Kyiv, 28 January 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Marina Maniouk's job sometimes is easy, sometimes not. As director of the Linea 12 Modeling Agency in Kyiv, Ukraine, she recruits young Ukrainian women to grace magazine covers and perfume ads. But modeling goes deeper than looks.
Maniouk says the real challenge often is in teaching a teen-aged Ukrainian beauty to arrive at a shoot on time. Or, when tired, to keep on smiling until photographer and customer are satisfied.
Or, as Maniouk puts it, "just getting the girls to stand in a straight line."
For a man or woman seeking to break into modeling, Maniouk's opinion counts. Linea 12 estimates that four out of every five models appearing in any form of visual medium there -- television, magazines, newspapers, billboards, and even the ads inside subway cars -- are provided by Linea 12.
The Ukrainian modeling market is small, underfunded, and heavily centered in the capital. It serves domestic clients who are poor, unsophisticated in advertising and burdened with the customer-service attitudes of the planned economy they grew up in.
One example is TsUM. It's the biggest, busiest department store in Ukraine. A logical customer for a modeling agency?
Maniouk says successful companies in Ukraine aren't accustomed to marketing to build market share. Firms tend to advertise only if they are doing badly.
Fortunately for Linea-12, the domestic market is only part of its operating field. In cooperation with international ad agency McCann Erickson, it commands a customer list that includes companies like Nestle and Coca Cola.
But although major advertisers -- and often their ad campaigns -- come from outside the country, Linea-12's business and revenue are made by selling to the Ukrainian market. To serve that market, the company maintains about 80 portfolios at any one time, around 70 percent of whom represent women. Linea-12 says its ideal female model is 178 to 180 centimeters tall, has fine skin and projects good health and notable personality.
Depending on experience and the length of an assignment, a model can earn the equivalent of anywhere from $20 to $5,000 for a job -- big money in low-wage Ukraine. The director says that nobody comes in and starts at top money. In Maniouk's words, "It takes time to create a professional model."