REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES
PHOTOS: JONNY KAHLEYN
SUPERMODEL SUVI’S GREEN HAVEN
Suvi Koponen’s modeling career got started at 16 when she won a Finnish modeling TV show. The top prize was a contract with modeling agency which led to quite a splash at a Prada show in Milan. She then moved to New York City where she fell in love with a tall and handsome model named Tyler Riggs. Last summer the couple moved to Los Angeles and purchased a house in the leafy Sherman Oaks area. Life is smiling at the young couple as they look forward to welcoming their first Christmas in their beautiful new home surrounded by lush green vegetation.
Tall, gorgeous Suvi Koponen, 23, was born in Helsinki and grew up in Vantaa. She is the oldest of three children. Her mother is a kindergarten teacher and her father is the manager of an assisted living facility.
“Our home had goats and horses, Suvi remembers fondly. She led the life of a normal school girl until one day she spotted an advertisement in the paper calling for young people to audition for a reality TV show called Mallikoulu (Model School).
“I was supposed to go audition for the show with a friend, but she could not take time off from school, so I went alone and was accepted as a contestant. The show taught us how to be better models, and we weren’t humiliated if we didn’t do well as I’ve seen in some shows in America. A model must have a natural ability to be photogenic and be able to act natural in front of the camera. The more one works at it, the easier it becomes. I ended up winning the competition. The prize was a contract with a modeling agency Paparazzi”, Suvi recounts.
“Already during the taping of the show, they took us to a modeling school in Milan. There I signed with the modeling agency Women. Later on I signed with the Women of Paris as well. The following Summer I went back to Milan for a month followed by a month in Paris.
Even though Suvi is currently being represented by several modeling agencies, she has not abandoned her very first one: Finnish Paparazzi agency which is led by the grand old lady of the Finnish modeling world, Laila Snellman.
“It is my mother agency and they have always been very supporting”, Suvi acknowledges. She quickly started getting modeling gigs on the world’s runways. At 18 she made quite a splash at a Prada show in Milan, a turning point in her career. After modeling for Prada, everybody wanted Suvi for their fashion show. She then moved to New York to better be able to pursue her career.
Fall is the busiest time for a model. That’s when New York, London, Milan and Paris have fashion weeks.
“Some people may think we just get there and walk the runway. What people don’t know is all the background work a model must do in addition to that. First you go to casting to meet the people who make those shows and then you will be called for a fitting which may be at any time of day or night. You must show up at each show hours earlier so that they can do your hair and make-up. Then you have to run to the next show. Models do not sleep at all during that month. You are constantly on the move and flying from city to city”, Suvi describes.
In the fashion world, there are three different types of modeling jobs: runway, editorial and catalogue. Runway models are not paid extremely well, but runways are extremely important for models because that’s where they are seen by fashion moguls. So, runway gigs can lead to editorials. Editorials are photo shoots for fashion magazines such as Vogue and they take place in a studio or on location. Pictures from catalogue shoots will appear either in designers or department store’s catalogues.
“When you do good shows, you get good editorials and that will lead to catalogue work which pays the best money, Suvi clarifies. Some catalogue work can pay ten thousand a day.
She is at a point now where she does not have to do all the runway shows – people know her and like her. However, runways remain in her repertoire.
“The fashion moguls want to see whether you have gained or lost weight. Some girls do not eat at all and will become too skinny. Or they have gone through a lot of stress which may result in acne problems. No one wants a model that doesn’t look her best”, she blurts out. “As far as exercising, a runway model gets so much exercise by running from place to place that no further workout is necessary during the fashion weeks”, she says with a smile.
Common afflictions in the modeling world are bulimia and anorexia nervosa.
“Of course I have seen both. When you go from a fashion show to another and run into the same models, one can only notice that some of models don’t eat at all. But what do you do? Everyone has different schedules. I try to look after my closest modeling buddies.”
It hasn’t been all work and no play for Suvi, though. A young man by the name of Tyler Riggs caught Suvi’s eye.
“We met a couple of times while working in Milan and just hung out together. We met again a few years later in New York and started dating. We’ve been together now for over two years”, Suvi says with gleamy eyes. Tyler Riggs, 25, is originally from Florida. He is a successful model in his own right and has aspirations of becoming an actor, something that played into the couple’s decision of moving to Los Angeles.
“Tyler has been going to drama school for two years and wants to be an actor. And I had been wanting to move from New York for quite some time because life there was so stressful.”
They made the big move last Summer.
“We drove here from NYC in mid-June. It was a great experience. We took our time, made some stops such as in the Grand Canyon and slept in motels along the way. After arriving in LA, the first couple of months we lived at my boyfriend’s manager’s place. We started looking for houses. We found this house and moved here in August.”
The Mediterranean house is located on a quiet residential street where gigantic trees provide well needed shade in the hot San Fernando Valley. Restaurants and shopping are within walking distance. The house has a large living room with a fireplace, and an equally spacious dining room as well as a well-equipped kitchen and three bedrooms. There is also a good-sized backyard perfect for the dogs Joyce and Stevie.
Most of her work is still booked via New York. Since she now lives in Los Angeles, I ask her if she has gotten local modeling gigs.
“My looks are not suited for the Los Angeles market – I do not have fake boobs!”
Nowadays she flies to New York and elsewhere for work, and the LA home offers Suvi a much needed respite from the hectic modeling world.
“We try to cook as much as possible at home. The food in Los Angeles is a lot healthier, and we get to buy a lot of locally grown vegetables and fruits.
They are eagerly waiting for the holidays when Suvi’s family will come to visit.
“My parents and my siblings are coming here for Christmas. I’m so excited because it is my mother’s first trip to the States. And they will get to see my house.”
At the conclusion of our chat, I ask Suvi to give advice to a young person interested in becoming a model.
“Don’t listen to what others say. You must be a really strong person to be able to take all the criticism. We models basically sell our face and body. It is a difficult career for young girls and boys. You just have to keep your head up and be self-confident.”