FINNISH-BORN HOLLYWOOD ACTOR ANNA EASTEDEN’S INCREDIBLE JOURNEY

Anna Easteden by Jonny Kahleyn

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES
PHOTOS: JONNY KAHLEYN

Anna Easteden, née Shemeikka, entered the world’s runways at an early age working as a model in theFar East. After a successful three-year run, Anna arrived in America where she modeled and made appearances in music videos inMiami. She then traveled to Illinois where she started her career as an actor on the Chicago stage.

Enter Easteden, 34, is a slim and strikingly beautiful woman with long red hair, high cheekbones and almond-shaped blue eyes. She grew up in Tohmajärvi, Eastern Finland.
“We lived on a farm by a pond. In the summer it was fun to go for a swim. I have always liked Finnish summers, and still do. At the age of six I used to pretend I was Miss Finland after watching beauty pageants on TV”, Anna recounts. Her parents Kaija and Mikko were dairy farmers. Today, Anna’s younger brother, Antti is continuing in their footsteps running the family farm. Anna’s first experience outside Europe was as an exchange student in the United States. At first Anna hesitated when she was matched with a Texas family. “I initially didn’t want to go to Texas, but rather New York or Los Angeles. But everything went well, after all. I lived with a family in Canyon, West Texas, a little south of Amarillo where they didn’t get any snow at all.”

Anna Easteden by Jonny Kahleyn

Anna’s host family, the Hortons, had three kids (a boy the same age as Anna and two younger girls). Mr. Norton worked as a cattle feed therapist. “They were amazed at how well I spoke English. They were expecting me not to speak the language at all. When I went to a local high school, I was placed in the senior year, and it just so happened that the Horton boy was three classes below. He was a little angry at first when I wasn’t placed in his class,” she laughs.

After returning to Finland, Anna participated in a teen magazine model contest. The magazine photographer took some test shots, and then more pictures followed in Oulu where the SinäMinä magazine was based. “I was ever so happy when I got a letter saying I had won. And soon after I went to Tampere for a cover photo session.”

The prize was a three-week trip to London. “I was mostly focused on learning English. I did go to the local modeling agencies to introduce myself. I then returned to Finland, and met a Japanese agent at a Finnish modeling agency. He offered me a job in Tokyo. My parents vehemently objected, saying ‘you won’t go anywhere!’ But I said I will and that there’s nothing you can do about it. I then started reading books about Japanese culture to better acclimate myself before flying to Japan”.

It turned out to be a long trip, since Anna spent three years in Asia. “In Tokyo, the work was photo and video shoots. I did a lot of catalogs and TV ads. I also appeared in a couple of TV programs and on the sides of skyscrapers in gigantic billboards. I liked Japan a lot. People were polite and friendly. It was easy to adapt living there.

Anna Easteden by Jonny Kahleyn

Anna also learned the Japanese ‘bowing’ custom which requires the person to keep on bowing until an older person disappears from sight. In America bowing is not customary, but old habits are hard to break. “When meeting Japanese people here, I still bow to them.”

In addition to Japan, Anna worked in South Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan and New Zealand. “When traveling, and working so much, there was little chance to socialize. For example, in Taiwan, I had 60 gigs in as many days – an assignment per day. It does not leave any time to do anything else, I suppose.”

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