Rags-to-Riches Israeli Teen Cinderella Continues Meteoric Runway Rise to Parisian Catwalk Stardom
The Israeli tween who was catapulted out of anonymity and poverty in 2015 to become one of Europe’s hottest runway models has just made another leap in the fashion industry, the Hebrew news site Walla reported on Tuesday.
Sofia Mechetner, who was given a £170,000 ($212,850) two-year deal by the Christian Dior company when she was 14, was seen this week modeling couture by Chanel.
According to Walla, the clothes that Mechetner wore at the Chanel show were reminiscent of the Ralph Lauren sky blue dress that US First Lady Melania Trump sported at her husband’s inauguration ceremony on Friday.
Mechetner became an overnight sensation in the Jewish state, when her rags-to-riches story was told on Israel’s Channel 2.
The feature showed the young girl in the Tel Aviv tenement where she grew up with her siblings and Russian immigrant mother, whose total earnings as a cleaning lady amounted to $1,000 per month. Sofia, then in ninth grade, had to care for her younger brother and sister – with whom she shared a small bedroom — by picking them up from school every day, cooking their food, doing laundry and keeping the tiny apartment neat.
Sofia told Channel 2 that her family’s living conditions made her embarrassed to invite classmates over. When out of the house, however, the lanky Sofia said, she would be stopped on the street by strangers asking her if she was a basketball player or model.
Those questions got it into her head to try her luck in the fashion industry. When her mother took her to the Roberto modeling agency in Tel Aviv, not only was Sofia instantly signed by the waning business looking for a “new face,” but the establishment sent her to Paris, accompanied by a young female employee named Rotem.
At the modeling agency in the French capital where her Israeli agent had scheduled a “go see,” Sofia was rejected on the grounds that she was too young.
Sofia and Rotem then began to wander around Paris, coming upon the Christian Dior store. Miraculously, the company’s creative director, Raf Simons, happened to be on the premises. Recognizing him instantly, Rotem asked Simons if he wouldn’t mind taking a selfie with them. He obliged and asked for Rotem’s contact information. Sofia told Channel 2 that she thought he was just being polite and that nothing would come of the encounter.
Before Rotem and Sofia even made it to the airport to return to Israel, however, they received a call from the agency that had just turned them down. In the interim, Simons had phoned and asked that “Sofia from Israel” appear on the catwalk of July Fashion Week at the Rodin Museum.
Despite Sofia’s complete lack of experience or training in modeling, Dior made her a “presenter” – the first model to appear on the runway at the start of the show. In one fell swoop, according to Channel 2, Sofia and her family received a windfall of one million shekels (the equivalent at the time of some $265,000) – a sum that would have taken Sofia’s mother about 22 years to earn.
Sofia said she hoped to move her family into a bigger apartment, where she could have her own room.