Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Photo: Ksenia Tverdohleb

Sergii Nikitiuk is co-host on the most popular model reality show on Ukrainian TV, host of ‘ПРЕДМЕТКА’ on YouTube, and a model scouting director at the SHARM model agency.

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You’ve had a lot of interviews. What questions do you dislike or even hate to answer?
You know, I didn’t have that many interviews.

But they are all directed in one particular field.
That’s right. They are all narrowly focused because I see the point in talking exclusively about my profession, about what I’ve been doing for so many years. I am not certain that anything else would be of interest to somebody.

Why? For us, it’s the contrary and our concept is about the personality rather than the profession.
Well, let’s talk about personality then.

Let’s try at least. If you won’t like it, then we can always shift the direction elsewhere. What inspires you the most in your field of activity?
My activity, at the moment, goes in three directions. Naturally, these are models that I work with and the development of their careers. The model agency is called SHARM MODELS,  it’s one of the biggest companies in our country and I work as a scouting director Then there is my work on television. In the past six years, you could see me in the role of an expert in a model reality show, and for the past year, I’ve also been hosting a show “Предметка” on Novy channels YouTube page. And the third story – I work as a producer on Novy TV. Each of these areas have their own nuances and inspirational components, let’s say so. In the scouting job – the success of my models inspires me. At times I think that is the meaning of life because their high fees and their work status makes me happy. The TV project inspires me by its process because it is always fun. Being a producer on the channel is a big responsibility. I don’t advertise this story very much, but I’ve been working on the channel for fours year now, where for three years I’ve been a TV series producer. Now my vector has shifted a little and my main task revolves around sponsorship deals and sponsorship issues of project integration. time. This office work gives me the pleasure of stability: I daily go to the office and I have a great team. I constantly learn something from my team and I’m very inspired by the process.

You’ve mentioned in one of your interviews that you are the ‘Gray Cardinal’. Roughly speaking, you like this role.
Yes, I love it.
 Although, since I started working in television projects – I ceased to be one. Now, at times, people recognize me more than they recognize my models.

Can you give examples from history, literature, the cinema of the Gray Cardinal that you admire?
In my head, the most brilliant gray cardinals are the sports trainers of those who win gold medals or the producers whose shows have the best ratings. These are the people who do all the ‘dirty work’ and are always left in the shadows. I doubt anyone has heard the name of Glen Mills – the coach of the fastest human being on the planet Usain Bolt. The result of his work led to 8 gold Olympic medals won by the legendary sprinter from Jamaica! I admire a lot of my colleagues, TV producers, who manage to create a product of quality with very small budgets. I will be politically correct in case I will forget to mention someone, so I won’t say any names. In general, any person can try on the role of a gray cardinal, because even parents who raised an honest and decent child can be attributed to them. In this matter, the main thing is the result of the work you’ve done.

What modern trends in society disappoint or even scare you?
You know, last week I read the presentation of the automobile company Ford on the trends of the last 20 years – and it hit right in the heart. The main trend they highlighted is loneliness. I think it’s impossible not to agree with this. The development of this condition is largely due to social networks. People can lead lives on the phone, on the iPad, on the computer. I absolutely agree with this because I’m that way myself. I think if I would see fewer faces on screens, I would see those faces more often in real life.
I, like no one else, can appreciate the new generation, because being born in 2000 is no longer such a rarity among those who I work with.  They are entirely different from us. This is neither good nor bad. They live at a different time and are forced to abide by the rules of the modern world in order to achieve success. The game has new rules, and every year the development of technology makes its own adjustments. My task is to instill universal values ​​- kindness, respect for elders, adhere to subordination, and honesty.
I look around and see that all my peers, who wanted to work, who worked and who had at least a little brain, have all achieved something. All those who at 16 were not interested in anything won’t be interested in anything at 40 too. In fact, all the people who dreamed about something achieved their dreams.

How does a dream differ from reality?
A dream lives in your head, and you live in reality. In an ideal world, a dream should fall into your reality in order to make you a little happier.

Is illusory love better than real love? 
Real love is better, of course. Imaginary love is a figment of the imagination that gives nothing but suffering. Love is good because it is mutual. Everything is meaningless when you do not feel it in return. It’s like playing tennis against a school wall in my childhood. It’s way better when there is a living person on the other side.

Returning to the topic of loneliness. It is generally accepted that fame and glory go hand in hand with loneliness.
No, that’s nonsense. Both homeless people and presidents can feel alone. It is important to understand the nature of its origin. Loneliness can be a conscious choice, and it does not depend on what you do, what your social status is, whether you are known or not. For example, in moments of exhaustion or despair, I like to be alone with myself. It gives me the opportunity to sleep, dream, regain my strength and move on. There is a category of “poor abandoned loners” who hate this condition and whine all the time. In this case, loneliness is the result of behavior that needs to be replaced immediately.

You’ve said that watching TV series is one of your hobbies. The reality of which series or film would you like to try and live in?
Sex education – to go back to school and relive the joys of learning this beautiful topic. First feelings. First love. First sex. Plus, at that age, you are still happy because you don’t understand so many things in life.

Do you remember your first love?
I don’t remember much overall. I have some phenomenal (I’m terribly grateful to this) property of my body – to forget. I’m almost like a fish. If I meet with old acquaintances and they begin to recall the old days, I am often in disarray whether that really happened to me. There is a category of people with whom I do not communicate. But some time passes and I can’t remember the reasons why we quarreled or the reasons why we parted. It’s a good thing that happens in an active rhythm of life. I think that by cutting off everything that was in the past, my brain adapts to my pace. I lived through those moments and learned my lesson – it doesn’t matter whether good or bad. The good will be remembered a little longer, the bad will leave my memory forever. I live by what is relevant in the now. I am not a dreamer nor am I a romantic. I‘m a grumpy cynic and critic. 

What qualities do you value the most in people?
Kindness. It’s a valuable quality.

You know, even stupidity can be forgiven to a kind person.

What can you not forgive?
Meanness and malice cannot be forgiven. The kind of thing that a person committed on purpose, intentionally. That is when someone purposely makes someone else hurt – that’s bad. Although look, globally you can forgive everything. In general, it seems to me that with age you become less categorical.

What was the wisest thing you’ve heard or what wisdom did you obtain throughout your life?
Wisdom… I’m still seeking that, I guess. Life is a learning process. You always learn something. And the wisest thing is probably to try to treat everything with humor. Humor often saves you. It helps a lot in different situations, in difficult negotiations, in deadlocks, in quarrels. Yes, in any life situation, humor always helps.

What do you think will truly matter at the end of life?

How much time is left?

if it really is the end, then the last seconds will matter. You know, death, it levels everything. All merits, all feelings. The memory remains, but I do not know if the dead need it. Memory is needed by those who are alive.

If you could travel in time to the past or the future with the knowledge that you have now, where would you go and why? You can even turn the course of history.
You know, I would probably go in the future, because we know everything about the past. So it seems to us at least. The future is full of mysteries. I would love to go to Kyiv in the year 2120.

Would you return to the present after that?
Of course. We start shooting the new season of the model show soon, the YouTube show, and I have my planned vacation. Who will I leave that for?

Would you like to live forever?
No. I think you would get tired of it terribly. Life is cool because of the fact that it has a certain limit. It’s boring to live forever.

Is there a famous or historical person, dead or alive, who you would like to meet?
I would love to meet Jackson and thank him for Billie Jean playing in my headphones. I regret that I’ve never seen him perform live. 

Do you enjoy going to concerts overall?
Concerts are always cooler than CDs. It is very easy to determine the level of the performer and the level of his skill or talent by the way he communicates with the public, how he reacts to the public. The most dazzling concert I have attended was George Michael in Geneva. In 2011 he had a tour with a symphonic orchestra. His voice in real life did not differ at all from the voice on the record. He talked with the public in such a cool manner. I was lucky enough to visit Sade. She did not tour for 18 years and I was at her concert and could not take my eyes off her. She looked so cool. It was evident that the stage was the place of her power. I sat right up to the end with my jaw dropped. If you have an opportunity to attend a concert then you must always do it. These are incredible emotions. When many people gather in one place, there is a certain magic to it.

Returning to the topic of working with models, what is the most attractive thing in a woman?
Brains. She should not be a fool. And I’ll tell you that fools do not succeed. It is clear that this profession is about appearance in the first place. But if the girl is super smart, but has cellulite on her ass, of course, she will not have any success. This profession requires, like any other, a balance between appearance and the inner world. But it’s much more pleasant to work and communicate with smart people. I’m getting older every year. I become more experienced each year, at least I hope I do. Models aged 15-16 years old come every year, even 14. But even at 14, you can already tell the difference between stupidity and naivety of a child. 

But does this childish foolishness change over time?
My task is to help turn stupidity into wisdom. At the very beginning everyone wants to have fun, sleep longer. Everyone wants to fall in love and dream of a prince. Everyone wants to go to New York and be on the cover of Vogue. Everyone goes through the same thing. What is important though, is for the person to have the will to work and to love the job!

What is the advantage of the Ukrainian industry or there are no advantages compared to others?
The Ukrainian industry is a raw material base.

For the world?
Yes. Because here we give birth to beautiful people. We regularly deliver them through Ukrainian modeling agencies to the catwalks of Paris, Milan, New York, Tokyo, and other countries.

What is it like to acknowledge having a certain power over the fate of these teenagers?
Badly put. Evil people have power over destinies, and I have the opportunity to help them succeed, become good people. In fact, my happiness, peace, and harmony are not based on the amount of money earned. It’s clear that this is a business and I want them all to earn money. The richer they are, the richer I am. In the end, I am glad that they grow up to be good and kind. I like it when my models can help their parents: buy them apartments, take them on trips around the world. They can provide a decent life for their parents. That’s just fantastic.

Do they acknowledge your contribution to their lives and your influence?
I care more about my inner story. I love the phrase that I sell lucky lottery tickets. The best feeling is when you call the model and tell her that she has a confirmed contract in New York and start the work visa procedure. It changes lives.  This is generally a cool business because it does not require a particular education. But it can provide an opportunity to see the world and make money. Indeed, for me, the greatest pleasure in life is traveling.

What was the most beautiful thing you’ve seen or experienced in life?
Patagonia. Three years ago, I traveled through Argentina and Chile. The tour was so eventful and interesting. It was the Atacama Desert – the driest place in the world. Easter Island, almost the most remote point from Ukraine. In Chile, there was an unreal beauty district of waterfalls and lakes. Chilean vineyards. Therefore, I practically did not speak for two weeks, because every day my jaw dropped from what I saw and from what I experienced. But such nature as in Patagonia – I have not seen anywhere else. This year, two weeks ago, I was in Iceland, and this was very close emotion-wise. It’s like flying into space. Also glaciers and waterfalls, a constantly changing landscape and very few people around. Don’t get me started on the northern lights. It seems to me that these are places of power. There is no need to talk. In such places, you just need to be silent, contemplate and absorb beauty into the self.

Which countries do you most definitely want to visit?
I’d like to go to Japan, Australia, and South Africa. Overall, there are two types of traveling – cognitive and lazy. The first involves active exploration of the country, going to museums, exhibitions, etc. The second is all about the beach and reading books. You need to rest for another week after the first category. I tend to travel within the frames of the second category, and usually, my destinations are prior approved cities and countries where I have already been more than once, and I know for sure that nothing will bother so and there I can relax.

And from a cultural perspective, which country do you consider the most fascinating?London. What is fascinating to me about London is the smell of freedom. Maybe there are familiar bits in certain areas of New York, but London is also very fashionable for me. I haven’t seen so many strangely (in a good way) dressed people anywhere. It’s impossible. You constantly stare at someone. London combines history with all those palaces, museums, the royal family and innovation. Monuments go hand in hand with futuristic skyscrapers. I think I could live in Tate. If I had the opportunity to buy a couple of square meters, I would have bought a bed space in Tate. It’s my place of power.

Abstractly speaking, would you move to another country?
I don’t want to. I feel very comfortable in Kyiv, overly comfortable. Maybe a job offer would be a reason to. If I were suddenly offered to become president of a corporation, then this corporation should be in London. 

What’s so cool about Kyiv?
Everything: people, opportunities, the atmosphere, and spirit. This is my home. Even though it is the capital, but it is a very compressed capital.I’m like a fish in an aquarium. I will never move.

Only the aquarium is better and bigger in London.
Better, but not bigger, because a big city is a living hell. I was in New York once and I will never forget the feelings that I experienced there. It was very bad. The energy of that city is not my thing.

Who is or was your biggest teacher in life?
I think that every person who comes into our lives leaves a trace and teaches you something. But the biggest teacher would be Alla Samoilenko who is a very famous casting director in the film industry. It so happened that she was my colleague at my first job in a modeling agency. Being as wise and kind as she is, she laid the foundations for me not only in this profession but also the foundations that altered my way of thinking and communicating. It’s a foundation I use till this very day. It hasn’t changed and I feel so comfortable with it.

An example of the Gray Cardinal.
Yes, and she is the kindest of them all.

Things you can’t unthink.
Food. I think about food all the time because I love to eat. Well, I’m human, what else can I think of? I think about vacation regularly. I regularly calculate a route or a place where it will be quiet, calm and comfortable. I regularly think about work. Naturally – things that I live for and things that bring me joy every day.

How would you like to be remembered?
I would not. I am not bothered by that. It seems to me that my vanity switch has only one button – OFF. Call it a production defect.

What was the most memorable question you were asked?
This will seem strange, but the question I remember was not addressed to me. Dud once asked Slepakov: “Do you jerk off?” I keep thinking about what would I answer if being in that position. I like Dud as an interviewer. I try to watch his videos regularly. 

Why do you think he managed to become famous in the field. He is not the first person to take up such an interview format. Would you like to try yourself out in journalism and interview people of other fields?
I think that he is smart, charming and courageous. He is always equal with his guests and he is not afraid to ask uncomfortable questions. Very often interviews turn into some kind of vulgarity towards the guest, whereas his conversations are modern. And maybe. I already had a similar attempt – in the second season, I had an interview with Taya Shchuruk, the actress of the acclaimed TV series “First Swallows” and also with a super beauty and blogger Sasha Chistova. But overall, there are several ‘buts’ in this matter. Firstly, I am not a professional journalist, and secondly, there are enough interviewers in Ukraine, and thirdly, our audience is not yet ready to accept me in this role. Take my audience into account, because these are mainly fans of “Ukraine’s next top model”. In my opinion, my coolest interview was with Taya, but it has the least amount of views. It barely exceeded one hundred thousand, whereas the videos with the model participants are over one hundred and fifty thousand. Therefore, one way or another, the format of “Предметки” so far revolves around the TV project. The important thing is that my team and I enjoy doing the work.

Dud was initially a sports journalist.
Yes, he was. By the way, my unrealized erotic fantasy is to be a sports commentator.

I really love to watch sports. I was fanatical when I was a child. For example, during the Winter Olympics, I did not go to school. I had free attendance at school, my parents let me stay home. I wrote notes about everything I saw on the screen. I read every single page of the sports newspaper. As I got older, I began to become more and more disappointed in our sports commentators. I love biathlon. This is the only sport that I watch right now and the last stage of the World Cup commentary led to blood coming from my ears.  I don’t understand how these people can be broadcast. If I were in charge I’d just air the video without sound. Well, with the original sound when the biathlete shoots. The sound of a rifle or the crunch of snow is much more pleasant to listen to than the commentary slur that rushes into my ears. From what I could tell – the commentator simply hates the sport and it is hard labor for him. Maybe this man passed the studio by accident and was forced to go live on air?

If you could choose a sport in which you could become a champion, what sport would you choose?
If being lazy and lying on the beach was an Olympic sport I would have to order a separate cabinet to store all my gold medals. But being serious,  I’ll say biathlon, because this is the only sport that fascinates me. In childhood, I liked figure skating. I self-learned to skate, I even learned how to jump a double toe loop. And then the fear came of falling and breaking something.

Would you be able to be a sports commentator?
I can easily comment on sports in a company of friends with humor and profanity. I know a lot about biathlon. I’m not lazy to research interesting information and rummage through the biathlon Instagram accounts, look at how they live in their free time from the biathlon, where they travel, read interviews with the athletes. It is my little hobby. And of course, I know much more about this sport and its participants than that commentator. I see how the athlete shoots with my own eyes. I am more interested in what led the athlete to the run, why he runs so well, or whether he has something specific about his diet. Or maybe he sleeps 16 hours a day. There are, after all, some interesting details around the sport. 

If you were offered to commentate, would you agree to do it?
Let me comment on the models since I understand it way better than all my knowledge of sports combined. I think everyone should do what they are good at and then the results of that work shall bring joy and pleasure. I’ve spoken ill about that commentator, but I can argue every bit of criticism. I can’t say the same thing about the haters that attack the winners of the model show. One case this year made me beyond angry. It so happened that the girl who won the project, while she was in the project, her father died dad. She left for the funeral and then returned to the show and won.  So some monster wrote that her father was not dead, and it was all fabricated in order to obtain fame. It was an incredible degree of cruelty. I just don’t understand what was going on in the head of that animal that led to this action? It is very important to distinguish between hate and criticism. Constructive criticism only helps, when it is also adequately formulated. For example, ‘I see that you were mistaken here because … therefore it leads to….’ And when people just write to wish you were dead or tell you that you are a complete idiot, then it’s not a criticism – it speaks of being an uneducated person.

What question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would your answer be? Maybe you just want to share something?
You know, I never push my stories on others. If a person wants to know something about me then he can always ask. If you did not ask me something, then maybe it was not of interest to you. 

Translation: Elena Savlokhova

Special thanks to ORANG+UTAN