When I was growing up, the most beautiful woman that I looked up to was Audrey Hepburn,” says Petra Nemcova. “And it was not just about her outer beauty, but the inner beauty radiating from her. The same goes to Christy Turlington. Of all of the 1990s supermodels, she has been doing the most to help children. Their personalities shape the way I see beauty.”
The hazel-eyed supermodel and philanthropist is chatting with Prestige during a recent visit to Indonesia. Nemcova is here to follow up on the work of her foundation, Happy Hearts Fund (HHF), in the archipelago, and to host a fundraising auction. During the past 11 years, HHF has rebuilt hundreds of schools wrecked by natural disasters, and put a smile on the faces of almost 100,000 children across 10 countries.
“For me, beauty comes from within and when you see someone truly beautiful and forever young, they most probably are doing a lot of good work,” 37-year-old Nemcova goes on. “So the secret to staying young is to have a beautiful heart. It’s the elixir of youth.”
Born in Karviná in Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic, Nemcova was scouted on the streets of Prague by Next Model Management. She went on to build a flourishing career in fashion, first in Milan and subsequently in the United States. What are her beauty secrets?
“One of them is to be conscious of what you put into your body,” she replies. “To me, food is medicine. Everything you eat can better your immunity, strengthen your hair and nails, and heal you from sickness. Also, your thoughts. The bad thoughts you think about can make you sad, depressed, or even sick.
“In terms of products, I love artisanal products made with love. For example, my friend in Haiti has developed a brand called Haiti Native. She uses local oil products, including moringa oil and coconut oil and many others. I love what she’s doing, and her products are amazing. Her brand is also empowering the local community.
“Also, there are some products that are great for travel. For example, my Moisture Surge Overnight Mask. It’s great to keep my skin moist, because I’m on the plane all the time. Overall, they should be as good for the planet as they are for my skin”.
Nemcova became known internationally as a survivor, while on holiday in Phuket, of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. After recovering from her ordeal and some severe injuries, she resumed her modelling career. But this tough and thoughtful woman also vowed to give back in some way to communities devastated by natural disasters. Education being the best solution to poverty, she considered, why not devote her philanthropic work to putting children back to school? This is how HHF was born. Most of the schools that HHF’s volunteers have built or rebuilt are located in Indonesia, where the foundation’s first international chapter was set up four years ago.
“We have been continuously rebuilding kindergartens around Indonesia,” “Our next goal is to build sustainable kindergartens. These will be disaster-proof and will be built using locally sourced, sustainable materials. We’re trying to push our goals to be even more impactful on the ground, and in the lives of the children and their communities.
“What we’re doing at HHF is a very meaningful cause, and I hope more will join us,” says the supermodel. “With every chance I get to meet new people, I’m always excited to show them what kind of troubles we can solve together with their help.” Nemcova devotes most of her time to HHF. But she still enjoys being an ambassador for “respectful” brands, such as Chopard. When Nemcova told Caroline Scheufele about her experiences and her charity work, the Co-President and Art Director of the storied jeweller was so moved that she created Chopard’s Happy Diamonds Collection in support of HHF.
Running HHF keeps Nemcova busy, and it’s soon time for her to move on to her next appointment. But there is time for one more question: Being on the go so much, how does she keep her body, mind and soul balanced?
“It’s always a journey, not a destination,” Nemcova reflects. “It’s one of the most challenging things for humankind. For me, a part of keeping a balance is meditating every day. That’s my me-time, a time full of bliss and joy. For the mind, I do spiritual studies. Again, balance is a journey. You don’t always have it, but instead of facing big waves, the balancing I do help me to only go through small waves.”
Watch the full interview on the video below.
Photography: Tony Narotama
Styling: Koko Namara
Makeup: Jacqueline Stephani