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Kseniya Simonova in 2010
April 22, 1985
Yevpatoria, Crimea, Ukrainian SSR, USSR
|Education||Tavrida National V.I. Vernadsky University (2007), "Ukrainian Academy of Printing". (2003)|
|Known for||Painting, drawing, sand animation|
|Awards||Winner of "Ukraine’s got Talent”|
Kseniya Simonova (Ukrainian: Ксенія Симонова; married name: Kseniya Paskar, Ксенія Паскар) is 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.
Early life and family
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.
She graduated from the Artistic School of Yevpatoria and studied in the School of Fine Arts. At school, Kseniya wrote research papers on English folk poetry and 15th and 16th century English folk songs and ballads. She also translated folk poetry and great poets like William Shakespeare, Robert Burns and George Gordon Byron. For her research work, Kseniya earned entrance to any University in Ukraine with English Philology Departments. In 2002, Kseniya chose a psychology major and graduated in 2007 from the Tavrida National V.I. Vernadsky University with honors. Her scientific specialization was Psychophysiology – a sphere between Psychology and Anatomy. At the same time, in 2003, Kseniya entered the Ukrainian Academy of Printing and studied Graphic Design. She graduated in 2008, six months after giving birth to her son.
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. When tests with beach and river sands proved both unsuitable, Simonova's husband began researching better options on the internet. He sold his printing equipment to buy 3 kilograms of expensive volcanic sand.
Simonova began experimenting with the medium at night, after serving as a full-time mother throughout the day. She found it challenging, but persisted in spite of early impulses to give up. Physically grueling, the art form required her standing for long periods of time and also required her to retrain her vision to adapt to the unique medium.
Winner of Ukraine's Got Talent
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 the next several years, Simonova performed over 200 sand stories for audiences in Ukraine, Russia, Norway, Japan, Poland, Austria, China, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Qatar, India, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Malta and others, including presidents, heads of states and royalty. In 2014, she was featured in American R&B singer Joe's music video "If You Lose Her."
- 2009 honored by the Mayor of her hometown, Yevpatoria
- 2009 Gold Medal and honors («Общественное признание») from Yevpatoria, Government of Crimea
- 2009 “Person of the Year” finalist, nominated under "New Generation" in Kiev
- 2009 honored by the Supreme Council of Crimea
- 2010 honored by the International Organization for Migration in Ukraine
- 2010 Honored Artist of the Autonomy, awarded by the Autonomous Republic of Crimea
In June 2008, Simonova and her husband Igor Paskar founded a local open charity organization “Live, my Sun!” («Живи, Солнышко!») to assist ill children and adults, pregnant women, young mothers and orphans. She is a Pro-life advocate. The organization works with the Orthodox Christian church and the Crimean diocese.
She creates sand videos to raise money for medical needs of children in Crimea. In her interviews, Kseniya says that she feels the greatest pleasure from helping others, much more than from buying cars, villas or jewellery. She is sure that God gave her a very special talent – an ability to tell the stories of those who need help – with sand.
- "Kseniya Simonova Sand Animation Ukraine's Got Talent 2009 Winner". World News Network. 7 Feb 2011.
- Kseniya Simonova's channel on YouTube
- "Welcome to Ukraine". kiport.info.
- "Press release" (Press release). simfartmuseum.viperson.net. Archived from the original on 2010-05-29.
- A Sand Personality on YouTube
- Circus on YouTube
- You are always nearby on YouTube
- about parents on YouTube
- "Mika Newton (Ukraine) 2nd press conference". European Broadcasting Union. 6 May 2011.
- Official website
- Ksenya Simonova performs in Royal Albert Hall / London-Kseniya Simonova in London on YouTube
- International Association of Migration in Kiev
- "Лауреати «Людина року – 2009»" [Winners of the "Man of the Year - 2009"].
- Official website
- simonovatv's channel on YouTube: official YouTube channel (English)
- xensand's channel on YouTube: official YouTube channel (Ukrainian)
- "Ukrainian sand artist proves that reality TV's got talent". The Guardian. 13 August 2009.
- Johnston, Ian (19 September 2009). "Sand artist Kseniya Simonova, winner of Ukraine's Got Talent…". Daily Telegraph.