February 9, 2003

19-year old Havi Mond: I like the idea of being a supermodel… but I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work out. (Photo: Andrew Crowley)The sleepy town of Safed in northern Israel is known for its religious community and spiritual atmosphere: not the kind of spot one would expect to produce a budding international supermodel.

But 19-year old Havi Mond, a young religiously observant woman from Safed, will soon be splashed on billboards all over London as the face of the spring/summer French Connection campaign. She is already making regular appearances on the pages of glossy magazines such as Vogue and Marie Claire.

Mond was merely a young tourist wandering around Covent Garden two years ago when she caught the eye of a model scout from the Select modeling agency. It is an opportunity that most 16-year-olds would jump at: but Mond insisted that her modeling career wait until she finished high school and fulfilled her National Service obligations in Israel (many young religious women in Israel perform community service rather than serve in the military), before heading onto the catwalk. Havi spent her national service years teaching hyperactive children from poor neighborhoods and helping Ethiopians who had just arrived in Israel to learn Hebrew.

Although Mond still lives in Israel, she now commutes between London, New York and Paris. Her work trips begin in Safed, from which she travels for two hours to the airport, flies to London, takes the train down to Brighton, where her grandparents live, and then goes to work. Mond began making these trips last August, imagining that, as a little-known model, she would not be much in demand. Within a week, she had landed her first shoot for Vogue – earning only $40, their standard fee – and she was launched. Already, she is spoken of as the model most likely to revive the supermodel phenomenon, and Mond makes the trans-Euro trip a few times a month.

Mond is in no rush to transplant herself from Israel though.

“I am a very home child,” she told Britain’s Daily Telegraph. “I love living with my mother and father, I love cooking and cleaning. So I am happy to travel, though sometimes it is a little boring.”

At first, there was a question as to whether she would even try modeling. When she was first spotted and offered a contract, “I didn’t mention it to my parents frequently because I knew they did not like the idea,” said Havi. It was only when Select flew her and her mother to London, demonstrated what a family-minded agency they were, and promised never to ask her to do work that went against her principles, that the Monds relented.

Today, Mond’s father Peter, a social worker and mother Pamela a drama therapist, are the prime decision-makers when it comes to determining if any of Havi’s photo shoots compromise their religious beliefs. She doesn’t work on Shabbat, keeps kosher, and turns down jobs that require her to wear anything that the family considers “provocative.”

One might think that these limitations would cramp the style of a budding young model style but apparently not. “It all adds to the intrigue,” said Alisa Marks, French Connection’s creative director.

Mond joins other Israeli models who have broken into the international modeling world like Versace’s in-house model Sharon Guenish, and others such as Nina Brosh and Shiraz Tal, Liraz Mesilaty, Kim Iglinski, Hen Yanni, Orit Oren, and Mor Katzir.

“I like the idea of being a supermodel,” she says. “It would be fun to be famous, so long as I didn’t lose my private life. And I like modeling: the clothes, the make-up and having my hair done. There are many places I want to see – Switzerland, France, Brazil – and I would like to save some money and buy a flat so that, when I am a student, I don’t have to work. But I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work out.”

Peter Mond’s feels pride that Havi is acting as a goodwill ambassador for Israel, showing the world that Israel is not just a place filled with war and terror. “I would hope it helps,” he said.

According to a Select spokesman, plans are already underway for Havi’s goodwill and captivating image to reach the United States in the near future.

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Jason Harris

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