The pint-size Fiat bobs and weaves through the congestion easily. At a stop light, while idling in the middle lane, Olga realizes that Dance Arts Academy, an inconspicuous studio on La Brea, is off to the right. As the light turns green, she zips across the right-turn-only lane, cutting off an unhappy driver in the process.
During the 10-minute drive from BLD to Dance Arts, she playfully exclaims “French driving” five times. “If someone stops us, I’ll just start speaking in French,” she says, her eyes hidden beneath a pair of dark sunglasses. “That probably won’t work, but it’s OK.”
In America some people say, ‘Why do you want to make money so much?’ And I say, ‘Well, I guess you didn’t starve as a kid.’
If anything, she could try manipulating the fuzz in Russian. Olga was born and raised in Berdyansk, a port city in the Ukraine that was financially strapped when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Her mother, Marina Alyabusheva, was an art teacher. She divorced Olga’s father shortly after Olga was born, opting instead to share child-raising duties with Olga’s grandma, Raisa. Resources were scarce in their household—a small, four-room flat often crowded with extended family looking for a place to sleep. While other kids were enjoying sweets and treats, Kurylenko was living on potatoes and cabbage.
Olga still remembers making her first $30 as a 15-year-old model in Moscow. “That was the first time I ever held dollars in my hand,” she recalls. “I’d never seen dollars before in my life. And then I got $100, and it kept increasing. I would send my mom cash. What made me happy was that, suddenly, I could help my family.”
No wonder Olga isn’t afraid to admit that money is a driving force behind her career. “When you grow up without it, you want to have it,” she says. “It’s funny, in America some people say, ‘Why do you want to make money so much?’ And I say, ‘Well, I guess you didn’t starve as a kid.’”