and the East
By Jeremy Hurewitz
Veronica Zemanova that is sitting with me and sipping pineapple juice is
much different from the tall, startlingly beautiful young woman from southern
Bohemia that arrived in Prague seven years ago.
She has slept
only one hour and waltzes into this Prague 1 cafe like one of the fast
moving clouds passing overheard on this stormy, beautiful Sunday in March.
girl from Southern Bohemia is now a bonafide success with a following of devoted
fans. A Google web search for her name yields over three thousand results with
galleries of photos reading "I love Veronica Zemanova" and "Veronica
Zemanova is one of the most beautiful women on earth".
today Veronica is one of the world's most sought after soft-porn models.
And anyone who has spent time in Prague, a city noted for its beautiful women
knows this was no easy task.
she came to Prague at 18 her ambitions were behind the camera, not in front, and
she made a modest living as a photographer until one night in 1997 all her equipment
was stolen out of her car. The robbery left her not only broke but in debt, as
not all the equipment was hers. When the calls for the equipment became threatening
she took an offer from a make-up artist she worked with to take part in an "erotic"
Though the photographer assured her that it was a simple photo
shoot she wound up at an S&M Castle in Cerna, Moravia. She spent
three days there with the mainly German men who paid huge sums of money to be
abused by Czech women (see their great website, www.owk.cz).
Dressed in leather,
tall and statuesque, Veronica whipped them constantly as the men acted out bizarre
fantasies. "I would ash from my cigarette in their mouths. They would lick
my shoes. They played like they were animals; like they were dogs or horses."
While it all went on she was photographed. Bewildered but with six thousand
crowns, she was nevertheless still deeply in debt and she took another assignment
where she was again misled.
Flown down to Rome she was taken right to
the agency owner's apartment. "He was like maniac for sex, for women.
I did not know English. I could just say yes' and no'".
He gave her a camera and told her to shoot him. She began to shoot him as he undressed
and began masturbating in front of the camera. "I just thought I have to
do what he wants to get my money.
And he paid me for that."
these two awful experiences she wanted nothing to do with the business. But her
name and image were out there. Other models and agents began contacting her, offering
her big money and assuring her that it was professional. She went on a few assignments,
to make more money than she ever thought she'd make and
gradually it got easier. Still, this was not the life that she envisioned for
herself. "Seeing myself with open legs in magazines. I felt very bad for
that. But I felt good for to make money. It got to be more normal."
the Veronica that came from Southern Bohemia was quickly morphing into the sleep
deprived adult entertainment star that I was sipping juice with, hearing horror
stories of money, beauty and necessity. Flown to Los Angeles, London, Los Cabos
and Amsterdam, Veronica's brooding beauty began to strike a chord with men
around the world.
many beautiful women from Eastern Europe she doesn't fully understand her
beauty the way beautiful women from the west weaned on a steady diet of
Brittany Spears-producing pop culture often do. She projects a naivety
that suggests something carnal, almost atavistic; an all-natural departure from
the pre-packaged Vivid Video Amazon queens of the porn world. She has a sense
of what she does to men but, to this day, she doesn't fully understand the
way she affects them. And this quality comes out through her photographs.
no matter what I say about the metaphysical pull of her presence, it is her tangible
physical beauty that makes her a hot commodity. A fantasy from the newly liberated
East, with startlingly high cheek bones, huge pouty lips, long sculpted legs,
a tiny waist, soft, full sloping breasts and entrancing caramel-brown eyes, Veronica
has a quality in photos that represent an ideal for men that society both objectifies
and shames them for wanting.
The legacy of Veronica's beauty is something
that has colored her life in interesting ways. It has defined and cornered her
existence. This is a woman who during her entire adult life has had every man
she's met want to sleep with her and every woman eye her with suspicion at
best. She talks of arriving in Prague with long, sultry black hair half-way down
her back. Thin, with huge breasts and an aggressively sexual face, she couldn't
walk down the streets of Prague without men stopping her.
A quiet, shy,
almost melancholy girl, so troubled was she by these constant intrusions that
she shaved her head. "I did not want to be so sexual object. I thought I
will have my head like boy I will be not so sexy. I wish to be more normal".
But rather than feeling
normal she was miserable and not able to look in the mirror at her own visage.
Perhaps for the first time, now that she was in the big city, the legacy of her
genes, of who she is as a person, like it or not, really dawned on her as she
grappled with her own image.
Her image is now a valuable commodity. Pictured
in the pages of hard-core mags like Hustler (She was the centerfold in the first
Czech issue) she suggests shots in Perfect 10 and Penthouse as better records
of her beauty. Recently Playboy has expressed serious interest in her and she'll
be posing for the lingerie edition with a shot at becoming a Playmate, which,
in her business, is something of a pinnacle.
No longer does she take six
thousand crowns to ash in the mouths of demented Germans. Veronica will not work
for less then five hundred U.S. Dollars a day and is often paid much more.
Veronica Zemanova in front of me is a woman in her mid-twenties who has
accepted her beauty and is now trying to cash in on it while maintaining a sense
of what is right and wrong. We talk about girls in her business who've taken
the money for granted, who have made the wrong decisions and wound up prostitutes
or addicted to drugs.
This model is questioning me on how much I'm
making on this piece, if I want contacts to other models and if maybe she would
get a cut from something I'll write. This model means business.
when I ask her what she'll do when the beauty begins to fade she says that
she wants to get more into the business-side of things, perhaps rediscover her
photography. But here is that melancholy again. She hides it well but I wonder
what she will be when the beauty goes and I'm thinking about those dark hours
again where, despite the devotion to diet and exercise, she realizes she is defined
by something so fleeting.
I'm thinking about all the news about women
from Eastern Europe being seduced by offers of working as waitresses and dancers
in the West and winding up human slaves. I talk to Veronica about this and she
says she is always on guard and lives with a certain degree of fear constantly.
She is leaving next week for a shoot in Canada and she's nervous.
These people contacted her through her website and though they had a reference
from another model she knows she has no idea what to expect from them other than
the promise of a thousand dollars a day. What if she's offered a glass of
wine and it's drugged?
She wakes up in a situation that she can't
get out of in a foreign place. It's better now that she speaks some English
and knows the business but for a moment I'm stricken by how vulnerable this
woman is. She's just trying to have a career and not make a huge mistake.
"They use Czech girls causethey are in bad financial situations" she
says, "many girls only learn how to say Yes' and not enough No'."
told me I was too serious."
And maybe she is. Brooding, full of a
sexuality that she doesn't necessarily want, she lets the photographer put
her in a pose. Sometimes it's a coy finger in her mouth suggesting a rapacious
sexual appetite awakened. Sometimes it's a sleepy stare that conjures a mirage
in the desert, a scene in slow motion. The more artless shots that don't
take advantage of Veronica's powerful ability to project her sexuality have
her posed with her legs spread as if the voyeur is now gynecologist.
her admirers maybe it's a desperate search to locate the core of this mercurial
and captivating woman. The core, I want to tell them, is elsewhere. I see it in
some of her photos. In one she is bent over an antique chair, offering herself
to the camera. Many people might miss the look on Veronica's face, which
is smiling almost resolutely while staring in a way that shows sadness, a longing
to be something else.