Quick Confession - Bára Nesvadbová: I have been engaged several times even though I did not want a wedding!
Angel with the devil inside. This is how a tender blonde with expressive eyes could be characterized, who could really enjoy herself in her early youth. However, despite the turbulent period, she has never had any media scandal. But today I would say that the angel predominates in her. Not only because she's a great mom, but she's one of those who give more than they take. Writer and philanthropist Barbara Nesvadbová invited me for coffee. By the way, she shared with me her snack right at the meeting. And I understand why people entrust their money to her Be Charity fund.
We are sitting in a café that is closely connected with you. Not only did you start it and donated here books after your deceased father, but rumour has it that sometimes they sell your home-baked gingerbread here. They say you can professionally prepare coffee. Can you make latte art on cappuccino?
No, and I do not have such ambitions. I'm veeeery clumsy. I work for the Etincelle Association, whose mission is to help people with mild mental disabilities integrate into the ordinary society. We try to raise money for new jobs. This company, founded by my classmate Jakub Knězů, is actually part of the same effort as my Be Charity Fund, the activities blend together.
I believe this job is crucial. When these people get out of institutions or sheltered housing, get jobs and get among people, they find the absolute meaning of life. No pathos. On the other hand, the majority society realizes that these people are not different. The change that occurs, when people with disabilities have a job, is huge. There are seven cafes in operation, plus a cleaning service, a mangle, a bakery and a coffee roastery.
What are the customers who come here? Are they from artistic spheres like actors, writers and the like?
I would not say that there is only a certain type of customers. Moreover, I have observed, and it is great that people do not come here from sentiment, but really because they like it here. And that is what is happening here, that the otherness should not be recognizable at all, it should not be a topic. That's the whole charm.
When we are sitting here over coffee, do you remember the moment when and who introduced you to this drink? It usually happens that people learn to drink coffee at work, for example, when they are going to brew it…
That's a beautiful question, no one has ever asked me that. I'm just going out of the graveyard, so it's a good time to remember. Grandma taught me to drink coffee. I had a wonderful grandmother, a beautiful soul. They had an affectionate relationship with my grandfather, and always after lunch, when everyone ate, my grandfather went for a walk to pick meadow flowers for my grandmother. Meanwhile, my grandmother was enjoying coffee with milk and one day she brewed it for me. And I'm afraid I needed seven years. I was spoiled very early when it comes to light addictive substances. (laughter)
Later you had a period of wine and roasted almonds. How is it today? Do you prefer a café or a wine bar? Or do you enjoy something completely different?
Today I no longer go to wine bars. I used to be a great party-type, but only until my daughter was born. I did a lot of fun things before my baby was born. But since I was mom, the most important thing was her life. And although she is seventeen now, I have recently realized that seventeen years I am not going anywhere in the evening at all unless it is work, and even once a month it is because of work. I just enjoy being with her. But it is starting to happen that Bi is throwing me out so that she has no remorse, that she is going to have fun in the evening and I am left alone.
But you are certainly not alone ... For many years you have a media image of a single woman. Are you a feminist?
I'm the first wave feminist. I am convinced that women should have the right to vote, they should have a passport, they can go to school, travel, and this is what I think most women have. And so we're almost all feminists. Unfortunately, only the word has misleading and pejorative connotations. People then imagine some "blue stockings" that hate men.
On the contrary, I like men extremely, one of them absolutely enchanted me. And I'm happy in their company. I have five great men-friends who are my life friends. I wouldn't trade them for anything. On the contrary, I am not very excited about the third wave of feminism with the extreme and almost violent promotion of any gender.
You mentioned that you were in love. Can you imagine getting married?
I couldn't imagine it for a long time and said it was unnecessary. But when you are enchanted, you can imagine a lot of fairy tales. Recently my friend Táňa Kovaříková got married. She married at age 53 and had a wonderful wedding. The adult children of the two newlyweds stood there and were so happy that their parents were happy… It was so touching.
And have you been asked to marry?
Several times! (laughs) And I even got engaged several times. Maybe five times. But always for a moment. (laughs) Even though I didn't really want to marry that man at all. But unfortunately I can't say no…
Do you know how stupid it is when someone kneels in front of you while still in public? Can you embarrass him when he kneels with the ring and say no? Well, you won't. So you take the ring and then explain that it wasn't a good idea. But that was a long time ago. For the past many years I have been paying attention not only to my own feelings, but also to evoking feelings in other people that I could not fulfil.
What type of men do you consider fateful?
Excuse me, but this is my privacy.
All right, back to you. I wonder how people actually call you the most. Does anyone ever call you Barbaro?
Yes, a lot of people call me Barbara. But what's so strange for me now is that more and more people call me Barunko after forty. I don't know what to do about it. (laughs) I can hear that, but it's strange at my age.
And when you were little, didn't you have trouble with that name? After all, it was atypical…
Not particularly. At times, only some thought it was a mistake that I was named Barbara. But I had no hard feelings about it. Daddy just told me that he would not give me gifts for my names-day, but he was generally a bit "slacking". For example, he didn't even know where I went to school. (laughter)
What were you like as a little girl? And were you the one everyone wants to be friends with?
Not at all. On the contrary, I had a beautiful friend whom everyone wanted to be friends with, and I gave her all my fragrant stickers because she was simply the prettiest. I was a nerd. Because I enjoyed learning. It went over at gymnasium when I discovered a much better fun.
What did you want to be like a little girl? And did you want to be famous?
I loved Vlastimil Haraps, so I wanted to be ballet dancer. Then a director for a while, because my parents kept pulling me to the theaters, which I still kept as a habit until today, and I constantly force Bi to all possible shows. Then nothing for long time. For some time I didn't know what to do or what I want to do. Actually, I still have many professions. I need diversity in my life, different societies, different people.
I admit I never interviewed a journalist. Do you ever ask yourself that you would conduct them in a different way when giving interviews?
I do very little journalism nowadays. I've been doing Harper's Bazaar for 17 years, but I've been building the magazine. I didn't write into it. It was more of a managerial job. We just talked to Jakub Knězů, my former classmate who worked in television news for years, how long we haven't done journalism. So now we have prepared a book with twelve Czech doctors and their views on morality, life, death, euthanasia, faith as such ... It is not a very simple book, but I enjoyed it very much. It's coming out, I guess, by the end of the month.
And what would you like to ask yourself as a journalist?
I don't know at all. But sometimes I regret not knowing some things before I was younger. For example, I haven't been able to value my own world for a long time, and that's generally the specificity of Czech women. They underestimate themselves enough, they do not like each other and are extremely self-critical.
Sanjiv Suri, my life-friend, often told me, "Why don't you concentrate on the 99 cubes of your house and see only that one that falls out?" I really couldn't. And then, something happened at a certain age. As if somebody rolled the wheel in my head and Alice disappeared from the wonderland, and suddenly I'm really happy in the world. Only sometimes I regret that I didn't figure it out until I was forty.
You are a woman of many professions. Journalist, presenter, model, editor-in-chief, philanthropist… What fulfils you the most?
Most of all, I'm a mom. But professionally, I certainly feel mainly a writer. I remember when I was in the philosophical faculty, a lady called my dad to write a story. But he wasn't at home, so I wrote it for him, and then it started. Addiction to writing and creation. I then wrote other feuilletons and stories, and I was delighted and it pleases me still to this day. It's my greatest love. Now I started writing a novel and I can't take a break from it. Even now I look forward to picking up Bi, going home, walking dogs, making dinner, and then writing.
Don't you miss the chief editor today? After all, it was a long phase of life.
It was my fourth editorial post after Xantypa, Playboy and Cosmopolitan, and also the nicest. The editorial staff was my second family. We still love each other so much. We managed to put together a group of people who honored and really liked each other. But as for the work, I do not miss it at all. I had nothing to learn, where else to move. And we also have Page with Pavlína Saudek. Preparing a literary magazine is much more creative.
You mentioned Playboy. I assume that the collective in this medium consisted mostly of men?
There were only men and it was really the worst work experience. I was twenty-five, and I endured that for exactly three-quarters of a year. Every night I smoked a pack of cigarettes to survive. (laughter)
Didn't anyone think you could be a good subject for taking pictures?
Something much worse has happened to me. Once I flew to a conference in Chicago at headquarters and there were all those 50-year-old editors, those bonvivans. And I entered the room and they told me the photostudio was there. They thought I was their bunny.
Have you ever accepted an offer to take pictures of erotic photos?
I've never undressed, I'm extremely shy. But I admit that when I got divorced I didn't even have a crown. I returned to my children’s room, to my parents home, with the baby and a big dog. At that time I accepted the offer to shoot underwear and swimwear, it was a very nice, tasteful and so hazy calendar; my girlfriend Anna Kovacic made it with me.
I'm not particularly proud of that, because the writing profession really doesn't fit this, but the lot of money they gave me back then helped me get back on the track. I could buy my daughter a stroller and jacket for the winter. And most importantly, start to reconstruct the house. At that time I had absolutely nothing at all, even the car was rented under the „face“ of Renault. If at that time Pavlinka Saudkova together with Harper's Bazaar publisher Antonin Herbeck did not hold my back, I think I wouldn't have made it through. Daddy was dying, divorce wasn't nice. So, if I had to decide again, I wouldn't have done otherwise.
You are one of the women who inspires others. What do you do for your look? How do you deal with your age?
I am scared of plastic surgeries like the devil is scared of the cross and I hope to be able to age naturally. But you never know. I have lived so long in a fashion magazine that I am oversaturated with caring for looks. I also do more fashion today in terms of charity, such as our Be Charity bazaars. Now we organized the thirteenth year in Žofín and earned 1,260,000 CZK for disabled children. We have a principle in the fund that we distribute all the funds to the disabled.
So I am very pleased that thanks to these bazaars, which spread the idea of philanthropy where everyone can help - not like with gala dinners, where we talk about really big sums of money - starting to organize different women in other cities. I always go after them and the energy and the good setup I see there is always like an infusion of happiness.
Today, your name has also another "philanthropist." How did you get to philanthropy?
My parents were both doctors, so there was a foundation. One of the first achievements was the aforementioned bazaar and in some mysterious way as it was more and more successful, more and more projects followed. Designing my own collections, beautiful project by Tamara Kotvalova Pařížská street for children, philanthropic dinners, balls… Suddenly I realized that 60 percent of my working time was occupied by the non-profit sector.
And honestly, after a while, I got bothered to give the money to the funds through which the money runs and I don't have full control over it. I found out that a lot of people trust us, which pleased me a lot. So I started my own fund. But even today I wonder what a miracle it is. We are able to earn up to eight million crowns for disabled people, I do not understand the amounts themselves, because my own budget is about completely different figures. (laughs) We are different from the others by dividing the money received to the last crown. We do it with the heart. And when I see children who have been bedridden most of their life to go to school with their assistant for the first time, I really cry with joy with their parents. That's worth it.
The end of the year is approaching, are you reflecting on it in this period?
No, not at the end of the year. But sometimes my birthday gets me, so I try to ignore it. But my friends hang out the flowers on doorhandles anyway, or they prepare different surprises for me. So I am touched even though if I try to hold onto myself.
How does Christmas look like and what would you like from Santa?
We have a Christmas tradition. We release fish into the pond, we pour lead, throw shoes, go to church, feed animals in the forest, I do not know why, but just these holidays I need traditions. We also have an open house that if a friend is alone, he can stay with us. And wish? I don't know, I have the classic ones, like the health of my dearest. And then the private one. And, they're just mine. (laughter)
We hope they come true. Thank you for the interview.
1. What do you do when you cannot fall asleep?
2. Why can't you fall asleep?
3. What makes you laugh?
4. What word do you use most often?
5. What would you like to be in your next life?
6. The most popular book?
7. Detective story or novel?
8. When are you happiest?
9. The most popular item of clothing?
10. Favorite motto?
11. The most important moment of your life?
12. What does freedom mean to you?
13. What do you regret in life?
14. What are you most worried about?
Are you happy?