Petra Nemcova is so Much More Than Just a Pretty Face

ROLE MODEL. Traveler, philanthropist and entrepreneur are just some of the hats Petra Nemcova wears. During her visit to Indonesia, the supermodel shows Gabriela Yosefina that she can have fun, too, while sharing one impossible dream

Dress by Valentino, jewelry by Chopard

It is hard not to notice a tall, blonde girl whose infectious smile and laugh fill the whole room with uplifting mood. Petra Nemcova, all dolled up and ready for the photo-shoot, looks elegant from head to toe. Once the conversation unfolds, the “real” supermodel-cum-philanthropist shines through.

Born in a small communist city in Czech Republic, Nemcova came to light after being discovered on the street of Prague. Her big break was posing for the cover of Sports Illustrated, leading her to many open doors right after. Since then, her career skyrocketed as she became the face of many international brands and appeared in numerous magazines. The 34-year-old lady even hosted her own show, tutoring several potential ingénues to embark on their own modeling careers.

The 2004 tragedy of tsunami in Southeast Asia in which she lost her fiancé did not seem to halt her either. Instead, she rebounded stronger than anyone had ever expected. The hazel-eyed model then started a charity organization called Happy Hearts Fund. As a reward for her continuous philanthropic effort, Nemcova has been designated a political role as Ambassador-at-Large for Haiti. Complementing the multi-faceted career is her entrepreneurial venture with the launch of Be The Light New York last August, a home decor lifestyle brand that embodies the spirit of local culture and traveling. 

Dress by Louis Vuitton, jewelry by John Hardy

DA MAN: Can you tell us about what Happy Hearts Fund has in the pipeline for Indonesia?
Petra Nemcova: Happy Hearts Fund (HHF) is a foundation which focuses on rebuilding disaster-proof schools for children who have been impacted by national disasters. In a broader sense, our mission is not just to rebuild the children’s lives, but also to help build a more resilient community.

Since HHF’s inception in 2006, we have rebuilt 72 schools and, by the end of this year, we will build additional ten schools with four more schools will open next week in Bandung. That sums up to 82 schools in seven years, 54 of it are located in Indonesia. We started our work firstly in Yogyakarta after the earthquake in 2006. We then extended our reach to Bandung in 2009. Out of all the schools we’ve built here, our focus is mainly kindergartens, because there is hardly one in the rural area. The government, on the other hand, takes care of the primary and secondary school building.

DA: Now you are also an entrepreneur with a project called Be The Light New York. Where did the idea come from?
PN: My business partner and co-founder, Christian, and I were talking about things we love and, undoubtedly, one of them is traveling. Being blessed to have traveled to so many countries in the past 15 years, I am fascinated by the culture and treasure every country has. Hence, the whole idea of Be The Light New York is about taking everyone on an exciting journey around the world and bringing the treasures to everyone’s home and life.

The treasures this time are in form of electric candlelight. Each item has some meaning since every candle is inspired by a country. From each candle you can say something, for instance, let’s celebrate life with the Mexico Cacao Mystique because the Mexicans, they have a culture to drink chocolate when a baby is born or when they have a graduation as a celebration of life. All four sides of the candles have a map that is hand-drawn by the artisans. When you put three candles together, you connect the map. It will be a reminder that each country is connected in this world.

Jumpsuit by Valentino, jewelry and timepiece by Chopard

DA: People view you as a sexy model, looking at your work in Sports Illustrated and Pirelli Calendar. But how would you personally define sexy?
PN: I think beauty and sexiness are in the eyes of the viewer. Sexy is both personal and a state of mind. If you feel sexy, you will radiate that sexiness.

DA: Do you have certain workout or health regime to keep you in shape?
PN: I work out, but not as much as I used to. The activities I do now are more like going with the flow. If my friends play football, I join them for football. If my friends do other sports, I will simply join. Gym time for me is actually time to multitask. I can be on the cross trainer and start emailing. That way, I get to work out my body and my thumbs. [laughs]

DA: What are your favorite movies and books?
PN: In terms of books and movies, I prefer the ones that are meaningful so I can learn something. For example, this movie called “I Am,” a documentary about how connected we are in this world. It is educational and the lesson from the movie can be applied to every day. Another similar movie is called “Happy.” Besides, I also like watching comedies. I have recently seen “We’re the Millers.” So funny! Too many bad things happen in the world already, so I prefer comedies.

It is the same with books. Among my all-time favorites are “The Alchemist” and “Conversation with God,” which is not about religion but rather about life. Those two offer something practical and I find them really beautiful.

Dress by Michael Kors, jewelry by John Hardy

DA: We have different dreams in different states of life. What are your dreams right now?
PN: Talking about dreams, there is a joke from my teacher: “For a five-year-old boy, his dream is to have some chocolate. For a forty-year-old man, his dream is to have a beautiful lady. But for a seventy-fiveyear- old man, he simply wants to go to the bathroom himself.” You see, when you are older, your body doesn’t work the same way. It is one of the factors why we have different dreams in different states of life.

To put it simply, no matter from which country and what religion we have, we all want to be happy. For me personally, I have an impossible dream – to have a balance. We always strive for that throughout our life. Thus, life is not about the destination, it is about the journey to reach the balance.

Photography Robby Agus & 9 Lives
Styling Peter Zewet
Makeup & Hairdo Jemmy Lolowang for PAC
Assistant stylist Asti Tiara & Koko Namara
Location Lara Djonggrang (Jl Teuku Cik Ditiro 4, Menteng, Central Jakarta)