Originally he wanted to be a doctor, but thanks to his fluent French, the wind of fate blew him towards the most beautiful girls in the world. For over 25 years, Saša Jány has been selecting unique girls, whom we can consequently see laughing from the covers of leading magazines. He has just finished castings for the Schwarzkopf Elite Model Look contest finale. In an interview with Luxury Prague Life, the charming modeling agency director spoke about his "sheep", but also revealed a few things about himself...
Every year, you travel trough the Czech Republic and Slovakia, looking for new male and female models. What’s the situation this year?
We’ve finished last week, now the whole team is in Slovakia. It's a huge event, we have 25 castings all over "Czechoslovakia".
Isn't it getting bigger every year?
It is, we’ve even noticed a twenty-two percent higher participation in castings, we were thoroughly shocked. We were expecting slow growth by five to seven percent, but twenty-two, that really surprised us. It seems to be a profession the young generation is still interested in. And thanks to social networks, people are becoming more and more aware of modeling. Maybe they're even more mentally prepared, according to what we’re seeing.
That’s strange, I would have guessed that, on the contrary, participation was going to drop. The birth rate went down, and it is such a transient career, not everyone succeeds…
That’s true, but on the other hand, it does not require extreme preparation. Consider how hard girls have to work to become a ballet dancer, how difficult it is to learn how to ride a horse so that one could become a professional jockey, or participate in a singing contest, where people actually have to know how to sing sing. While here, when a person has a natural gift… There is a fairly wide range of people who are evaluated as potentially capable of succeeding. I think the simplicity of preparation is one of the things that play into our cards.
Are girls capable of any self-criticism nowadays?
I think in about 45 % of cases, there’s a chance. Things work differently in large and small towns. It puzzles me that we always find fewer people in large towns than in the small ones. Then again, it’s common in small towns that girls are being told how beautiful they are from a young age, they keep hearing it from their local peers, and they have no means of comparison, because there are no castings or agencies around. Paradoxically, we find better people there. There’s a large number of people in Prague and Brno, but the percentage of people we choose is several times smaller than in Karviná or Frýdek-Místek.
What are the criteria? Before, girls needed to have the 90-60-90 ratio, they had to be beautiful, tall, thin. It seems to me that today, on the contrary, everyone is fat. I don't mean the models, not at all, but the whole world in general is getting fat. Doesn't it shift the parameters elsewhere?
It’s true that nowadays, uniqueness of appearance is being sought, no one is looking for that perfect, obvious kind of beauty in modeling, even though it seems like a contradiction. There are two categories in modeling. In the first one you want original types, freckles, protruding ears. The Balkan look is going strong now - women, who walk across the catwalk and you immediately remember them. On the other hand, in the beauty industry everyone wants the beautiful Hana Jiřičková, Linda Vojtová, Denisa Dvořáková. Thanks to the beauty industry, our Eastern European type of woman won’t disappear. And fortunately, it is the strongest branch of the modeling industry, generating the most money. We have a lot of trendy models that walk in Gucci or Prada shows, but they never make money on it. These are two different kinds of modeling.
We are looking for the pretty Slavic girls and now, in the last four years, also boys. Boys have it a little easier, but I keep saying it's balanced out by the fact that they earn four times less than women, and we, the modeling industry, are balancing this fairness of income. Boys have a simple preparation, we are looking for a type of man we call the "skater" or "street boy". That guy who arrives in sweatpants, leans his bike against the wall and walks in, that’s our man. Nobody is interested in a metrosexual here, they want a unique funny guy who leans his bike somewhere and comes to the casting. Natural, natural, natural. And that's what we're looking for in women, too. Today, we go after charisma more than ever before, which paradoxically doesn’t mean the models need to be extroverts.
That’s true. However, sometimes you choose a girl whom the general public doesn't like much, but she then wins a world competition. How is it possible?
It’s about photogenicity. You - journalists, guests - see our girls at the Schwarzkopf Elite Model Look finale, when most of them are standing on the catwalk for the first time and they are scared. But behind the scenes, we notice that the girl doesn’t lack humor, looks great in photos, shows talent in front of the camera, and she doesn't have to be an extrovert at all. She’s got a certain a charm, there’s something about her, an unidentifiable factor X. It can't be named. But already from the test photos, we can expertly tell which girl is like a chameleon, capable of the greatest changes.
It is true that when Bára Podzimková won, everyone understood why. But she was just one of our world winners. There are also Eva Klimková, Jana Tvrdíková, who represent unique types of young people - the modern modeling types. Bára is the beauty industry type that everyone can comprehend. All types can make a living out of it, but we’re also looking for the flexibility and photogenicity I’ve mentioned.
Do you think the Czech Republic still has some of the most beautiful girls in the world?
Absolutely. But I also think that the boom of Slavic beauty is gone, for one simple reason. It took me a long time to define it and understand it. Today, for me, the most successful country for discovering models per square meter is the Netherlands. It’s been ruling the world of modeling for years already. Their models may be as beautiful as ours, there is no competition in that respect, but it is in the personal level, in character. Dutch girls can speak English perfectly, they’re predatory, they have an amazing drive and are ambitious. Somehow, this country managed to check all the boxes required for world modeling.
Our girls have ambitions in the beginning, but they are neither resilient nor ambitious enough, and they’re not really willing to work on themselves. Keeping a certain lifestyle, going to some kind of dance or gymnastic training… That's above their tolerability level. Dutch girls are a combination of everything that world modeling requires.
There are 33 modeling agencies in Amsterdam. We, as an agency, basically don't have any competition in the market, and I am not saying this because we have many years of competition results. We would even be pleased if someone built as many modeling careers here as we did in the last ten years. In Amsterdam, at least ten of the 33 active agencies are on that level.
How long have you been working in the modeling industry?
Girls must already be able to recognize you on the street - as an agent they have to make friends with ...
That's right, I've even had to stop visiting certain resorts. In Slovakia, as part of my career development, I lent my face to the media more than here. Now I give interviews very sporadically, I’ve lived in Prague for 20 years. The public satisfaction and appreciation of my work in Slovakia was enough for me, now I value my privacy more.
People who are interested in modeling obviously recognize me in Prague. But not all the time, unlike Slovakia, where my face has been everywhere. I can't go out in sweat pants there, people would immediately start judging me. I find that surprising - after all, I’m not in show business. Then again, I have to admit that modeling is probably attractive for the public as a profession - and there are not many agents working with models like Daniela Peštová or Míša Kociánová.
That must be true also behind the borders, when you come to Paris for a show, for instance…
They don't remember us that well, it’s usually the agents who know. Recently I was told by an agent from another world agency that here in Prague, all he needs to do when he seeks a model is go to us, without even trying any other agencies. They know it's all concentrated around us, so we do have a certain professional credit. But being recognized, like designers, according to who discovered which famous model, that’s not a thing.
Do you have a friendly relationship with all the girls? And do you keep in touch?
Yes, and it's really funny how it changes with age. When we started, the models were my age. The friends I have in modeling are the models that have been working for 15 to 20 years. And as for the youth currently on the catwalks - well, I'm older than their fathers. When I ask them to call me by name, I hit a wall, there goes nothing.
Another reason why I enjoy the profession is that it enables me to keep up with music and fashion trends. Young people are solving completely different problems and that recharges us with a youthful energy. When I see my classmates, they appeared to be more aged than I am, because they don’t work with young people, it certainly has an effect. But my relationships with the new models are not what they once were.
What about your private life? You said you go to Spain once per six weeks...
Yes, and it surprised me. Seeing as I’d studied French, I thought I'd rather be visiting France. But we found the south of Spain absolutely enchanting, especially around Marbella. We have friends there. That's my lifestyle now, every six weeks, I spend one week working from there over e-mail. It’s a great way for me to order my thoughts, enjoy the nature... I’ve even started cooking. I didn’t use to cook before, but in Spain I get to use great food items and ingredients. In the last last two, three years, I’ve made this change in lifestyle and I would recommend it to everyone, because it's really great for cleansing one’s head.
And you’ve discovered this by chance?
Completely by chance. My friend wanted to buy a piece of land for building a house there, there was a huge real estate crisis back then, so it seemed to be an interesting investment too. I don’t play golf, so that definitely wasn't the reason why I went there. In December, they have our May weather over there, the climate in unique for European terms, a direct flight from Prague only takes three hours. I’m really enchanted by the town and I’m planning to learn Spanish.
How many languages do you speak?
French, English, German, Russian, Polish. And I’m a bit lazy to learn the next language now. (laughter)
That’s a lot.
But it’s okay.
What do you do in your free time? You are not always on tour, looking for beauties…
Actually, this is the first year when I'm not physically present for the casting tour, I only do Prague and Bratislava. I just watch online who my colleagues will choose. I thought a quarter-century of castings was enough, it's also a new stage for me. I relax with culture, I love theater, walks, galleries, that's my thing. I guess I'm not the type for mountain hikes, but walks along the sea, beach and parks, that I love. But I’m also a café-dweller, I can easily relax in the Café Café in Prague.
Do you like shopping?
No, not at all. The price of clothing is absurd to me, since I work in the industry and know the cost of production and so on. The only shopping I plan is shopping for socks. Of course, I make a spontaneous purchase every now and then when I see something I like, but going shopping as a form of relax, that would be a no. I'd rather go to an auction of paintings.
I love interior design, that’s something I would like to pursue in the future, it's a hobby of mine. But I don’t go around throwing out money for bags and shoes. That's rather the domain of stylists, they work with it, it's like a business card for them, they are a living presentation of their work to some extent. I really don't need to dress up as a model manager and talent scout. I've never been much into high fashion, I've always worn jeans and a jacket. I've never followed fashion trends.
You chose to live in Prague, even though you are from Slovakia and you've lived in Algeria.
I've also lived in Vienna for two years. And after Vienna I chose Prague. I lived in Algeria for four years while growing up.
And you never went back there?
I did, and ironically in a fantastic position. I was doing semi-final castings for Elite Model Look there. I held them in the capital of Algeria and in Oran, the city where I used to live and where Yves Saint-Laurent came from. Unfortunately, a year later, things happened in Algeria, that was some ten years back. But I found the landscape fascinating, I have a very close relationship with it. I managed to return to my lyceum back then, to the house where I used to live. It was very emotional for me. It was amazing, I would never have guessed that it was going to be modeling what would bring me back to Algeria.
And then you went to Vienna and France.
I've been to France repeatedly. After Vienna, I had the choice to either go to Paris and enter employment, or to Prague with a business plan. Today, I'm overjoyed I decided for Prague, I love this city. I was walking through its streets this Easter and I thought it was more beautiful than Florence, maybe more beautiful to me than Rome. And its historical roots - it used to be the capital of Czechoslovakia, there is no language barrier and also the level of security that Prague provides is much greater than in Paris or Brussels. I really consider Prague to be one of the most attractive cities to live in, if not the most attractive one.
And your mother?
My mother is in Slovakia. I have an agency there, so I visit for about 3 or 4 days every month, both because of the agency and my mom. Bratislava is still a part of my life, but mainly on a personal level. Prague is not a metropolis of modeling either, but at least there are a few foreign productions here, which I missed in Bratislava.
Apart from that, the human dimension of Bratislava is very important to me, because my strongest friendships are, of course, there. People from Slovakia are more amicable and hospitable, in Prague I perceive a mentality that’s aimed towards Germany, but we are closer to Hungary, to the south. The energy is differen.
You never wanted to live like the models? In New York, maybe?
No, that’s the last place where I’d ever want to live. For me, Paris is the only city where I could imagine living permanently and functioning adequately, but that's because of my French. Paris today and Paris twenty years ago, that's a big difference though.
But Linda Vojtová, for instance, is happy in New Yorku…
Yes, she is, and Míša Kociánová loves New York, too. Perhaps it also matters, where you’ve experienced a relationship, love or success. For me, New York is place of business, where I don’t like to stay for longer than three days.
And do you always visit the girls?
Yes, we see each other when I’m in NY, I’ve even celebrated my birthday there recently. I was there during Fashion Week, about fifteen of our models participated. It was really pleasant, we went to a garden restaurants with fairy lights, like one big family.
People must be thinking, who is that guy, surrounded by so many beautiful girls…
True, but everyone in New York immediately figures out it must be an agent, seeing as he’s alone with them. But models certainly do attract attention.
When will the final evening take place this year?
The finale will be held at Prague Castle at the end of August, as always.
You are looking forward to it? And what can we get excited about this year?
At the moment, we are working on the concept of the whole show, it is always a big challenge and with our director Jana Burkiewicz, we try to be original every year. Last year the audience cheered for Matěj Ruppert and Ondra Brzobohatý; a year before,they were excited about Vojta Dyk. The final gala event is considered one of the most prestigious events, so it is a huge commitment for us.
I can disclose that Daniela Peštová should become the chairwoman of the jury, replacing last year’s chairwoman Hana Jiříčková. But our other top models such as Eva Klimková, Bára Podzimková, Jana Tvrdíková, Denisa Dvořáková, Míša Kocianová and Linda Vojtová will certainly show up too. It is always difficult to align the calendars of all the models with the event date. The best fashion from abroad as well as the guests - one Czech and one Slovak fashion designer - will spice up the evening.
Thank you very much for the interview.
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