Influencer Xenia settled in London last summer (Picture: Igor Fain)
With her eight million followers on social media, supermodel looks and fierce intelligence – she speaks six languages and is an economics graduate – it’s hard not to envy Xenia Tchoumi.
The London-based Swiss-Russian influencer, digital entrepreneur, author and gender equality advocate regularly shoots campaigns with the likes of Vogue and Vanity Fair, has delivered three inspirational TEDx talks and has addressed global luminaries at the United Nations.
But although Russian-born Xenia – who is in her early thirties and describes herself as a ‘feminist’ and an ‘immigrant’ – has sometimes been accused of being handed the world on a plate, she insists that couldn’t be further from the truth.
And this is something she is keen to set straight in her new book, Why You Should Empower Yourself: How To Make Lemonade When Life Gives You Lemons, in which she launches her one-woman manifesto on how to gain true self-belief.
‘Yes, I consider myself lucky compared to many in the world, but no amount of luck is enough to support real and lasting success,’ she writes in a stirring introduction.
‘There’s no such thing as a shortcut or a free meal in life; if you want a happy, successful and empowered life, you have to put in the work.’
The monochromatic colour scheme sets off clean lives in the living room (Picture: Igor Fain)
Xenia loves the flexibility of renting and pays £5,500 pm for her two-bed apartment (Picture: Igor Fain)
Although for Xenia this may mean putting in the work while rocking a Roberto Cavalli frock, vertiginous Valentino heels and clutching a Dior bag, there’s no doubting her sincere belief that no matter where we come from or what we look like, we certainly all have fears, insecurities and knockbacks to overcome – and that there is more that unites us than divides us.
The coronavirus pandemic is, of course, a case in point.
‘I was just in total denial about it at first,’ she tells me from her smart, monochrome-themed west London apartment.
Xenia has written a new book about gaining self-belief (Picture: Igor Fain)
‘Then I felt as if I went through the five stages of grief in just a few short months.
‘Absolutely everything in my life changed, as it did for so many people.
‘I developed awful allergies and had to find techniques to stay positive.
‘Suddenly being unable to travel was so shocking. I used to complain about it, but now I realise how much I miss it.’
The kitchen, where Xenia loves to cook Peruvian dishes (Picture: Igor Fain)
Xenia fills her flat with cut flowers and luxe accessories (Picture: Igor Fain)
A cursory scroll through her Instagram (@xenia) gives us a glimpse at the global odyssey Xenia is usually on, taking in shoots in Milan and at New York’s hippest hotels and at waterfront Sicilian villas, posing in the Swiss Alps or waking up – hair perfectly tousled – in a private first-class airplane cabin en route to her next destination.
But having to stay home has, for Xenia, turned out to be something of an epiphany, enabling her to make the move to her dream pad last summer, and take stock of her health and career.
‘I first fell in love with London in my early twenties, and have moved around the city several times, first living in a tiny studio flat,’ says Xenia, who was born on the edge of the Urals, moved to the Swiss town of Lugano when she was six and has been working in the modelling and fashion worlds since she was 12.
Making the space her own gave Xenia a much-needed pandemic project (Picture: Igor Fain)
‘I needed something to do without being on my phone all day,’ she says (Picture: Igor Fain)
‘It is wonderful to have a bit more space’ (Picture: Igor Fain)
‘I have upgraded and upgraded, until I finally got the opportunity last year to move to a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in a period building.
‘As I don’t have an office, my home has always been my workplace, so it is wonderful to have a bit more space.
‘ I may not own it – I don’t feel any pressure to get on the property ladder as I love the flexibility of renting – but my home is definitely my biggest investment.’
The chic, understated flower-filled space, for which Xenia pays around £5,500 a month in rent, was partly furnished when she moved in nine months ago, and provided the project she needed while staying home to stay safe.
Her white sofa makes the perfect backdrop for Instagram photoshoots (Picture: Igor Fain)
‘I needed something to do without being on my phone all day,’ says Xenia, who has a British partner she isn’t keen to name.
‘So I started redecorating and reorganising everything in my flat, which was very therapeutic.’
As the lucky recipient of a seemingly endless flow of clothes and shoes for her digital marketing work – Xenia has worked with brands including Tom Ford, Bulgari and Moet & Chandon – Xenia had piles of boxes full of fabulous designer threads to sort out.
Must-keeps were stashed in the built-in mirrored cupboards, and others earmarked for an online charity auction she and her friends organised.
Art-lover Xenia has collected pieces from her travels (Picture: Igor Fain)
Books, too, were culled, or treasured volumes re-read – Xenia cites Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and Oscar Wilde classics as literary lifesavers.
Objets d’art picked up on her travels were taken out of storage – a hunk of amethyst and rosy-red ceramic apples bought in a Mexican gallery – and websites were trawled for storage for her jewellery and the beauty products and scented candles that fill her black and white marble bathrooms.
Although she loves art and colour, with her home doubling as a studio for her digital campaigns, Xenia has to keep the backdrop pretty neutral: her white leather sofa often takes centre stage, and she has invested in professional photographic lights.
The bathroom is pretty incredible (Picture: Igor Fain)
In the evenings, to unwind, she has devised internationally themed nights, where she cooks Peruvian food, say, and then watches a South American film.
‘It’s a tip I learned from a girlfriend who is a psychologist,’ she says. ‘It helps to differentiate one week from the next.’
Time alone in her sanctuary also gave Xenia the chance to go back and refine certain chapters of Empower Yourself.
She is on a crusade, she says, to help readers set achievable goals, protect their mental health and resist society’s pressure to conform, as well as find ways to be ‘digitally dominant’, rather than digitally dominated.
Yep, that’s a TV in view from the tub (Picture: Igor Fain)
Although she loves art and colour, with her home doubling as a studio for her digital campaigns, Xenia has to keep the backdrop pretty neutral (Picture: Igor Fain)
The flat acts as a zen retreat for the influencer (Picture: Igor Fain)
‘I always bear in mind that you never really know what the future holds, and you can reinvent yourself at any age,’ she says.
‘I try to remember that all you really need is a roof over your head, clothing and food. I feel so proud to be a Londoner – the people here are amazingly resilient. But I’ll admit I could do with a little sunshine.’
Why You Should Empower Yourself: How To Make Lemonade When Life Gives You Lemons by Xenia Tchoumi is out now, from £9.99.
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