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Paulina Porizkova is a Czechoslovakian model and actress best known for being the first woman from Eastern Europe to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.
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Czechoslovakian supermodel Paulina Porizkova rose to become a top model in Paris in the early 1980s, and became the first woman from Eastern Europe to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue. She was chosen twice by People magazine as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World," in 1990 and 1992. She made her acting debut in 1983's Portfolio and has since appeared in a number of films.
Supermodel. Born on April 9, 1965, in Prostejov, Czechoslovakia, Paulina Porizkova experienced a traumatic childhood strongly impacted by the international politics of the Cold War. When the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia to quash the 1968 "Prague Spring" reforms of Czechoslovakian leader Alexander Dubcek, Porizkova's parents fled to Sweden, temporarily leaving the 3-year-old Paulina behind in the care of her grandmother. When the new Czechoslovakian authorities refused to let Porizkova leave the country to join her family in Sweden, her parents endured a well-publicized, but ultimately unsuccessful, hunger strike to regain custody of their daughter. After the hunger strike failed, Porizkova's mother returned to Czechoslovakia on a secret rescue-mission, but was caught by Czech police and sent to prison.
By 1974, reuniting the Porizkova family had become a minor cause célèbre throughout Europe. Porizkova finally won her escape later that year, when Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme refused to visit Czechoslovakia until she was granted amnesty. As an adult, Porizkova says the image of crossing the Iron Curtain with her mother is still seared in her memory: "I do remember holding my mom's hand and waving goodbye down a long, straight road, mine fields on both sides of us, and my dad waiting on the Austrian side of the border."
As a teenager in Sweden, Porizkova stumbled into modeling by accident. In 1980, Porizkova's best friend, an aspiring fashion photographer, took several photographs of Porizkova and sent them to the Elite modeling agency in Paris. Elite head John Casablancas was wowed not by the photography, however, but instead by the strikingly beautiful 5-foot 11-inch brunette in the pictures. As Porizkova remembers it, her friend sent the pictures and "I was in Paris four weeks later." Only two weeks after arriving in Paris at the age of 15, Porizkova landed on her first magazine cover—20 Ans, a popular monthly magazine for young French women. Naïve to the world of modeling, Porizkova had no idea that she was on the fast track to superstardom. She remembers, "I thought everybody did covers when they first started modeling. I didn't think there was anything amazing about it."
Porizkova's modeling career kicked into high gear in 1984 when, at the age of 19, she became the youngest model ever to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Over the next several years, Porizkova went on to grace the cover of virtually every major fashion magazine, including Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, Vogue, Us, Self, Mademoiselle and Playboy.
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