Monika Schnarre: Canada’s original supermodel

June 24, 2019
Photography By Tara West
Guest Contribution by Amy Pigeon (makeup)

There is something about supermodels. Monika Schnarre enters Hotel X Toronto with so much confidence and elegance that I can immediately tell she is an original member of the supermodel era. But, unlike others, she is perhaps the most accomplished, having worked as an actress, journalist and business entrepreneur as well.

Schnarre has a cool and calm demeanour. She is humble and friendly. Chatting with her, you would never guess that this down-to-earth woman has been on countless Vogue covers.

At 14, Schnarre was the youngest ever to win the prestigious Ford modeling agency’s Supermodel of the World competition. By 15, she was the youngest to have ever appeared on the cover of American Vogue and on the pages of Sports Illustrated‘s renowned swimsuit issue. At 18, the prodigy moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career and has since appeared in over 50 films and television shows. After studying journalism at UCLA, Schnarre worked as a television correspondent on eTalk, Cityline and the Red Carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival. Over the years, she also launched a beauty line and a clothing brand. Recently, she took a slight hiatus from her very busy and successful career to be a full-time Mom. Now that her son is a bit older, Schnarre is ready for further expansion and opportunities, and she caught up with us during this very exciting point in her career.

Monika Schnarre is on the cover of The Summer Issue this year.

HANNAH YAKOBI: Can you tell us a bit more about your current projects?

MONIKA SCHNARRE: I had several years of hiatus because I was a stay-at-home Mom, but I’m back at it. My son Bode is 6 and, now that he is in school, I’m able to concentrate on my career again. I was lucky enough to be at home with him for his most formative years. I think managing schedules was the hardest part about it, but strangely enough I’ve become more efficient, because there was just so much to do.

There is a saying, “If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.” You know, I’d get up at 5 a.m. and have my taxes done, clean the house and focus on home renovation. And by the time my son woke up, I’d have done half of the things I needed to do!

In terms of my projects, I’ve been involved in the skincare business for about 9 years and have my own line, called Iampure. We are on The Shopping Channel and in 200 stores across Canada. It’s an anti-aging, vegan and plant-sourced skincare line. We are manufactured in Waterloo, Canada, and we try to source as many ingredients as possible locally. For example, instead of using Himalayan salt in our products, we use pink salt from Alberta. It’s something I’ve always been passionate about and I’m very proud of having my own line.

I’ve been also getting auditions, and acting and modelling opportunities have been knocking on my door again, which is nice. I’m also planning to re-launch my clothing line Tall next winter.

As an established model and owner of a skincare brand, what beauty tips would you give to women?

Never go to sleep with your makeup on because you do have to give your skin some rest. Also, you don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for a good product. The truth is you are paying for packaging and perfume, and the celebrity who the brand is using for their advertising. And here is the most interesting part that I’ve learned: there is no governing body testing the efficacy or amounts of ingredients in most products. But, with a medically directed line, which is the one I have because I work with a doctor, the ingredients have to be in clinical doses.

Schnarre poses for FAJO at Hotel X Toronto in a Brian Bailey dress.

Let’s chat a bit about your career. You started at 14. How did your parents feel about your success at such a young age?

Well, I dragged my Mom to the modelling agencies, and she was not keen because of my age. But she was very proud and very supportive! She used to come with me but then she had a job, and she was a single Mom, so she couldn’t travel with me. I was very independent. I can’t imagine letting my son travel the world at that age, but I think my Mom knew that I could be trusted. I wasn’t into anything scandalous. Truly. I didn’t drink, I didn’t do drugs and that helped a lot, staying out of trouble! (laughs)


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You must have so many incredible memories from your career this far. Are there moments that really stand out?

I think my trip to Russia in 1987 was a definite highlight. We were launching the first fashion magazine to be sold behind the Iron Curtain: Burda from Germany. This was pre-Berlin Wall coming down and Raisa Gorbachev was in the audience. I met Gorbachev himself at a different event too. But for the fashion magazine launch, I was there with Christy Turlington and Renée Simonsen. It stands out in my mind because we were making history, and we also snuck in this young Russian girl into the party even though only high society was invited. Renée just put her arm around her and said, “Oh, she is with us!” We were also in Life magazine’s The Year in Pictures issue.

Shooting for Vogue with Richard Avedon and Polly Mellen also stands out for me. When you work with these icons, you know you’ll remember these moments forever. I still remember how Interview magazine was featuring me, because I had just won the Ford contest, and it was Polly Mellen who yelled to Richard Avedon, “Dick, shoot this girl before she turns 15!” It was all very funny and she was being funny. I’ve subsequently been on many other Vogue covers, but the American Vogue was my first.

You’ve subsequently also been on many television shows and in many films that are truly iconic. Some of them are making a big comeback (like Beverly Hills, 90210), while others are still on air (like The Bold and the Beautiful). Are there any TV experiences that really stand out for you?

I remember working with Rutger Hauer, that was one of my favourites because Blade Runner is one of my favourite movies. And then working with Arnold Schwarzenegger on Junior was also fun!

You’ve been modelling for several decades. What are your thoughts on mature models? Even 20 years ago, at the height of the supermodel craze, this wasn’t really something that existed. But very mature models, like Maye Musk, have now become some of the most sought-after in the world.

I feel very torn, because I was one of those very young models. I was very lucky to have come really far in an era where I was pretty much the youngest one. There weren’t a lot of 14-year-olds who modelled for Vogue. There were those who were 17, but I looked so mature. So I’m not going to say that it was terrible, but it’s a standard that women can’t live up to. Your skin is flawless when you are 14, and you don’t have hips or cellulite. But, I was very grateful for the experience. And now, I’m grateful to be in a place where models my age are making a resurgence.

Schnarre’s career as one of Canada’s biggest supermodels spans several decades.

If you were giving advice to someone starting in the modelling industry now, what would it be? What does a model need to do now to be successful?

So much of it these days is about social media and self-promotion. My agents always tell me to post something every day. I feel so narcissistic, so I just post a throwback cause it’s easy. (laughs)

But the truth is: you have to treat it like a job. You have to post every day and engage with your followers. It’s easier in some ways, but tougher in others. It’s tougher because all the covers and advertising are celebrity-driven now: it’s all about the Kardashians and Hadids. It’s hard to make a name for yourself as a model. I was lucky to start when models were the celebrities in fashion. But it’s easier in some respects, in my opinion, because of Photoshop. When I was starting out, and you had a blemish, you were so afraid of getting sent home. It was just too expensive to get airbrushed. And these days it’s so easy.

You’ve worn some incredible clothing in your photoshoots over the years, but can you tell us a bit about your own style?

Well, if I’m being totally honest, and I was thinking about it in the car today on my way here—when I dress up, it’s like going to work. As a model, dresses and heels are my job. I know a lot of women love it and it’s not really a chore, but for me it’s work.

Normally, during the day, I’m very casual. I live in Ontario’s country, so I don’t have to dress up, but when I do, I know it’s a privilege and I get to wear beautiful gowns. Designers lend me beautiful things. But my own style is very casual: boots and jeans, and leather jackets. If I had an unlimited budget, it would probably all be Calvin Klein and Donna Karan.

My favourite Canadian designers are Lucian Matis and Brian Bailey. These designers have become my friends, and Lucian designed my wedding dress. I think we have a ton of talent in Canada. I also love Evan Biddell, and I wear Narces a lot for events—they are my go-to for beautiful gowns.

I’ve always dressed for what looks best on my tall frame. I buy a lot of things that I can mix-and-match. And I feel bold when I wear patterns!

Schnarre says her personal style is more casual.

FAJO Magazine would like to thank Hotel X Toronto for providing the location for this photoshoot. Hotel X Toronto by Library Hotel Collection brings a fresh perspective on luxury to Downtown Toronto. This lakefront urban resort encompasses three distinct components: 404-guest rooms in the Hotel Tower, topped by the three-level Falcon SkyBar featuring a 55-foot long heated indoor/outdoor pool offering year-round access; 10XTO, an athletic facility with 90,000 sq. feet of luxe indoor and outdoor amenities; and the historic Stanley Barracks, all surrounded by acres of gardens and breathtaking views of Lake Ontario and the iconic Toronto Skyline. Guests will find numerous bars, restaurants and cafes, an art gallery of nature photography, a 250-seat cinema and a private screening room, 60,000 sq. ft. of flexible conference spaces, and an exhibition of Canadian history. Read our review of Hotel X Toronto to find out more.



Story by Hannah Yakobi
Photography by Tara West

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