If you live in LA, it’s easy to find something to do. One of the things I love about living in a metropolitan area is knowing that there is always something going on. It doesn’t matter whether it is a food expo a comic-book convention or a party to attend, there is always something you can go to and have a good time at. Living so close to Hollywood brings even more to the agenda, and it isn’t uncommon to see a commercial being shot or even a movie premier on Hollywood Blvd. If you are around long enough in LA, you are bound to run into something going on. I have lived in Southern California all of my life (most of that in Orange County at this point), and just when I thought that I had seen it all, I am surprised to learn about new events that I wish I had known about before. One of those events is one that we (at Spektrum) were fortunate enough to attend recently, and one that I would have never thought I would go to. The Miss Russian LA was a show that I had never heard about, and when we were invited to it I couldn’t have been more excited to go to. Considering that this was the 6th annual show, it made me wonder as to what I had missed the past five years. I didn’t know, but, I was super excited to find out.
I’m going to admit that I don’t know much about beauty pageants and what they are like. For years the only thing I knew about them was what I had seen on television. I’m sure no matter who you are, you’ve probably heard of the Miss Universe (and subsequent Miss America) pageants at least sometime in your life. I never really thought too much about the shows, but, whenever they would come on (at least once a year), it would always catch my attention. Sometimes as a kid I would catch whatever my parents were watching on television. There were a lot of shows that my mom used to watch, but, one that always stuck out in my mind was the Miss Universe pageant. It came on once a year and was unlike anything else that was on. In fact, I never even knew about the show until I had seen my mother watching it. Back then I didn’t know too much about the show, but, I was always entranced by the majesty and beauty of the women involved in it. Never before had I seen women looking so glamorous and smart and exotic as they competed against one another. It was something I had never seen before and up until pretty recently, it was the most that I knew about any beauty pageants. Thankfully though, when one of our members (for Spektrum Magazine) joined our team I would get to know more about a world I knew very little about.
Daynie is our reporter for the magazine, and not only is she one of the most talented people that I had ever worked with, but, a woman that has a story with so many incredible chapters to it. One of the things that I have always found fascinating about her is learning about something that she had done in the past. A lot of it is a story in itself, and I am sure that one day we’ll go into it. Believe me when I say that the day I found out that Daynie has her pilot’s license, I knew that there was a lot more to this girl than meets the eye. I hate to use the analogy (and I’ll probably pay for it if she reads this), but, like an onion, Daynie has a lot of layers to her. It is those layers that have made her one of the most intriguing members of the team. But, then again, that is a story for a different time. There was one thing that she had mentioned to me about and that had to do with something that she had been a part of during her modeling career. I didn’t know that although she had done a lot of professional modeling and been all over the place during her career, there was something that she did that I was fascinated to learn more about. It turns out that she had competed in a few pageants during her time in modeling. The day that she told me that she had done pageants was the day that I found out that one of our team members (Hanna) would herself be competing in her first pageant. It was the first time since seeing the Miss Universe pageants that I had really thought about anything related to any pageants, and I was intrigued.
I didn’t know too much about pageants, and even though I had worked with models for many years now, never came across anyone that had been in one. So, when I learned about Daynie and Hanna both being a part of that same world (and the part of the same pageant series) it was something that I wanted to learn more of. I asked a lot of questions over the subsequent months and wondered how the whole thing worked. But, never having had the opportunity to see one in person, the experience always felt like something I was missing out on. That changed a little over a month ago. I received an email asking if we (at Spektrum) would be interested in covering the Miss Russian LA Pageant. Anytime we are invited to an event I get super excited. This show in particular had to do with what we as a team had been talking about for the longest time. Considering how little I knew about pageants, I was excited to finally get to see how a pageant works from the inside. Well, at least from as far as we can see from the red carpet. Of course, going to any show, I usually bring our reporter Daynie along with us to cover the show. The moment I told her about it, her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, and I could tell that the flood of emotions that she experienced during her pageant days was something that she wanted to experience again. Well, at least to see it from the outside. But, the one thing that I wondered more than anything was what the event would be like. We do our best to find out about any and all events that are going on around town, and to my embarrassment, this was one I knew nothing about. But, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
One of the things I love about going to new events is meeting the people behind them. It doesn’t matter what show or event I could be at, I have always found the people and the stories behind the whole thing really fascinating. When it is something that I know little about, that feeling of experiencing something for the first time is always a joy to be a part of. That was the case with the Miss Russian LA pageant. Our reporter, Daynie has had experience with pageants before, and was looking forward to show quite a bit. I remember when I had first told her about it, her eyes lit up and she was more excited about this than a lot of other stuff when we have been to. I suppose when it’s something that you are passionate about, it’s hard to hide your feelings about it. Seeing her excited about going, in turn made me really eager to see what this would be like. So, when the day of the pageant came, we knew we had to look a little nicer than we would for any other event. I would like to think that I clean up pretty good, but, if you pair me up next to Daynie (who looked absolutely beautiful that evening), then it’s pretty easy to forget I exist. But, that was fine by me. I guess the pageant contestant in her came out that night, and Daynie could have been competing if she really wanted to.
I had been to the location before for another red carpet event. The Miss Russian pageant took place at the Taglyan Complex in Los Angeles. This is a pretty small location (well, at least it seems that way from the outside) and pretty non-discreet. To be honest, it’s a little misleading. From the outside, it’s easy to drive by and not think anything is going on there. The last time we covered an event there, we (Hanna, our other reporter, and myself) passed by a few times thinking we were in the wrong spot. The thing is though, that once you pass through the front gates the complex shows off just how absolutely beautiful it is. With wonderfully decorated walkways and lighting that complements the path to the entrance of the building, there is enough there to draw you inside. Having the red carpet positioned just near the sign in (right at the point where the valet is stationed at), means that within a few steps you can go from sitting in your car to sitting in your seat. It’s very beautiful, and a joy to walk around. I wouldn’t normally say that as far as red carpet venues are concerned, but, this one is a little different than most. It feels intimate and a perfect place where you can get up close and personal with any passers by (whether they are on the red carpet or not).
When we arrived at the complex that night, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, it’s a pageant, but, having never been to one, I was still wondering what we would discover. Not surprisingly from the moment we arrived, flanked to our left, right and right ahead of us were a bevy of beautiful people. I would say that it was just women, but, there were a lot of good looking people from all the sexes represented there. The red carpet hadn’t even started and surrounding us at every turn were beautiful people. I remember at that point I looked over at Daynie and thought, “we’re at the right place for sure”. Promptly we took our place at the end of the red carpet and within a few minutes the arrivals started to show up, and one by one, celebrities, musicians, artisans and more personalities than you can imagine began to arrive. In a New York minute, we had to get ready to shoot and chat with whoever was coming down the pipeline.
Needless to say, it was awesome. Everyone that came through was a real delight to talk to. One of the first people we saw come down the carpet was Lika Osipova. Even if we didn’t know that she was the founder and producer of the show, it was hard not to notice her. Wearing a beautiful red dress and looking absolutely stunning, Lika looked like royalty. The way she commanded an audience, and the way she carried herself during her moments on the red carpet was impressive. Every person that spoke with her, during interviews or during the short moments she had to talk was welcome with a radiant smile. Even if no one else walked down the red carpet you could tell just how amazing her presence was to the entire event. And to think, this was only 10 minutes into the carpet being open and already both Daynie and I were amazed at what we were witnessing.
For a brief moment there was another beautiful woman standing next to her in a black dress. She stood next to us and for a few minutes were able to chat with her about her role there that night. To our surprise, her name was Norma, and she is the owner and founder of Sunless Beauty Tans. Casually, she mentioned to us on how she was involved in the tanning for all of the contestants (and a few others) that night. The thing that blew us away wasn’t so much that the contestants had been tanned before the show, but, rather, it was the fact that we couldn’t tell that they were. Norma told us about her process and how she had worked with all of the contestants. Considering that at that moment a few contestants were beginning to walk down the carpet, we could see with our own eyes the results of her work. It was awesome, and having the opportunity to chat with such a wonderful person made that night that much more special.
As the contestants came down to our end of the red carpet, it was easy to see why they were a part of the event. I hate to keep over using the word, but, there is no better way to describe any of them than ‘gorgeous’. The three of them together floated down the red carpet at a brisk pace, and all the while, every head within a mile was fixated on them. With beautiful smiles and lovely outfits, it was hard not to look. I found out later on that one of the three was actually a contestant (the fantastically beautiful Julia Yaremchuk) and the other two women with her were dancers that would help her out during the talent portion of the contest. That talent portion would come a little later during the actual contest, and without a doubt be one of the most impressive displays that I have ever seen for a pageant. With a wonderful flute solo, Julia had already impressed all of us there. But, with a beat drop that no one saw coming, her dancers rushed up on stage and a dancing act followed. I didn’t see that coming, and the smile that Daynie had on her face when that switch happened really proved to us just how impressive the act really was.
One of the biggest surprises of the red carpet was seeing the famous professor (lawyer, television and movie personality) Ben Stein. Now, I have always loved Ben Stein since he had his tv show, ‘Win Ben Stein’s Money’ back in the day. There was something about his subtle, yet articulate demeanor that I always found charming. It wasn’t until a lot later that I saw him in Ferris Bueller and later on knew about his endeavors in politics. Having a few moments to chat with the man made me appreciate him a little more. He was just as charming as I would have imagined and very humble as well. Of course, being involved across such a wide array of subjects, everyone there knew exactly who he was and he was definitely one of the most popular faces there. A welcome surprise to us and to a lot of attendees there.
While the red carpet afforded us a great opportunity to get to know the people participating and attending the show, it saddened us to see the end of the line as it rapidly approached. Normally when we have been fortunate enough to cover events our story usually ends as soon as the red carpet is over. However, to our surprise, we were invited to come inside and see what it was all about. This was the first time that we had ever had a chance to see what the event we were covering would be like, so, we of course jumped at the chance. Considering I was new to the pageant scene I loved the thought of seeing how these events played out from the inside. Daynie, of course, was just as, if not more excited than I was. Like a trip down memory lane, this was one more chance to live the pageant life for her. As always, seeing her happy makes me happy. And just like that, we went inside the Taglyan complex. What I didn’t expect walking into the main ballroom was the majesty of everything. The hallway leading to the main room was a nice warm glow of amber and marble. As awesome as it was, it was the massive contrast of colors that shocked and amazed me. Contrasting the amber hallways were splashes of blues, purples and pinks. The color change really set a mood of tranquility, and unlike the craziness of the red carpet, this was a lot more focused.
The show started off with quite a bang. All of the contestants jumped up on stage (in some beautiful blue rompers might I add) and strutted down the main catwalk. They also each got had their own introduction videos. All of which were very well put together, and gave us a little insight into who the girls were. I think going into these things it’s hard to get a sense of who a person really is. It’s not until you have a moment to chat with them and you can see how they use their moment to shine as bright as they possibly can. That introduction was capped off by something a little surprising. As it turns out, during the production of the the contest, there was a show being filmed alongside it. This ‘reality’ show was an in depth look at the contestants and how they interacted with each other. I didn’t know that this would be shown, but, when we all got to see clips of the drama that went on behind the scenes, we couldn’t help by smile. The part that made everyone chuckle was when one of the contestants pushed another one into a swimming pool. I couldn’t help but laugh at that moment. Not so much at the girls, but, because of the drama that goes on behind the scenes. It’s stuff like that, that we don’t get to see during a show.
The opening to the show also offered up a performance by Peter Dranga. I remember meeting him on the red carpet a little earlier, but, didn’t know that he would be performing on stage that night. He was a nice guy and seeing him go up on stage a while later and rock out on his accordion was a real treat. Peter is a musician and singer from Russia. Tonight he would be hitting the stage and giving a very impressive performance. Never had I seen an opening like this (although there were times that I was able to see my uncles play their accordions with their traveling band. Awesome indeed, but, nothing like this introduction was), and it really fit the mood of the show. Seeing the contestants strut down the catwalk with huge smiles on their faces and with a pounding soundtrack interwoven into the act, was an experience that everyone in that building enjoyed. It was crazy to think that, this was just the beginning of what would be a long and interesting night. Again, being new to the whole thing, I was just soaking every moment that passed by. And believe me when I say that there were plenty.
Throughout the show, we had an opportunity to see the contestants walk down the runway in a variety of dresses and bikinis. All the while, the show would pause for each contestant just long enough for us to see what they were like. It was in those moments that we got to see a little bit of the personality that sold us on them. Whether it was the impossibly high kicks and stretches of contestant Tetiana (Geidar) or the wonderful gown walk near the end (of the show), there was a lot to take in. In the end though, the one thought I had racing through my head was that of pure joy. I took joy in knowing that I was not one of the judges for the show and that I wouldn’t have a hand in picking any of my favorites. To be honest, all of the contestants brought so much talent and class to the show that it was hard to pick a favorite. While I couldn’t pick one, the judges would eventually find the one that they most connected with. The winner was Anna Petrova. Anna Petrova is a stunningly beautiful, tall and brunette contestant that wowed me from the moment I saw her. While she is obviously beautiful, it was her performance during the talent portion that captivated the judges and myself. Her dance routine was second to none, and her grace and elegance without a doubt helped her to be crowned the 2017 Miss Russian LA.
Probably one of the things I enjoyed most about the evening was learning more about the different contestants. While I can’t remember where in Russia they were from, it was nice getting to know a little bit more about them and learn more about their personalities. Some of them were pretty funny, and others a little more serious. They answers during the Q&A segment really let us know what they were looking to do in life and what they thought about things happening in the world. I don’t envy any of them to be honest. I think when we watch game shows or pageants on television, it’s easy to imagine an answer or a response pretty quickly. I mean, if you’ve ever seen someone yelling at a television during a game show you know what I’m talking about. Everyone thinks they know all the answers to every question, but, when you have hundreds (sometimes even more) of people looking at you, it’s easy to buckle under the pressure. I know if it were me, I would be sweating bullets and would be shaking uncontrollably. Well, maybe not that bad, but, one has to appreciate all of the contestants and their poise. I loved seeing how witty some of them were as well.
And just like that the show came to a close. What started out as something of a mystery to me turned out to be one of the funnest shows that we have had the pleasure of covering. Not only was it an eye-opener to the pageant and beauty scene for me, but, it was also a moment that I was able to appreciate a lifestyle and culture of the Russian peoples. It was awesome peeking into a world that I knew very little about, but, now want to know more of. I was happy to have been there with our reporter Daynie as well. If it wasn’t for her guidance and little bit of insight to what was going on that day, I don’t know if I would have followed everything that happened as well as I did. I have to thank Lika (Osipova) as well for putting on one hell of a show. I could tell that night that everyone involved loved being a part of something so wonderful. The contestants were a joy to see work in their element. It was a great time, and I am sure for everyone that attended the show, that it was on their minds for long after. If you have never seen the Miss Russian LA pageant before, definitely check it out and see what it is all about. This years’ show may be over, but, as much of a success that it was, we are sure to hear about the next one soon. We, of course, can’t wait!
Words and Photos By Daniel Navarrete
For more information on the Miss Russian LA Show check out their website at http://likaosipova.com/miss-russian/
This article was prepared or accomplished by Daniel Navarrete in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spektrum Magazine, or its affiliates.