One Ukrainian woman who has come face to face with the horrors of the Russia-Ukraine war has decided to mark her return to the limelight in an unexpected and unexpectedly powerful way.
Judging by the state of the abandoned playboy-themed mansion and Simone Holtznagel’s cocktail masterclass, you’d be forgiven for thinking that while there’s plenty to enjoy about Hugh Hefner’s seminal magazine, it’s not necessarily the place for politics. This week, however, the editors and talent of the publication’s Ukrainian incarnation are set to prove us all wrong by debuting a cover star who’s endured the very worst of the Russia-Ukrain conflict.
In a remarkable show of strength and resilience, Iryna Bilotserkovets — model, mum-of-three, and TV presenter — has graced the cover of the first edition of Playboy magazine to be printed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February 2022. Having survived a pro-Russian assassination attempt in which she lost her left eye, Bilotserkovets has donned a heart-shaped eyepatch and a metal bikini to symbolise her indomitable spirit in the face of adversity, as reported by B&T.
WATCH: Throwback to a very different kind of modelling debut…
The assassination attempt targeted her politician husband, who serves as an aide to Mayor of Kiev and former boxing star, Vitali Klitschko. While driving home through a wealthy Kyiv neighbourhood with her three children, Bilotserkovets was brutally attacked and sustained life-threatening injuries but has, in the month since, become a symbol of resistance in Ukraine and organising moral-boosting events for troops.
Not only has Playboy’s publisher announced that the proceeds from the magazine’s sales will be dedicated to providing emergency medical equipment for the Ukrainian army, but the shoot coincides with reports of Ukrainian women flashing their breasts at passing helicopter crews to boost morale among troops, seeming to suggest a wave of renewed and undoubtedly very welcome solidarity amongst Ukrainian women
The interview accompanying the shoot details the aftermath of Bilotserkovets’ assassination attempt. After undergoing four life-saving surgeries in Berlin — resulting in a missing eye, broken jaw, and scars across her body — she describes how she came to terms with her new body:
“An eye missing, tubes sticking out everywhere, hair shaved off from surgery. Stitches, scars, wounds everywhere; I was just Frankenstein’s monster. My jaw had shattered, like a twig. I no longer have a pretty face, but the rest of my body is beautiful. It was not a question of preserving my beauty; it was a question of whether I would live or not. Doctors in Ukraine said I was probably going to die. I didn’t agree, and neither did my husband.”Iryna Bilotserkovets
Playboy Ukraine bestows a fitting new title on Bilotserkovets as the heroine of the nation in its special edition titled ‘Women Stay Strong’, which honours the resilience of Ukrainian women who have been injured during the war but remain determined and optimistic as to the outcome of the war as well as the outlook of their own lives in the midst of Ukraine’s ongoing struggle for independence and security.
In a powerful play on beauty and bravery, Iryna Bilotserkovets redefines the power of the cover star and adds a welcome, meaningful edge to Playboy’s usual output.