LONDON MODEL MARIA SERGEJEVA | Sharon Henry
It’s not every day you see a world class Olympic figure skater run through a sequence of impressive moves (elements) on ice. It’s mesmerising to watch and I’m not the only one; others here in the grand Alexandra Palace ice rink obliviously feel the same, pausing from their stiff robotic styles to admire the professional.
Gliding effortlessly across the ice at remarkable speed is Maria Sergejeva, blonde hair blowing in the breeze. She gracefully moves into a spin and fully extends a leg 180 degrees into the air, my jaw drops. She does a round of the rink and returns within range of Darrin’s camera lens that’s trained directly on her and does a few skater poses as he fires the shutter release.
Alexandra Palace Ice Rink
We’re here at the ‘people’s palace,’ north London with Maria, an Estonian, four-time, pairs figure skating, national champion. Darrin’s flashy Canon attracts the unwanted attention of an attendant who reluctantly allows us a measly 10 minutes of shooting as professional cameras are not allowed.
The backdrop inside this Victorian structure is beautiful; high ceilings and large windows lend a fairytale impression. I can easily picture Frozen’s young princesses Elsa and Anna building a snowman here.
Time running short; Maria launches into a one-legged spin that’s so fast I feel dizzy.
Maria no longer skates competitively although she recently returned from touring Russia in an ice show. Having laced her first pair of skates at age four, she paired with her skating partner, Ilja Glebov, at ten. They went on to win four national championships and represented Estonia in the Winter Olympics 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.
“It was an amazing experience,” she remembers with a smile. “Twenty days of heaven, my dream come true, it was the goal of my life!”
London Model, Maria Sergejeva
Now a resident of London, at age 22 Maria is pursuing a new goal; a career in modelling. “There’re so many opportunities here. I’ve finally signed with a few agencies and am slowly getting into the business.”
Brushing stray strands of hair she tells us her most exciting assignment to-date; appearing in a One Direction video! My jaw drops once more.
“A friend called me for a shoot, they needed two free skaters. I turned up at the National History Museum and it was a One Direction video shoot and we’re skating with Harry Styles! It was amazing, he was so sweet. It was for the song, ‘Night Changes.'” How cool is that?
Maria has fully embraced the London life. “I love it. It’s so diverse and multi-cultural. I love the underground and how smart it is. All the systems of London are great. The Queen, everything!” she laughs. “There’re so many parks and green areas. Living in London is like in a movie. I love to walk along the South Bank and see the night lights, also over to St Paul’s Cathedral; it is a very beautiful area. You can go anywhere and have fun. It’s just the weather sometimes..!”
Speaking of which, we head outside into the bitter cold. It’s early March, however, the winter grip on London remains, evident by the bare, spidery trees. There’s supposed to be excellent views of the city from here, but in true UK fashion, its dull and cloudy, although, we can just about make out the tip of the Shard in the distance.
Alexandra Palace is heaving with hoards of teenagers heading toward the exhibition centre for a UCAS event. They are oblivious of our presence causing us to pause regularly as they walk through the shoot.
Running After Two Rabbits
We get to talking about Maria’s native Estonia. “It’s very tiny. Everybody knows each other, what you’re doing, where you’re working, what you’re wearing. I kind of did not like this, it’s not very private. In London because it’s so huge, there’s way more important things than thinking about what you’re wearing.
“In London I feel more free because it’s so big and there are so many people to meet. I find people very friendly and polite, not like in any other city.”
Maria has travelled the world, performing in ice shows. She’s lived in Mexico, New York, Sydney, Tokyo… She’s a member of the main cast of the sell out ice show, ‘Snow King,’ by Olympic medallist, Evgeni Plushenko which opened in Moscow and St Petersburg this year. “Next year they are planning on starting the show in Japan, then a European tour and hopefully a world tour.”
Wanting to focus energy on modelling, Maria thinks this might be her last tour. “I can’t run after two rabbits at the same time! I’ll need to learn more about the industry; do castings, make contacts and so on. I know you need a really good portfolio and experience.”
From Snow King to Miss USSR UK
Maria is a contestant in the Miss USSR, UK, that features girls from ex-USSR countries. “I’ve never done this kind of thing before but the winner gets a contract with BMA modelling agency. It will be a fun thing.” She’ll be performing a salsa dance number for the talent section, a skill learned whilst in Mexico.
Our photos are completed outside the Palace. Fighting for space with animated teenagers we catch the W3 bus to the underground station passing through the urban gauntlet of London.
Performing in the ‘Snow King’ saw Maria skating 2-3 times a day, for a month. Optimum fitness is required. “I rarely go to the gym, I work out at home,” she tells us. “I think working with your own body weight is the best thing you can do. You don’t need a gym.”
She’s also besotted with London’s food. “I have to be careful, especially with fish ‘n’ chips. It’s all very tasty and so diverse. There are so many types of food in London, all very, very good!”
Photo Shoot On The London Underground
The bus spews us out with dozens of students and we head for the underground turnstiles. Inside we set up at the end of the platform for the last round of shots. Unsurprisingly a guard comes to check we were not using flash, it’s not allowed. We weren’t and knew this from our previous time in London. Hopping onto a reasonably empty carriage on the Piccadilly line, the shoot continues. Maria’s model looks and the presence of the camera attracts all eyes. This includes Tony an Italian chef on his way to work who immediately strikes up conversation about photography.