Her story begins in March 1957.
A beautiful, blue-eyed baby girl was born to parents who, as young adults, emigrated from rural Ukraine to the multicultural city of Toronto in pursuit of a better life. For the first five years of her life, Hanya Kizemchuk spoke only Ukrainian. She eventually learned English in kindergarten, attending “Ukrainian school by night,” she recalls, where she studied the geography of the country, as well as the culture, language, and customs.
Her parents, who had only grade school educations, shared a strong work ethic. “We always had a clean home and great food,” she says—a theme she recognizes has carried throughout her life. A full-time butcher, her father was adept at fixing things in his spare time. Together, her parents built a thriving real estate business, expecting their children (Kizemchuk and her older brother) to help. One year, Kizemchuk was gifted a typewriter. “I soon found myself having to type up leases for their rental properties,” she chuckles.
Kizemchuk describes her home as strict—and getting an education was a “big deal,” she says. “I was encouraged to go and do anything I wanted,” but there was one caveat: “I needed a degree first.” In 1978, Kizemchuk graduated from York University, a public university in Toronto, earning a general Bachelor of Arts degree.
Within days of completing her mandatory post-secondary education, Kizemchuk purchased a one-way ticket to Milan, Italy. She was going to be a model. “My parents didn’t even ask me if I had a ticket to come home,” she says. Aside from a few belongings, she carried a list of addresses of top modeling agencies in Milan.
A Model Life
As a young girl, Kizemchuk was captivated by the fashion world, devouring glossy magazines, tearing out images she fell in love with, and decorating her room with those pages. Although blessed with a tall and lanky frame and in possession of the inherent features of a high-fashion model, Kizemchuk never modeled as a child or teen.
When Kizemchuk arrived in Milan, it was furniture week, and there were no vacant pensioni. Undaunted, Kizemchuk visited one of the agencies whose address she had jotted down; the owner invited her to stay at his home until she got settled. Within a few days, the agency helped her secure her own apartment and sent her to Aldo Coppola, an innovative Milanese hairstylist. He promptly lopped off her curtain of long blonde hair for a short and snazzy ’do.
Was she upset? “Not at all,” quips Kizemchuk. “I went with the flow. Hair grows.”
The lithe and willowy 5-foot, 10-inch blonde immediately began working—including editorial and catalog jobs and even some television segments; she also began strutting down the runway, which quickly became her forte.
The seasonal schedule of modeling work afforded Kizemchuk the opportunity to spend two or three months on assignment and still have ample time to travel throughout Europe as well as back and forth to Canada. Many of her days were filled with “go-sees,” when models meet with potential clients, handing out comp cards (a model’s business card).
Eventually Kizemchuk settled in Hamburg, Germany, which became her base after a midnight run from Paris and the clutches of Jean-Luc Brunel, a French model scout (whom she found out years later was financed by Jeffrey Epstein). “I did not have good vibes about what I saw going on,” remarks Kizemchuk.
Kizemchuk worked for Karl Lagerfeld and Jil Sander, among other designers, and did some German television work. She continued modeling in Europe until she was 28 when, she reveals, “I aged out.”
A Business Plan
Kizemchuk moved back to Toronto to put down roots, start a family, and sink her teeth into making a life. She studied for her real estate license and began selling homes in the $1 million price range; she married her husband, whom she had met in Germany, and together they started a property-flipping business.
At 38, she welcomed daughter Karina into her life. This was a powerful moment—when she realized her responsibility to clothe, feed, house, and educate her child. Kizemchuk asked herself “at what cost would I be able to do it all?” Not willing to hire a nanny and outsource childcare, she scaled back work and took Karina on jobs. She sent her daughter to the best schools in Toronto, forgoing designer clothes and handbags to pay tuition bills. She describes her daughter, now 28 and an alumna of the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada, as “my everything” and “an amazing young woman.”
By 47, Kizemchuk divorced and bought her ex-husband out of their real estate business. At the time, she owned a 48-unit apartment complex, which became part of a new wave of condo co-ownership where rentals are sold off one by one. This novel business allowed Kizemchuk to relieve herself of debt. Life finally got easier for her.
Shortly thereafter she discovered Naples. “It was a very safe, pretty, clean town,” she says. “I fell in love with it. I remember people still dressed up to go out for dinner.” She started spending holidays in Naples and, in 2008, purchased a large home in Tiburón, a golf course community in North Naples, offered at a greatly reduced price.
Kizemchuk has since bought and sold more properties in Naples. In 2019, she began plans to build a home; “the foundations were laid” she recalls. Then, COVID shut the border down between Canada and the United States.
“I had no idea when or if I would even make it back, so I sold the place.” When she realized she missed Naples, and that people were still moving to Southwest Florida, despite a worldwide pandemic, she bought a condo in downtown Naples via a FaceTime call with her real estate agent.
Just over three years ago, Kizemchuk decided she wanted to feel the exhilaration of the runway again. Aging gracefully, she was spending her days golfing, shopping, and lunching with friends; she was also aligning herself with charities that empowered women and was active on various social media platforms, attracting a loyal group of followers. But would the fashion world embrace a mature woman?
Kizemchuk found herself nervously driving around the block of the modeling agency in Toronto before summoning the courage to walk in and ask about work. Immediately “they handed me a contract,” she exclaims. One of her first assignments was opening fashion week in Toronto—walking the runway. Television segments about beauty and fashion quickly followed, and friends from around the world reached out to say they saw her face at the Toronto airport and other conspicuous places.
“It’s invigorating,” she says about working again as a model. “Now,” she notes, “I work more than a lot of young girls.”
“My rise in popularity seems to be based on the fact that I am showing that I remain relevant,” Kizemchuk says. Indeed, her image, complete with that short and sporty gray hair, is resonating with a female audience. Her message is one of beauty and hope: she’s a chic gal who is rocking life. “I’m giving women something to look forward to as they age,” she smiles.
During the pandemic, Kizemchuk, forced to spend time alone, took a deep dive inside herself; she peeled back the layers to review the many choices she had made in life. At her core, she discovered one word that dominated those choices: justice.
“It drove so many,” she explains. “It still does today.” She realized that she has always been a warrior, fighting for fairness. “Humanity needs to be anchored in justice,” she adds. Kizemchuk also identifies four core values that she credits with getting her through life: loyalty, kindness, honesty, and fairness. Her small but tight inner circle of close friends upholds the same values.
“I have always been the same person. I now understand exactly what and who I am.”
As she confidently sashays down the runway at 66 years of age, Kizemchuk’s radiant smile and infectious beauty inevitably invite all women to join her in living their best lives—one with hope and a future.
Committed to Looking Her Best
“My goal is to accept age, but still look my best. I will always fight it,” says Kizemchuk, who admits she feels good about how she looks.
Kizemchuk says she is very careful about what she takes into her body. She always was, as she was working in an industry where she needed to look great.
“I always ate home-cooked meals, not processed foods—the European way,” she says. Today, she enjoys a diet filled with fresh fruit and vegetables and focuses on organic options.
A few months ago, Kizemchuk gave up alcohol, deciding she was “a much better Hanya without [it].” Her explanation: “Alcohol masks pain, but it doesn’t make it go away. Pain causes anger.”
She began participating in hot yoga classes five or six days a week and loves the gym, working out with weights and on the StairMaster. Golf is a favorite pastime.
She gets regular facials and massages but avoids Botox—“it is a poison” she says. On the topic of plastic surgery, she will only say “it is a serious topic that should not be taken lightly.” She prefers Forma, a nonsurgical skin-tightening and elasticity treatment—with no downtime—for both the face and body. She also has tried Morpheus8, a microneedling treatment that jumpstarts collagen and elastin production.
“Health is everything, and I want to be there for those I love,” declares the enduring beauty.