05 March 2010

Czech Top-Model: Helena Houdová

Helena Houdová (dob 12.27.79) is a Czech supermodel and humanitarian who has covered or appeared in countless fashion magazines. Known for donating almost all of her earnings to charities for orphans and disadvantaged children, she is President and Founder of a charity devoted to these causes called Sunflower Children, which she started in 2000 after being crowned Miss Czech Republic.

Houdová was born and raised in Plzeň (of Pilsener-style beer fame), in then-communist Czechoslovakia, and now Czech Republic. She has been working in orphanages since the age of 15- even learned sign language in order to communicate with handicapped, and has adopted 4 young girls which her family now cares for.
While besieged by modelling agencies hoping to sign her as a teenager, her father refused to let her model until she completed her university degree. After completing her studies in Anthropology (PhD), she moved abroad to pursue modelling work in Paris, then New York.

Houdová won the Miss Czech Republic competition in 1999, and went on to become a finalist in the Miss World pageant. Houdová's popularity in the fashion industry sky-rocketed when she appeared on the cover the May 2005 edition of Elle, which dedicated the entire issue to her.

This beautiful and intelligent woman also has some major issues with communism, as it set her home country back decades with it's systemic failures, institutionalized cruelty, and lack of freedom. Houdova was actually arrested in Cuba while taking photographs of Havana's slums, she later told a journalist that she took them to portray the island not only as a tourist paradise, but also as a land of political oppression.
"The revolution's watchmen rose up because I was taking pictures of something they do not like," said the top model, referring to the fact that the Communist regime of Fidel Castro denies the existence of slums on the island." She was arrested along with psychologist and fellow model Mariana Kroftova- the two women spent 11 hours in police custody. Cuban police confiscated the roll of film that was in the Czech women's camera. However, Houdova managed to conceal the memory card of her digital camera inside her bra.

Houdova said her meetings with dissidents, the wives of political prisoners, as well as with ordinary Cubans during her ten-day stay in Cuba made her recollect her childhood in Communist Czechoslovakia. "I am not an expert on the political situation in Cuba but I think some kind of change is necessary there," she said in an interview...