The New Yorker Tells Us What Dasha Zhukova Is Really Like: Bafflingly Blank

By
Photo: Patrick McMullan

When Russian socialite Dasha Zhukova was appointed editor of Pop, replacing the revered Katie Grand, the industry scoffed. Zhukova, who is 29, was 27 at the time, and plucked seemingly out of nowhere — from outside an industry that she may have been a part of, having co-founded the successful Kova & T clothing line, but was never really inside. She is known for founding Moscow's Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, through which she brings contemporary art to Russia. Or rather, Zhukova, who has a degree in Russian Literature from UC Santa Barbara, hires people to run it for her, according to The New Yorker. She doesn't have time to always be intimately involved — though she becomes fixated on details, like having beanbags at one opening — because in addition to the Garage, she has other jobs "that are, at least potentially, highly demanding," the magazine writes. Among those potentially highly demanding jobs is her editorship of Pop.

Julia Ioffe followed Zhukova for the story, and makes it sounds about as fun and easy as getting a pig to moo. Zhukova is impossible to read, doesn't talk much (at least to Ioffe) and "usually wears an entirely neutral expression reminiscent of an empty tide pool." Among the things she won't talk about, naturally, is her boyfriend Roman Abromovich, who is fourteen years older than her and rich enough to blot his underarm sweat with $100 bills at hourly intervals rather than use antiperspirant. Ioffe continues:

It's tempting to suppose that such vagueness betrays a neophyte's lack of confidence, and a wariness about being portrayed as a rich dilettante. But Zhukova's almost virtuosic uncommunicativeness seems to apply to all areas of her life, and her infinite unquotability has earned her a kind of fame among journalists. At a fashion show, a reporter for Women's Wear Daily asked her what she thought of the clothes. Zhukova responded, "I liked them, but that's off the record."

A fashion editor that won't fawn over something? Maybe she lives in a world where money buys pigs that do moo. Ioffe goes on:

Even Zhukova's baffling blankness — her absolute reserve and her apparent fear of saying anything remotely opinionated — usually works in her favor. An older generation of curators and artists, who could easily feel threatened by a rich and influential young woman, unanimously praise her good manners, her modestly, her tact. Others suspect that the impassive exterior masks the will of one who knows how to manipulate people in order to get what she wants, the sort of woman for whom billionaires leave their wives and families. "Dasha is one of the hardest people to read that I've ever met," the art-world observer told me. "It's not because she's not smart of passionate about what she's doing. She's just the ideal model. She hides her emotions, her passions, though you know it's here because you see the projects she puts together." Ultimately, perhaps, Zhukova doesn't speak much because she understand that her money and connections speak for themselves.

So the lesson, if one is to be drawn from her success, is to be rich, pretty, and hide all emotions and thoughts. No one likes a thinking woman with feelings.

Garage Mechanics [NYer]