Meet Kseniya Simonova, the 2009 winner of the TV contest Ukraine’s Got Talent, which is part of the Got Talent series. She is a performance artist in sand animation and a philanthropist.
She was born on April 22, 1985 in Yevpatoria, a town on the Crimean peninsula, in Ukraine, which was then a part of the Soviet Union. Her mother, Irina Simonova, is an artist, a theatrical designer and teacher of fine arts. Her father, Alexander Simonov, is a former military officer who runs a business in furniture design. Since she was a child, Kseniya painted, drew and designed with her mother.
Kseniya’s parents discouraged her from a career as an artist. Kseniya explained, “It is a constant struggle. I knew that, and was ready for it. If you chose this profession, you’re struggling all your life. You do not enjoy everyday life – like comfort, and buying furniture… You’re always looking for something more, and actually, I was never interested in a life of comfort and buying furniture.”
In 2007, she married Igor Paskar, a theater director and magazine editor. Their son Dmitry was born on November 27, 2007.
Since 2006 Kseniya has been working for a magazine “Crimean Riviera” as an artist. In 2007, Kseniya and her husband Igor Paskar, launched a bilingual magazine “Chocolate” in English and Russian. The magazine stopped production in 2008 due to the financial crisis.
Sand performance was suggested by her husband. Initially, Simonova was unsure, but she decided to try it in the absence of other viable options to improve their financial situation.
Her husband, Igor, suggested that she should enter the competition Ukraine’s Got Talent, where the prize was one million hryvna, the equivalent of $110,000. Kseniya decided to enter.
She presented a two minute sand story and was selected as a semi-finalist. She wanted to perform a sand story about World War II, but the producers encouraged her to choose a more popular theme. Kseniya refused, saying, “I just want to bring some immortal sense to this show. Not just pictures or video clips. Something close to all hearts.”
The sand story Kseniya presented live on TV was an eight minute story of a young couple separated by the war.
In an interview she said, “It was so emotionally hard, and I now still can not think about those minutes without pain… My hands were dying and reviving making the images.”
Kseniya was hoping to get some exposure as an artist, but it became much more. The audience was moved to tears. As soon as she finished her performance, applause erupted and she received a standing ovation.
Kseniya passed the semi-finals and moved on to the finals. In the third round, she performed a sand story about a son who became successful and forgot his parents. Kseniya wanted grown children to remember their parents and to encourage them to call. After that performance, people came up to her in the street saying, “After watching your story, I picked up the phone and called my mom. I haven’t talked to her in a year. Thank you very much!”
Kseniya was declared the winner of the competition and collected 100,000 euro. She was named an online sensation, when in one day her video from the show was viewed more than a million times. In one year, it was viewed over 25 million times. Kseniya understood what happened only after she returned to her native town Yevpatoria and could no longer walk freely in the streets. She was surrounded by people asking for autographs. With the money they won, Igor and Kseniya bought a house in Yevpatoria. They received invitations from all over the world to perform.
In 2011, she returned to television competition in another form, performing on stage at the Eurovision Song Contest 2011, during the performance of Ukrainian entry by Mika Newton.