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On good deeds, self-love and the recipe for a happy common-law partnership

Fast Confession – Elite Model Look 1992 winner Martina Šmuková: I would like to see Marek Eben as president

Karolína Lišková
15.Sep 2021
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10 minutes

I already met Martina Šmuková four years ago and it was a pleasure to talk to her. This time we met at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, where she organised a beautiful charity event for her Pink Bubble Foundation. In these four years, this Czech model seems to have become even more beautiful. And calmer, too. In an interview with, the model, the first-ever Czech winner of the Elite Model Look competition and mother of two teenage boys confided that now, in her "old age", she is finally learning to say no to people and take more time for herself.

We are together at KVIFF, where you have managed to do a very nice thing. Tell us, what happened that day.

I'm still absorbing it because it was incredible. I didn't expect it to turn out so well. We were invited by Jiří Bartoška and Kryštof Mucha to be a part of the official "Toast for a Cause", which is regularly organized by Moët & Chandon at the beginning of the festival. It was quite spontaneous, as we were supposed to be given this space next year, but the date of the festival changed and we gladly took the opportunity.

I love the KVIFF so much; I used to come here regularly. But I haven't been an official guest here for almost 15 years. Pink Bubble and I were here a couple of years ago for the beautiful Orange Bicycle event, endorsed by the ČEZ Foundation, and it was lovely. But now I stayed here longer and had the opportunity to meet a lot of nice people I hadn't seen in a long time.

Prodej rodinného domu, Praha 9 - 176m
Prodej rodinného domu, Praha 9 - 176m, Praha 9

Moët & Chandon donated a six-liter golden bottle of champagne. This is a tradition here, all the movie stars sign it and for every signature, the Moët & Chandon brand guarantees money for the non-profit. At the end of the festival, the foundation also gets the chance to auction the bottle. Before the festival, I had planned where and to whom we would present it afterwards, but one donor bid 500,000 for it on the spot, so there will be no more auction and our bottle already has a new owner.

Who signed the bottle?

The signatures are really stellar - Sir Michael Caine, Ethan Hawke, even the pirate Johnny Depp.

And you're getting half a million for it?

It's big, it's gold, it's signed with rare autographs... However, I don't think it's just about the bottle itself. There's someone who, if they have the means to spend it on pretty much anything, they'll help out and give it to a good cause. That's amazing.

Do you know this person, or are they a stranger to you?

We met for the first time.

Do they want to remain anonymous?

It's Mr Martin Burda, philanthropist and co-owner of Luhačovice Spa.

There’s one more nice thing that happened on the occasion of the festival. During the holidays we made a short film about Pink Bubble, and it had a small premiere here at the KVIFF on Saturday. It stars Martin, a cancer patient whose wish we fulfilled with the foundation some time ago. We bought him an electric guitar, and he plays it in the clip. His co-star is the incredibly nice and talented Ema Neuwerth, daughter of Tomáš Neuwerth from Tatabojs.

The whole thing came about by accident, when I wanted to invite Tereza Srbová, a successful model who lives in LA and is mainly an actor nowadays, to our KVIFF toast. When I found out that she was also a director, I thought she could do a little film for us. She took me at my word and sent me a beautiful story within a week. And after that, one thing just led to another. She got us a great cinematographer and lead actress, and I asked for sponsorship with Stillking Films, who provided a team of professionals and paid for everything that was needed. And Mr Karel Plíhal, whose song "Akordy" (Chords) plays an important role in our video, gave us his approval and wouldn’t even hear about any royalties.

I can't believe my eyes, how it all connects, how people came together, both during the filming and here during the screening. Also Mr Bartoška, together with us, sent Martin, who couldn't be here because of chemotherapy, a video greeting. It was magical and powerful, and I can’t be the only one feeling that way. I saw several teary-eyed faces among the guests.

Prodej bytu 2+kk (3+kk), Praha 3 Žižkov - 69m2
Prodej bytu 2+kk (3+kk), Praha 3 Žižkov - 69m2, Praha 3

The Pink Bubble Foundation has been operating for some ten years.

Yes, we're going on our tenth year now.

You help people with cancer, young people, adults and children too. Am I saying that right?

Older kids and young adults. Roughly 11 to 28, because it's easy to find help for the little ones here, and we have quite a few organizations supporting them. There are about 350 newly diagnosed patients under the age of 18 every year. Even one sick babe is too many, and now imagine that for young people up to about 30 the number is about double that. Ten years ago, no one was targeting them. They don't need much, in fact, most of all to be helped back on track at the right moment. When they suddenly have to deal with a cancer diagnosis instead of studying abroad, planning a family or raising their young children, it's a huge blow and a shock. They often have nowhere to turn and feel they are on their own. Of course, they get information at the hospital and usually have a family to shower them with love. But it's not like there's a big support network. Good advice from someone who has been through it is needed at such a time.

We try to be a piece of that network that catches them and that they can bounce back from. We organize get-togethers; we grant wishes, and we help with a one-off financial amount when needed. We don't have a strict limitation in terms of the time since treatment ended, as some people need us during treatment, some during recovery and others a few years afterwards. It's great when a person just after treatment meets someone who was already ill 8 years ago, because it becomes a motivation for them; they feel that "if he managed to get through it, maybe I can too." And the absolutely most beautiful thing is seeing friendships and partnerships form, children being born.

It's always rewarding for me when I can take part in these events, because I don't do hospitals visits, that’s what our Pink Bubble colleague Renáta is here for. I meet those who are already in a little better shape. It recharges me, because I spend most of the year working in the office, or running around meeting donors, doing fundraising. And then I get to meet them, our "bubbles", as we call them and spend a few days in a row among them. It's beautiful.

What's the last story that moved you? Either in a positive or negative sense?

The one that got me the most right now is that during the COVID, when times are "rough" and most people are on a tight budget, small donors are still contributing to fulfilling wishes. And they write such lovely messages with their contributions. There are also the touching moments when patients make wishes for each other. Even though one’s sick, he still thinks his friend needs that encouragement and comfort a bit more than him. A little boy wrote to us a while ago, wishing for a bionic leg, which is very expensive, for his friend, so that they could go fishing together as soon as possible. We collected the money for the leg, but unfortunately, the boy died, which is exactly the kind of situation where you just gasp and tears roll from your eyes. Young people are not supposed to leave that prematurely. I've learned not to ask myself why, because it just happens, and until a super drug gets invented, it will keep happening. But I'm fascinated by how they help each other, how they're in this together.

Our last interview was about four years ago. What's changed for you since then?

I don't really think about it that way, but the first thing that comes to mind is that I've slowed down internally. I needed to do that because I was feeling scattered between several projects. I'm not very good at saying no. The first thing I always say is clearly, we'll make it happen, I know someone, we'll help. But then I realize I'm gonna miss something else I've already promised. I'm trying to be more in control of that. I guess I'm consciously focusing more on my family, my interests and myself. Sometimes I'll hole up and maybe just read, which I haven't been able to do for a long time.

The other day, you destroyed me by saying you don't exercise or get Botox or any other cosmetic procedures. But I recently read that you've tried some.

I had my eyelids done five years ago, and I'm still really happy with it. For those who are hesitant, I recommend it. I tried Botox for the first time last year, the opportunity came up and I was curious. All I knew was that after six months the stuff would be absorbed and everything would come back to normal. That reassured me, so I had it applied not only on my forehead, but since I was there, I thought to myself, whatever, I'll put it around my eyes, too, so I won't have wrinkles, at least I won't look tired.

The result was that my forehead looked great, but for the whole six months, I ran to the mirror every morning, waiting for it to loosen up around my eyes because I had completely lost my facial expression. I'm grateful I went for it, at least now I know for sure that I love my wrinkles, they belong to me. I also understand why it makes most women look similar to each other. I amused myself, tried something new, but I’m never doing it around my eyes again. I might do the forehead again sometime, though. After all, even when I was a kid, my dad used to slap my forehead, telling me not to furrow it.

Did you amuse your partner with that as well?

He tactfully pretended not to notice. But my younger son immediately commented on the change. Him asking "Mommy, why are you frowning, are you angry?" was one of the reasons I had the eyelids done. Now, on the other hand, he was saying "there’s something wrong with your eyebrows." He didn't know what was different, but he detected it right away.

Back then you said you didn't exercise. Is that still true?

I don't work out. I still talk myself into it, I actually like working out, but putting on the right outfit and getting out the door, that's a challenge. I recently got into tennis, but I injured my right shoulder so badly at the time that my physiotherapist friend Tomáš Rychnovský spent six months putting me back together. Thanks to him I will probably return to tennis again, but definitely not until the spring ;-).

In Quick Confession, I asked you about your mixed marriage. One of the reasons I asked about marriage is because you and your partner David, the father of your children, are not married. You said you didn't need a license to love yet.

I already had one husband (Kryštof Mucha, editor's note). I am glad that Kryštof and I are friends after the break-up and we are both happy in our next relationships. He was the one who called me to ask whether we wanted to go to the festival with Pink Bubble this year. I'm an example that a marriage sealed with a signature and a vow doesn't guarantee it will work anyway. Either way, partnership is a lifelong mission, and it doesn't matter if you get someone’s blessing. My strictest keeper is my own conscience and my motivation is good intention to have a great time together.

Is your partner okay with that?

I hope he feels the same way. David and I had kids pretty soon, so our relationship is going in reverse, which is actually refreshing. As the boys get older, we're dating more, and it's great. It's not always all sunshine and rainbows either, but we try to talk to each other all the time. About everything. Our kids are our biggest bond, and working for Pink Bubble brings us together. David is the creator of our logo and the whole graphic design of the foundation; he's the main leader at our retreats and he helps me with pretty much everything. Come to think of it, I love hearing his opinions and I think he appreciates mine. That counts in a relationship, too.

How long have you two been together?

Almost 15 years.

What's your recipe for a happy relationship?

I don't have one. But I don't think you can go into a relationship of two people thinking you’re gonna have it your way. It's good to talk, to say things out loud. I know it's often not easy. But listening to each other, hearing what the other person is really saying, that could be a good basis. Because sometimes we tend to hear between the lines what we are willing to accept and overhear the important things. Also tolerance and all these other things that everybody will tell you. And a lot of humour.

The coronavirus era was a big test for a lot of people. How did you feel about it, not only in relation to your partner but also to your children? I suppose you became a teacher, a cleaner, a cook...

I guess that was a lesson for a lot of people, certainly for me. I'm a calm and tolerant person, I know that most things don't need to be pushed and may not turn out the way I imagined, plus I can adapt well and quickly. Still, the COVID period was really challenging for me and revealed nooks and crannies of my nature that I wasn’t aware of.

When it started, our younger son was in fourth grade, the older in seventh, so elementary and middle school. Completely different approaches and no online classes at all. We got materials through e-mail that we had to print, fill out, scan and send back. PE and music classes were done through PowerPoint presentations. I get it, teachers themselves didn't quite know what to do with it all either and it's a wonder they didn't go crazy. Anyway, it was quite stressful, I was bouncing around with anger like a raging pixie at times. Fortunately, in the second phase from September onward, once the schools had established a system and we parents had incorporated the new tasks into our daily routines, everything fell into place. But I wouldn’t want to go through it again, so I hope it won't be necessary.

I'll definitely see you again in four years. What do you hope to accomplish in these next four years, what are your plans?

I don't know, I don't plan that big. I wish for all of us to be healthy, really. I wish we were here together, we could meet each other. And for the project that I've been invited to join that is just getting underway to come to fruition. The foundation is a labour of love, but also an unpaid one. I'm doing more and more photoshoots, I'm making a living as a model again, wrinkles are obviously in again. I'd like to keep it going like this, so I can focus on the boys as long as they want to, on the foundation and on new things. I'm always studying something just for myself, and David and I miss travelling so much. In four years, I can see myself with him under a blossoming Sakura tree somewhere in a Japanese village. Or in New Zealand, on the fjords... or in the middle of nowhere.

Thank you for the interview.

Fast confession:

Quick confession:

How many dresses did you bring to KVIFF?

About four of them, but I didn't have to worry about it so much because I rented the key ones at Elle Beauty Lounge, for which I'm very grateful. I always forget something anyway, even though I bring a huge suitcase and a thousand things.

Can you sum up your charity party in one sentence?

That wouldn't be enough. I would like to give many thanks because it was magical for so many reasons. What it did, not only raising a lot of money, but the energy of the people who came together and who supported us - the film festival and the Moët Lounge ... was beautiful, wonderful.

Which film did captivate you here at KVIFF?

I only caught two, and I liked both of them - Zátopek, the opening film, and the documentary about the artist Petr Sís. I recommend both.

What does marriage mean to you?

A nice union, if it works out, and then also if someone needs a paper to show that people love each other, that's fine too, and if they don't need it, I don't think that's the most important thing these days.

What do you think about mixed marriages?

That's a strange question; people are just people, maybe being of a certain colour or having... cultural differences can be a bit of a problem when people have expectations, but otherwise... let everyone love each other.

Are Czechs xenophobic?

That's a generalization... I think we are not very trained because we were locked up here for a long time, but we are a part of the big world after all, so a little tolerance is in place.

Who would you imagine as the next president of the Czech Republic?

The Karlovy Vary Festival here, for example, has an amazing president, though that probably won't work, or Marek Eben here... but in general someone who loves this country, and I don't mean that as a cliché, and who will stand up for it and not against it.

When in your life did you reach the bottom of your strength?

I hope I haven't had to and that I never will...

What advice would you give to 18-year-old Martina Šmuková today?

I’d tell her to have more confidence in herself and not to get worked up over stupid things.

What was the last thing that made you laugh to tears?

I love to laugh, I don’t know about the tears part, but my husband and I just took a personality test that our son recommended and it really made me laugh last week.

Who is your inspiration?

I say it all the time and will keep saying it until the end as long as I breathe - my parents.

Life motto?

Where there's a will, there's a way and Fear not, steal not.

How many kids have you helped?

I can't even count them, but it's not just me who has helped them, it's the work of many people, so I'll take this opportunity to thank everyone who helps us help.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say Schwarzkopf Elite Model Look?

That it was a lot of fun, it was a long time ago and it was a great time, I remember it fondly.
Interviewee asks the editor:

Did you catch any of the films and if so, which one and did you like it?

I did catch Zátopek and it was amazing.
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