Valentina Zelyaeva had to visit the dark side before she found the light.
The Russian-born model—who has graced the covers of magazines from Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar, walked runways for designers from Christian Dior to Lanvin and is the exclusive face of Ralph Lauren—grew up with a love of nature. When she joined the fashion world, she got swept up in unhealthy habits from smoking to crash dieting, but soon found her way back to well-being. Ultimately, she embraced healthy living, studying nutrition and delving deep into what the wellness world has to offer.
Here, the model explains why happiness awaits inside each of us:
Live The Process: What has been your personal journey to wellness?
Valentina Zelyaeva: As a kid, I spent every summer vacation in Siberia at my grandparents’ home. Siberia is a vast land of forests, mountains, lakes and rivers. From an early age, I was very much connected to nature, healthy food, organic produce, seasonal fruits and veggies.
When I started modeling, I immersed myself in the world of diets, calorie restriction, unhealthy habits, soda and cigarettes. It was a long journey for me to get back to my true nature, which is healthy living, abundance and joy.
I was modeling and traveling for about five years when I decided that I no longer want to live that unhealthy lifestyle. I started reading books about nutrition; then, one day, I came across a book about raw food. It changed my life forever. I started making my own almond milk and eating fruits and veggies. I ditched all dairy, soy, MSG, commercial meats and farmed fish. I started juicing leafy greens and taking superfoods such as spirulina, raw cacao, coconut oil and medicinal mushrooms. When I discovered this way of living, I never went back to my old habits.
LTP: With your busy schedule, what is most challenging about staying healthy and taking care of yourself?
VZ: The biggest challenge for me is food provided on set. Most of the time, the catering does not include what I normally eat. Also, I’m a very disciplined person, so routine is extremely important to me. When I travel for work, it throws me off my schedule. That’s okay because I know that, as soon as I’m back home, I’ll jump right back into my sleeping, eating and exercising routines.
LTP: What inspired you to study health?
VZ: I was spending all my free time reading about nutrition. That’s when I realized that I wanted to learn about it, so I could teach others. All my life, I have been passionate about living a healthy lifestyle, but I didn’t recognize it until I went down the darkest path. Thankfully, the right person, book and event came into my life at the right moment. Now, I know how easy, joyful and fun a healthy lifestyle is and I want to share it with everyone.
LTP: What are some of your current beauty and/or wellness obsessions? What rituals keep you feeling balanced and healthy?
VZ: There are few! I recently discovered the amazing qualities of oil of egg. It’s such a magic, healing oil for your skin and your internal organs. I’ve been applying it on my face as a serum and taking a few drops on my tongue, regularly. I order it from a trusted website Kymiaarts.com.
I quit drinking coffee on January 1st of this year and switched to high-quality authentic Sencha from Japan. Green tea has tons of benefits for your body and your skin. I started making green tea ice cubes, which I use every morning after cleansing my face.
I simplify my juice to essential items: a bunch of kale, burdock root, ¼ lemon with peel, apple, celery and cilantro. I also started to practice a dry fast once a week. It’s when you don’t eat or drink (not even water) for 24-36 hours. It’s a complete reset button for your whole system. The benefits of a dry fast are endless, but study and be smart before you start practicing!
My dental care regime also shifted: I switched my natural toothpaste to a tooth soap. It’s amazing! Tooth soap removes that filter that you accumulate on your teeth during a day, so your teeth can actually absorb the nutrients from the healthy foods that you eat.
I’ve started to play with a variety of essential oils too. I’m taking them internally. My favorites are frankincense and myrrh. Both of those oils are extremely healthy for your nervous system, your brain and your hormones.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
VZ: Happiness is the inner peace that everyone has inside them already. People don’t realize, so they seek happiness in the outside world through entertainment, food, drinks, relationships, love, marriage, the “it” bag. You will never find true happiness if you are looking outside of yourself. Through life experiences, lessons, triumphs and failures, we learn and grow; and, hopefully, one day we find that inner peace that no one can take away from us. With an open heart and a clear mind, you start the journey; and it’s an amazing path!
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
VZ: As I understand it, “Live The Process” refers to the fact that we are constantly moving through something called “life.” Life is a process: You meet people, start friendships or business collaborations or fall in love. As I go through the process, I learn and I grow. I look at life as if nothing is good and nothing is bad. As soon as you label something “good” or “bad,” you automatically separate from the experience, which is a mistake.
I think everyone should “Live The Process” fully. First, you have to cleanse your body, so you are free of disease and a foggy mind. Once your body is pure, you start to perceive this reality completely differently. You begin to live from your heart and really listen to your intuition, which always tells you the truth. Your consciousness expands, synchronicity happens every day and your dreams easily come true. You are more aware and present. “Live The Process” without judgments, expectations, attachments and hopes. You simply live.