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Colour euphoria: Behind the scenes

ZOOT chats with Ukrainian model Nelli Virchenko

After wrapping the “Colour euphoria shoot, ZOOT caught up with Ukrainian model Nelli Virchenko, who displayed the corporeal art of beauty editor Antonia Rosa and was captured by photographer Sergio Santos. Nelli shared with us about her love of Lisbon, her inspirations from home and her experience of the war in Ukraine.


Editorial images and behind-the-scenes photos by Sergio Santos for ZOOT “Colour euphoria“.


How does it feel to be in Portugal right now, away from home? What does your community look and feel like for you now?

Nelli Virchenko: I have been coming and going to Portugal for 7 years. The first time I came here was when I was 17 years old. This place is like a small paradise for me, where I feel relieved and stronger than ever. My agency, We Are Models, is my second family here. They give me a lot of knowledge and opportunities to grow and at the same time they support me and are always by my side.


Can you tell me about your experience of the early days of the war? Where were you when it started? 

NV: I woke up at 5 a.m. on February 24th with a message from my mother: “war has started, windows are shaking”. I was in Portugal at that moment.

Photo courtesy We Are Models

What has changed in your life since 24 February? What has remained the same?

NV: My life turned upside down. I felt the strongest pain I’ve ever felt in my life but it made me stronger, realising I can achieve everything I desire. I feel I’m on the right path now.

What has been the moment you felt most proud to be a Ukrainian?

NV: I’m proud of being Ukrainian all my life. We were born to be independent, brave and strong. The history of my country proved that for so many years.

Other countries were surprised by how passionately President Zelenskiy is defending and leading the country in the midst of the violence. What has your experience been?

NV: I am 24 years old, and I have just gone one time for selection and voted for our president. He stands with Ukraine and he fights for Ukrainian independence and is a very brave person at the same time.

All Ukrainians have a unique experience of the war depending on location, family situation, etc. In your view, what ties all your experiences together?

NV: My experience with war is pretty sad. I have lost the most important person in my life: my grandma. The house where she lived was bombed by Russia. This is an unbelievable pain, but it was her choice to stay and not leave, and I’m proud of her decision. Before my next step in life, I will think about her and imagine if she would approve it or not. This is how my life and way of thinking has changed during the war.


What’s your daily routine like now?

NV: I’m avoiding bad news, trying to focus on positive things and helping my family escape to Portugal. Also, working as a model, participating in different and interesting projects that improve my skills in so many ways.

Can you tell me about the “Colour euphoria” production with our beauty editor Antonia Rosa and the photographer Sergio Santos? 

NV: It was a big pleasure to work with them, they were great and the job was creative and unusual for me.

Do you know other models or designers who are still in Ukraine, fighting or volunteering? What are their lives like now? What about creatives you know outside Ukraine, how are they spending their days?

NV: I know the photographer @orlovaphotographer that is helping my hometown with humanitarian aid, and I’ve been sending some money to her fund. Also, I think that the war is somehow connecting people as they started to help each other. I know some photographers and models that moved to Europe. One thing is certain, we can leave Ukraine but it won’t leave our hearts.

What do you imagine your life will be like when the war is over?

NV: I will never be the same as before.

What’s the first thing you will do then? 

NV: I will go and see my grandfather.








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