Tucked at a corner table in the classy and quaint Il Cielo restaurant in Beverly Hills, I wait for model Yana Goodday. And I don’t have to wait long....she’s right on time. She confidently strides in, her fit, 5’9” frame dressed in white form-fitting pants and a stylish white jacket. After I stand for a brief greeting, she slides into the seat opposite me. In a world where so many famous people don’t look as you’d expect when you actually see them in person, this is not Yana’s world. If anything the real-life version looks even more attractive, and more like the stunning characters she’s portrayed on the cover of numerous romance novels.
Yana grew up in the south of Russia, in the city of Pyatigorsk. With a population of just under 150,000, Pyatigorsk is situated between The Black Sea and The Caspian Sea, at the foothills of the Caucuses, not far from the embattled region of Chechnya. An only child whose parents divorced when Yana was still very young, Yana was raised by her stepfather and mother, who both worked from home as jewelry designers.
Looking at the stunning woman seated across from me, it’s easy to see why Yana moved to Moscow at 16 to pursue modeling full time, even though according to her, she grew up more of a Tomboy. Raised with a stepbrother 7 years older, and always hanging out with him and his friends Yana says, “Of course I had to be on my toes to keep up, and climb, and play football. She then adds, “And of course keep secrets from our parents!”. Yana giggles before sheepishly saying “But, sometimes I would then blackmail him ”. When I say, perhaps this foreshadowed some of the dangerous women she would portray on her book covers, she flashes a sly smile and whispers,“Maybe”!
I start by asking Yana how she found herself working for VJ Productions as one of their main models, and she explains that they actually found her off a modeling website about two years ago, contacting her directly.
When I ask her if she was familiar with this style already and if they have this type of book in Russia, Yana lights up and screams, “Yes, Yes of course they do. Actually to be honest it was one of my dreams as a kid. I would stare at these covers in bookstores. They [the women] were all so beautiful and had nice outfits and dresses and they all looked like they were a princess. I always wanted to be one of them”. When asked if she had a specific character she wanted to be, she exclaims, “A princess, of course!! As any other girl”. And, as it turned out, this was indeed exactly what her very first cover was.
When asked if she knew going in if there would be more than one cover, Yana replied, “Well, they said if it goes well and the authors like you, then there will be more”.
I inquire if the authors really do have much say in which models are used for the covers, or if it’s more a business decision, and Yana is excited and insistent, saying, “No no, the authors have a lot of input. In fact, I think it’s mostly the author who decides which model to use, and they all have their favorites”. Yana was so happy that one of the authors even sent her an autographed copy of the book, along with a bottle of champagne and a thank you note for bringing her character to life.
When I ask who some of the author's favorites are, Yana says, “Ahhhh Michael. There is a male model named Michael [Foster] who is from Michigan, 6’2” with big muscles and looks like Superman!”. She laughs and says, “Everybody wants Michael!”. I ask Yana if she’s one of the only Eastern European models, and she surprisingly reveals that the men are predominately American, but that the women are almost exclusively Russian or Ukrainian. According to Yana there are about 10 models that are used regularly by the company, but most of those are men, as the predominately female audience is more apt to focus on the man on the cover than the woman, so they can get away with using fewer female models.
I ask how much input the models have on what outfit is appropriate for the job at hand, and Yana blushes, giggles slightly, and in a beguiling tone says, “Uhhh I don’t understand the question”. Her English is so good that I’m taken completely by surprise and am reminded that Russian is indeed her first language. When she does understand she says she has never asked about this. Yana said, “All the outfits are so gorgeous and just amazing, so why would I?”
Clearly, Yana is one of the companies most prominent and experienced models but she still is thrilled every time she goes to work. “It’s all very exciting. They have all the props and wardrobe right there. They have you put everything on and pose”. Yana goes on to enthusiastically talk about details of the process: “They have so many costumes it’s amazing. They make them all themselves, and have their own costume designers, and a whole crew that makes them. The props are all real and everything is of very high quality. It’s a really big production. I was very impressed because I didn’t expect it would be this big and this professional”.
I ask if the photos are then used to have an artist paint the final rendering we see on the covers, but Yana gives me the inside
scoop: “It’s actually the real photograph that’s used now. They make it to look like a painting by using filters in the editing”. Asking her how many covers she herself has been on, I can see the wheels turning behind Yana’s stunning blue eyes as she counts them up. Finally, she casts her gaze back to me and says, “Almost 40. Wow!”. Wow indeed, though not surprising given this young woman’s poise and grace. As Yana finishes her mug of tea she regally rises to shake my hand, and I can’t help but notice how much she looks like the princess’s she’s portrayed so well. Certainly VJ Productions found the right princess.... uh, I mean girl for the job!
Yana can be seen on several of VJ Productions upcoming books, as she continues to be one of their most popular models to date.