A guide to the New East
Top girls
Ten real women shaping Moscow's future

Moscow is known as a harsh city: big, busy, and driven by vanity, ambition and money. But behind the superhighways and neon-filled nights there is a different city. A place being shaped and transformed by creatives from the new generation. For this report — produced in collaboration with Nike — we have picked ten women who are re-appropriating, changing and inspiring the city. They are making a mark — in sports, art and music — and becoming much-needed role models for future generations of girls in Moscow and beyond.

All our heroines take different pathways but — from a Thai boxing champion to a graffiti artist, a photographer to a musician — they are all the real girls of Moscow. They are redefining what it means to be a Russian woman today and are destroying the old-fashioned stereotypes of glamorous yet passive Moscow divas. Furthermore, they are rejecting superficial standards of beauty and success, swapping high heels for sneakers, making their own choices and wearing their creative freedom with pride.

In this report they are also our guides to contemporary Moscow — revealing their favourite spots and telling us their city stories, so we can all feel in sync with the beat of an ever new and exciting metropolis.

Katya Quel
Street artist

Street artists know the city better than anyone else: its bridges, rooftops, concrete walls and hidden spots. For Katya Quel it’s not just about leaving a mark but about forging her own artistic signature. She takes us to one of the bridges over the Moscow river where she loves to tag.


Your most secret spot in the city?
On the rooftop of the Sparrow Hills station, there is a secret spot for graffiti artists — a space with a long wall and view of the river, the park and the city. Generally graffiti artists have several secret places. This one's got a cool urban atmosphere but there’s usually nobody there. The main thing is to know how to climb up to it.  

What would be your superpower?
I wish I had something that could make everything that my brain thinks of as quickly as possible. I have so many ideas but not enough time, skills and perseverance. 

Is there a book that changed your life?
There are lots of books that really inspired me. I guess the first was the Moomin series by Tove Jansson. 

I’ve always wanted to stand out from the grey crowd in Moscow

What is your signature Moscow look?
My look is always sporty and casual. I usually wear sneakers and every year I have a new favourite colour. I’ve always wanted to stand out from the grey crowd in Moscow — my mum calls me an urban madwoman or a traffic light because I wear a lot of bright clothing.

What music track defines your mood today?
Today is a Friday and all I have in my head is Faded by Zhu.

What’s your biggest achievement?
This year it was gaining self-confidence in my graphic works. I hope that my biggest achievements are yet to come.

What has been the biggest shift in the last five years?
For me, it has to be the emergence of new art spaces, such as Winzavod, ArtPlay, Garage and the Jewish Cultural Centre. I like to visit these beautiful areas and get inspiration from contemporary art.

If you were to start a revolution, what would you fight for?
I would fight for environmental problems. I am very concerned about the fact that people in the world are only living in the present and spoiling our beautiful planet. I would like environmental issues to become essential for governments in every country.

Jekka
Singer-songwriter

Evgenia Nedosekina aka Jekka is Moscow's new independent pop sensation. Her soft vocals, skillfully intertwined with beats, are perfect for dancing to or driving at night. Jekka has been releasing her music independently since 2012. Her latest EP City of Night came out earlier this year, and luckily it’s just the beginning.


Describe Moscow in 140 characters
To quote my dear friend, writer and artist Adeola Enigbokan, Moscow is a “city of islands within islands”.

Your secret spot in the city?
To keep it secret and just for me, I’ll describe another place instead. It’s especially tranquil in the early mornings on the river, when only fishermen gather to catch the specimens inhabiting the polluted Moscow river. And if you have a bike, I recommend riding along the recently renovated embankment all the way to Sparrow Hills, where you can find a nice spot right by the water overlooking the Luzhniki stadium, to read or just meditate.

What would you change in Moscow to make it more liveable?
Moscow, like any cosmopolitan city, is already quite liveable with its 24-hour entertainment and variety of goods on offer. However, it is a very aggressive city that can devour you whole if you're not careful. What I would love is for people in Moscow to be more open — open to new ideas and new collaborations — because, as I described it, Moscow is made up of isolated social islands unwilling to communicate with each other. Ambitions fly high, but they serve little purpose.

What is your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement to date is finally acknowledging what I want to do with my life and pursuing it without fear. I doubt that many people manage to do this in their lifetime.

I would fight for the right to be what you want to be in your homeland without the fear of being prosecuted unjustly

What would be your signature Moscow look?
Printed Blackmilk leggings, a long black shirt, a black duster jacket, Nike sneakers or Dr Martens shoes and pastel-coloured eyebrows.

Which living person do you admire the most?
It is definitely Björk. She is very inspiring and empowering, showing that women can achieve amazing things. I love that she’s not overly sexual like many other artists who try to shock the audience that way. Björk is all about the music and the visuals. If you think about all her collaborations with scientists, sculptors, programmers, music prodigies and instrument makers, she’s an absolute mastermind. She takes music to whole different level but, at the same time, can still produce a more conventional ballad, all because her heart was broken. And that's beautiful.

If you were to start a revolution, what would you fight for?
I would fight for the right to be what you want to be in your homeland, be it gay, experimental, religious or atheist, creative or entrepreneurial, without the fear of being prosecuted unjustly.

My biggest achievement to date is finally acknowledging what I want to do with my life and pursuing it without fear

Katya Izotova
Boxer

Katya Izotova is a world champion of Thai boxing. She started her career in Belarus, but now lives and trains in Moscow, which is more suited to her energetic temperament. She invites us into her training gym, where she spends hours in preparation for boxing matches.


Your most secret spot in the city?
The most secret place is probably Luzhniki stadium, not that nobody knows about it. It’s just a place that I personally enjoy: the air is cleaner, so people come here to work out. But generally, there isn’t one single place that’s my favourite, this city has a bunch of places with their own character.

What would you change in Moscow to make it more liveable?
The weather and the endless traffic.

Which film would you star in?
The Avengers, for sure.

I admire those who strive toward something — those who have goals and are constantly trying to grow and improve themselves

Is there a book that changed your life?
In my mind, each book leaves you with something but to change your life, perhaps I haven’t found it yet.

Which living person do you admire the most?
I admire those who strive toward something — those who have goals and are constantly trying to grow and improve themselves — as well my loved ones.

What music track defines your mood today?
The song I listen to more than any other is Know Yourself by Drake. 

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