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You're reading: Miss Ukraine goes from law school to catwalk

Ivano-Frankivsk-native Olesya Stefanko at first appears a typical choice as Miss Ukraine-Universe 2011. Tall? Check. Elegant? Check. Beautiful? Check.

But there’s more to this 22-year-old legal student than meets the eye. As a teenager, her dream was not, as beauty contestants often claim, to save children or heal the world, but to put criminals in their place as a prosecutor.

“I dreamed of being a prosecutor,” said Stefanko, who is in her fourth of six years studying at the Odesa Legal Academy, in an interview. “But then I spent some time at the prosecutor’s office as an intern and realized that this isn’t work for women. Legal practice is better.”

After winning the national beauty crown in December last year, Stefanko will head off to Brazil for the Miss Universe contest on Sept. 12.

The fragile brunette has all the typical sound bites needed to excel in the competition. She said beauty is not just about a perfectly-shaped nose or good genes, but also neatness, kindness and looking after oneself.

I often date men who are shorter than me. So what? I don’t have any complexes. – Olesya Stefanko, Miss Ukraine-Universe 2011.

Surprisingly, Stefanko said she never considered herself extraordinary and because of her natural shyness hadn’t intended to take part in any competitions, never mind make a living on the stage.

Her timid character may lie behind her decision not to pursue a career as a prosecutor. The brown-eyed beauty said the stress and irregular working hours are a bad influence on a happy family and home life. These views are typical in a country with few women in top government positions or company boardrooms.

Stefanko hasn’t yet found that lifestyle – she’s single and has no plans for a serious relationship in the near future.

For all you hopefuls out there, looks and wealth aren’t at the top of her must-have list.

“I often date men who are shorter than me. So what? I don’t have any complexes,” she said.

Stefanko comes from a regular family – her m

om is a housewife, and her father is an ordinary worker. “They are simple people, but they love and respect each other. I want the same kind of pure and real relations,” she said.

The lawyer-beauty ended up in contests by chance. When her university friends asked her to represent the law faculty, she refused at first, afraid that her shyness would hold her back. But in the end she agreed, won and began taking part in inter-university contests.

Next stop: Brazil, for the Miss Universe pageant. Victory, she said, would help her in her further career as a lawyer. How?

“I don’t know,” she replied, before adding: “My life has changed rapidly, and I don’t know how it can change further. I always had plans for the future – top marks at high school, a bachelor’s with honors, legal practice. But now everything has changed,” she smiled.

Stefanko has a certain naivety about her, the innocence of a young girl thrown into an unusual, very public world. But that timidity disappears when she’s in front of the camera.

While being interviewed she posed for an elegant photoshoot, exuding class and experience. In life, she is much gentler and smiles constantly.

Her success in beauty contests hasn’t changed her as a person, she said. She still meets with friends, studies, reads detective novels and works by Paulo Coelho.
And Stefanko isn’t looking for love. Not just yet.

“I believe in fate, that it [love] will find me when I need it. Love means dependence. You need all your time for it. I’m working on my career at the moment,” she said.

Kyiv Post staff writer Yuliya Raskevich can be reached at

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