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Olga Zharinova - A Russian Actress

The Making of Olga

By Desiree Molyneaux

“To become an actress
one has first to obtain
a Master’s in Mathematics”


Olga Zharinova was born and raised in Moscow, the capital of Russia, and in a family of mathematicians: her dad was a college professor and mom taught in high school. As a little child she was able to experience the era of socialism ruling her country. To her everything around looked dull, depressing, and unexciting. Such was the period of iron curtain and absolute isolation from the rest of the world. “State-controlled media, including children’s cartoons, was filled with nothing but propaganda,” she said. “We were living in a bubble, the same sort of bubble which I’m sure many Cuban Americans that were raised in Cuba can relate to. I was a little girl who didn’t understand much of what was going on, but I do distinctly remember one strong feeling – an incredible longing for glowing colors and exciting events!”

Making of Olga Zharinova
Making of Olga Zharinova

Photography/Styling – Natasha Kertes
Hair- Christine Dell
Makeup – Natasha Armada
Shot on Location: Trump Hollywood
Lavender Dress: Halston Heritage
Aphrodite’s Secret Mabe Blister Pearl, Biwa & Clear Quartz Necklace & Ring: Charles Albert Shoes: Christian Lacroix


She entered a competition and was accepted to a dancing group. Asked by the dance teachers which dance she’d be interested in studying the most she responded as sincerely as only children can do, “The one that has the most colorful costumes and joyful music.” The decision was made instantly: it had to be the Latin dance, of course! And so Olga was now growing up in cold Russia dancing to hot Latin rhythms.

Unfortunately for Olga it only lasted a few years and she had to quit due to an injury. “I had to fill the resulting void with something,” she said. To the parents’ question, “what are you going to study now?” without a moment of hesitation she replied: “Music, I guess.” So she began taking piano lessons at a music school. From her very first lesson she realized she had made a terrible mistake and did not like studying music at all! Nevertheless her parents insisted she continue. “It’s only five years! Finish the program and you can forget the piano after that,” they encouraged. She thought they were tormenting her for some unknown purpose so she decided to pay them back by tirelessly playing in their small apartment, filling it with never ending sickening chords that hardly resembled any music at all. To her surprise, her parents not only survived this but did so without showing a single sign that something almost unbearable was going on! “Oh how I regretted not having chosen to study drums or trumpet – then they would have gotten it!” she said.

“As soon as I finished the music school, I grew my nails long and painted them in my favorite bright red color. This was my red stop light for everyone, ‘NEVER, EVER ask me to play anything on the piano again!’” continued Olga. “My parents were always supportive in any of my creative endeavours, and mom once decided that it would do me good to enter a theatre contest. I won all the rounds and was admitted to the ‘Krasnaya Presnya’ youth drama theater’s acting class. I was literally flying to the class every day after school and stayed there as late in the nights as I possibly could.”

But high school years were over and it came time to choose college. To Olga it was absolutely apparent that her parents had been preparing her for an acting career her entire childhood. Yet, the family ruled “Advanced Math”, which sounded like a criminal sentence to her. “I asked, ‘What was all that music, dance, and theater for then?’ What I heard back in response hit me like a ton of bricks, ‘Well, while working in the math field, you can still have interesting hobbies!’ I firmly replied, ’No! Never! I will not do it for anything in the world!’” Screamed Olga.

In a month she was enrolled at a university majoring in Advanced Math. “The funny thing was that by that time I was absolutely certain that there was no better program for a young lady to study,” she thought. “After all it was ‘only six years’ and I could finish the program and forget about all that math for good!”

In order to continue studying math Olga simply had to attend classes in her university’s theater studio. So there she was – math in the morning and theater at night. During the first school break she was already touring Netherlands with a concert program. “This came about in the most unexpected way,” she said. “My school had a club supporting communication with foreigners and the club was receiving letters from people all over the world wanting to learn about Russia. There was a popular opinion that Russian cold winter was eternal, there’s always snow, and bears can be seen strolling down the Russian streets alongside regular Russian folk. I often browsed these letters but never felt like replying… until I stumbled upon one that said: ‘Urgently looking for lapti!’ I instantly got the feeling that this letter was addressed directly to me! I knew that to many foreigners Russia is typically associated only with vodka and beautiful women, but it takes a special person to know about lapti. This chosen person turned out to be Lutske, a 45 years old woman who loved history and was collecting lapti as a hobby. I too became a hard-core collector of lapti right away!” said Olga. Russian lapti are bast shoes, traditional shoes woven from the bark of the linden tree or birch tree that have been worn since prehistoric times. Although still worn in the countryside, they are mostly out of fashion now and mainly sold as souvenirs.

So Olga called all her friends and asked them to dig through their grandmas’ chests and closets and bring her all the items they could find. In a week her room looked like an exhibit of ancient art: old chests, wooden spoons, antique irons, and, sure enough, lapti. “When I called Lutske in her Amsterdam home I honestly admitted that I’d become a collector fairly recently (a week earlier), but that I already had plenty of all sorts of historic knickknacks, and most importantly, two suitcases of laptis! The handset uttered: ‘What are you doing sitting there then? Come to Amsterdam immediately’ – Shortly my girlfriend and I found ourselves at the Amsterdam airport where we were being picked up by Lutske,” she said. To make sure they would impress everyone they had dressed carefully with a great deal of effort. They had on colorful Russian shawls on top of coats made out of goat fur. And to pull off the glamour look, they had decided to top off their outfits with enormous Breton hats. “We did indeed make a splash and it seemed like the whole world was staring and pointing fingers at us. I suppose we stood out a bit! And now I can imagine why people abroad used to think that there are bears all over the streets in Russia,” said Olga.

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Making of Olga Zharinova - Pages 114-115
Making of Olga Zharinova – Pages 114-115

Photography/Styling – Natasha Kertes
Hair- Christine Dell
Makeup – Natasha Armada
Shot on Location: Trump Hollywood
Lavender Dress: Halston Heritage
Aphrodite’s Secret Mabe Blister Pearl, Biwa & Clear Quartz Necklace & Ring: Charles Albert Shoes: Christian Lacroix


“The Dutch lady and I hit it off instantly. Now I’m certain that there are no chance encounters, as well as that there are no chance farewells in life. One evening Lutske had put on a pair of lapti, snuggled by her stylish fireplace, had a bit of vodka and asked us to sing Russian romance songs for her. We gladly sang,” she says, “and since my girlfriend did not have long red nails, she had no problem playing all sorts of musical instruments. We sang, danced, and I told amusing little tales till the sun came up. Our new Dutch friend was applauding all night long, and in the morning firmly announced: ‘I want the entire Holland to see this concert!’ I became firmly convinced that Russian vodka is truly a magical tonic!”
The very next day they were already being auditioned by the owner of the “Classic Café Bach” music clubs chain located all over Holland. A week later they gave their first concert and got their first payment for performing. “We had a great success and both lapti and Russian shawls proved to be very useful indeed!” smiled Olga.

Their dreams had come true and they began to tour the entire country. “From that time I became absolutely certain that one should never stop dreaming about what one desires. It’s crucial to keep following your dreams. Be loyal to your dreams, and they will bring you to your true Self,” she says. “I think that life is an entertaining and at times a tough marathon of self discovery. No matter what the circumstances are, it’s important that we never stop dreaming. This is why I had developed my life plan:

1. Find your own Self
2. Despite any the problems, don’t lose your Self
3. Don’t wait for tomorrow, become happy now
4. If you feel lost, go back to step 1
5. Never forget that you had a plan

I returned home to continue working on my math degree. My little sister was the happiest about my return since I fulfilled her American dream – I brought her a Barbie doll!”

Still ecstatic over her early triumph she was not prepared that she would all of a sudden fall in love. “This love knocked me off my feet,” she says. “I graduated, got married, gave birth to a wonderful daughter with aquamarine eyes, and planted a garden of tulips from Holland around my house. My husband was against my theater or movie acting careers. I did not resist much as I was literally drunk with love. His thoughts and views became my own and I happily dissolved myself in him and our child. I began building my kingdom of domestic harmony with diligence and love, completely forgetting my own goals and dreams. The ideal hearth and home was created, but day by day I began to sense this growing feeling that I had lost something really important.”

“Ten years of happiness flashed by. In “Anna Karenina” Leo Tolstoy wrote: ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ This is exactly how it happened with us, but we were brave enough to admit to each other that the sense of loneliness of two has become a permanent resident in our relationship. Spring came and tulips blossomed, signaling to me that it was time to remember my formula of happiness and restart my search of Self!” said Olga. They soon divorced, promised to each other that they would become happy and each went their own way. That was a dark and difficult period for her, like most people she found that divorce too had its own challenges.

“Inferiority complexes were literally choking me. I was scared that time was lost forever, that I was not now capable of being anything but a housewife. I did not know which way to take and where to go. I was hopelessly lost and afraid to make even a little step. By some miracle, I was able to overcome all the fear and enter the theater college study program taught by a very famous theater teacher. I perplexed him after the very first class insisting that he ‘should teach me everything I need to know really quickly because I should’ve started working as a “great and famous actress” a long time ago already.’ He laughed, and we began our hard work. Only then did I fully realized how much and how long I had been missing this.”

A year later she got her first long awaited movie role. “I was so excited and happy to be at the movie set that could not stop from literally jumping and fluttering all over the place”, she said. “I still have no idea how the camera man was able to get any shot with me in it! I loved everyone and everything on set: the lighting men, the makeup artists, and even the terrible freezing cold that made the skin on my hands crack. Most importantly, I adored my work. Up until that moment, I had no idea how much happier one can become by following their dream.”

And so it went on: one role would end, a new one would begin, and she continued to get more and more roles to play. “There was even a time when I was shooting three films simultaneously. I also began getting serious offers from the advertising companies, such as Cartier, D&G and Unipharm. I participated in numerous TV shows and gave many interviews to various glamour magazines,” she said. “I wanted to catch everything, and it worked. I once again gained my wings of happiness and success, and life set off to the Latin rhythms once more. Naturally, I fell in love again.”

“I do not even remember how we began living together,” she said. “Those were years of happiness, creativity and the work I loved! But sometimes life surprises many of us, and unfortunately I was no exception. One day my boyfriend decided to leave Russia and move to the US for good! I cried all night long. He moved first to the US and I was to follow – things happened very quickly from then. Before I knew it there I was holding my daughter’s hand and together we were boarding a US-bound plane. He picked us up at Miami airport. Everything looked wonderful but it felt as if we were on a different planet where I knew no one. Everything was totally foreign and had nothing to do with me. My parents were calling daily demanding explanation: ‘What are you planning to do? What about your career? Where will you work? When are you coming back?’ I did not have answers to any of these questions.”


Making of Olga Zharinova - Pages 116-117
Making of Olga Zharinova – Pages 116-117

*** Image – Left
This Page (Actress/Model) – Olga Zharinova
Photography/Styling – Natasha Kertes
Hair- Christine Dell
Makeup – Natasha Armada
Shot on Location: Trump Hollywood

*** Image – Right
Photography – Vital Agibalow
Styling – Jennifer Fein
Hair – Cari R. Duprey
Makeup – Kate Iniakina-Romanoff (for MAC)


Unfortunately for Olga she managed to arrive in America just as it was gripped with what is arguably a depression rather than just a ‘downturn” in the economy. She said that “My inner voice kept on insisting without a break: ‘You don’t know anyone around here, nobody knows you, no one needs you, it’s too late to be starting from scratch, how would you even begin to look for work , there is only a hopeless uncertainty ahead…’ My long ago developed plan proved to work in this desperate situation: no matter what happens, keep going, find yourself, follow your dream, and never forget that you have a plan!” She had to start anew. “I began doing the long forgotten: contacting and visiting agencies, vainly waiting for them to return my calls, learning to ignore complete lack of attention from media, and so forth,” she said. “It was hard to get even an advertising gig. It took time and patience to become noticed, and now the ‘NTV America’ TV channel have produced and aired a show dedicated to me, I have participated in two advertising campaigns, and am on a cover of a magazine with my interview in it. Currently, I am considering two movie roles offers to be shot in LA. And that’s just the beginning! Most importantly, I have once again found myself!”

It is clear that with her indomitable spirit, her focus on excellence, and an undeniable passion for her art form, we will be hearing much more of Olga Zharinova in the months and years to come.


  • To find out more about future MODE projects and features contact us at info@ModeLifestyleMagazine.com
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