made his dream come true, and he built a new big house, where he has subtenants. Finally, he has his own house, because he always lived in such a cave, and he was always really ashamed of that. Now he has a wonderful house, so twice a week we visit him and have dinner. We have incredible feasts, we love it.
So he was probably saving his whole life and he worked a lot…
Exactly. Everyone keeps asking him now, how he could afford it. He says “I kept working, I didn’t spend anything, I didn’t go on any holiday”. It confuses people a lot, maybe they’re jealous, but he seriously saved up all that money. Dad doesn’t go on holiday every year, he’s at work every single weekend. He earned that money honestly.
That’s got to be the nature of the Vietnamese.
They’re incredibly hard-working. And when he reached the age of fifty-five, he made his dream come true, and saved up enough money to build his own house.
And did he find a partner?
He’s had a Vietnamese partner ever since him and my mother got divorced. He found himself a Vietnamese woman, and my mom found a Czech man. Out of all the families, that we grew up with, about fifteen mixed marriages, all of them ended up in a divorce, and Vietnamese always went back to being with Vietnamese, and Czech women went back to Czech men.
It’s a different mentality, either one of them has to change, or it can’t work. Traditions are different, methods of bringing up are different, and the status of women is also different. The wife always has to be the obedient one, and Czech women are slightly more emancipated, so they don’t take it well. My mom could take it for a while, but then enough was enough. I can’t imagine them being together now. She’s very happy to have her current husband. Every weekend, they travel somewhere, it wouldn’t be like that with dad. I’m happy they got divorced, and that they’re both happy with their own other half.
And you’re also happy. Tell us what awaits you in the year 2019?
What awaits me… I’m curious myself! I made new good work partnerships, and I hope that I’ll host a lot and that’ll stay on the evening news, and I hope that the car showroom job turns out well. I hope that I get on screen, and maybe I’ll get a motorbike…
Now, we’re flying to New York, we have six weddings ahead of us, one of the couples is getting married there. We’ve never been there, so we thought, why not. We’ve planned a few smaller holidays. The mountains, then a trip in the summer to the sea, only with the car and with Martin.