If you’re anything like me, you like a good Cinderella story which is why I had to write about Irina Shayk when I heard her story (and because her emerald green eyes keep staring at us from Sports Illustrated covers at the check stand). She’s gorgeous, exotic and dating one of the biggest sports stars in the world (Cristiano Renaldo) so it’s easy to feel a tinge of jealousy, but once you read her story all that will change.

As a young girl in a town you probably haven’t heard of, and definitely can’t pronounce (Emanzhelisk in Ural, near Chelyabinsk… in short, Russia), she grew up the daughter of a coal miner and a music teacher.

From a young age she always loved literature and aspired to become a teacher. While she was still young, only 14, her father died tragically from pneumonia complications, which left her mother with the burden of raising two girls on her own. She got a second job to support the family. All throughout school, Irinia was teased by other girls because she looked so different from all of them.

Then one day her mother saw an ad on a bus for a beauty school, so she sent both her girls to check it out. While there, someone from the modeling company next door took note of Irina’s unique and exotic appearance and convinced her to participate in a pageant, which she won in 2004.

Since then she has appeared on magazine covers worldwide, and has been featured in the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition every year since 2007, this year landing the cover. The rest is history.


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