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Yulia Geniush & Katya Saturday: Mother’s Day Special

Yulia and Katya, we are glad to see you as the heroes of the special issue of Ellements dedicated to Mother’s Day. Your family is an example of three creative generations of mothers in the Americas. Let’s get acquainted, tell us about your areas of activity? Y – Thank you so much for this wonderful welcome. I already feel like this interview has brought the feeling of a mother’s hug. Yes, my daughter Katya and I have had many wonderful opportunities to create together! Just like I did with my own mom, Katya’s grandmother, who is a professional conductor and a musician. When I was younger, I was singing with her in great concert halls, and just like me and my mom, Katya and I had some wonderful adventures with the radio. RUSA Radio. Mainly at the radio-bridge between Moscow and New-York, “Music Saloon!” The program connects two continents! For Katya, being a sound engineer is a genetics talent, her father was a known mastering engineer Andrey Subbotin with Saturday Mastering Studio. Honestly, our whole family is very much in music, it’s not surprising that I was singing solo concerts at the age of three, for my parents it was simply a given that the whole family is musically talented. At the age of nine I was already performing with an orchestra on the big stage, and when I grew up, I received a PhD in Music theory and became a singer. I was always surrounded by support by my family, and was always celebrating the success of my sisters, who are also amazing singers. All of us riding this wave of art and creativity through music, there was just no other way about it!

K – Honestly, I think when your whole life you are surrounded by such powerhouses of art and self-expression, this kind of environment really liberates you from any kind of boundaries within the arts. From an early childhood I always felt support from my mom, no matter what I showed interest in! Whether it was horse-back riding, or figure skating, my mom always said – YES! She would find every class, every teacher, no matter how crazy my ideas would get. Maybe that is why I chose acting and writing as my main profession? Since all of the classes I was taking before and take now, every single crazy skill I’ve learned or experienced, all culminates in this beautiful art of storytelling. I apply these skills in my characters and roles – and I play them. The key word is – play. Mom helped me to remain a child at heart, and thanks to her I was able to keep that sense of excitement and love for the arts that I now put to each new project. And mom still protects me and guides me in everything. And even though sometimes I don’t listen, sooner or later I would remember that she is, somehow, always right 🙂 The most interesting thing now is that these projects – they just don’t stop. They come one after the other, and sometimes I just lose the track of whether I started this project on my own or did somebody else invite me into one and now we are creating together? All of this is one wild adventure that lasts a lifetime. And again, when your whole family is such a huge powerhouse that is focused on art and self expression, it becomes such a strong point of inspiration, that I feel like I have a perpetual motion machine of creativity in my soul, and it always pushes me to move forward! 

Yulia, tell us what inspired you to cross the Atlantic and become a popular radio host in America, and to be the author of several programs at once? Y – Life has led us here through many strange and interesting paths. And since Katya also has an older brother who is an amazing film director and a little sister ballerina, when we all came here together, we experienced so many crazy adventures, that it was only natural to share them in a radio-studio with my audience. Then it turned into inviting guests on air, and since all of them are very very different, it later turned into many different types of programs to welcome more and more interesting guests! I also have a live radio program for kids that is called “Morning with the Little Stars”, where the kids get to be live radio-hosts with me. So far this is the only Russian-language kids radio program on the entire continent! I also have a family program every Saturday, called: “Talk About Me” – and every Friday I host a program focusing on exciting events that are happening in the area called: “Life is Life” but my main focus currently is the program that I mentioned before, the radio bridge between two continents known as “Music Saloon!” Live concerts on air are happening for about 8 years now! Serg Lofti is the author of this amazing idea, and now this program has been nominated for the longest running live radio bridge! And I got nominated as one of the best radio hosts! 

Your daughter Katya grew up in an incredibly creative atmosphere, how do you think this affected her further hobbies? Y – Yes! From an early age, Katya always showed interest in everything. She would always be creating, her fantasy flying wild and free, and I think we are so lucky to be able to provide her with such a supportive environment! Private schools with strong theater programs, the best teachers we could possibly find, a stage was always there for her since she was born. Nobody ever dared to stop her from achieving her dreams! And we never “graded” her performances or her work, the most important thing was simply seeing her happy. We would always show her how excited we are for her performances, her stories, her fashion shows, theater shows, or kids movies that she would create! And since she was three months old she kept getting invitations to be in commercials. Honestly, you could watch this child for hours and be fascinated, no matter what she did. And of course, I am saying it as any mom would be talking about her child, but if you see our position from a different perspective, of where we were, what kind of ecological environment she had to grow up in. Air pollution and a variety of other factors has very much affected Katya’s health and for most of her life she has been struggling with a terrible case of atopic dermatitis. The health reaction was brutal and very much visible, so seeing her strive for her dreams no matter the obstacles has definitely been fascinating. We always showed her how much we love her, and that her skin condition, no matter how bad it got, can’t be in her way. 

K – I think as a society we are coming to understand that expectations that we have for our lives are created only to be broken. To be given in a different, strange, and surprising combination. My very elaborate way of saying that life is full of surprises 🙂  Of course my skin condition has caused a lot of struggle for me from an early age, mainly my self-acceptance and a belief in my own beauty and strength. But as I said, life is full of surprises, so when you have two worlds colliding – struggle with always seeing yourself as ugly, because of all the open wounds that appear on your skin, and the modeling industry that you somehow ended up in… These two opposite views – of yourself in the mirror, covered in scars and wounds, and then seeing yourself through the lens of the camera – as someone who others deem beautiful. This caused me to see a completely new perspective on what we perceive as “beauty.” It is very hard to describe it in just a few sentences, and after putting a lot of thought into it, I realized that the best way to express this view is by writing about my experience in the modeling industry while struggling with a case of skin dermatitis at times so severe that a shocked reaction of a new doctor was simply usual to me. I have decided to put all this experience in a book I am currently working on. I want to call it: “Model with Eczema, Journey to Self Love”

Katya, at a young age also took part in the creation of your radio programs? Y – Yes, she was eight years old when she first sat behind a sound remote at her father’s studio in Moscow. Then as a junior in high school she joined me at the radio as a live DJ and sound engineer, and then it felt like she already developed a relationship with all the tech, so it felt like a reunion between two old friends! She always showed curiosity in everything as a sound engineer, intuitively finding solutions to many problems coming her way – seems like her father’s genes made themselves known, or something that she absorbed at such a young age at her father’s studio. Yes, maybe that’s why she was able to bring such youthful and exciting energy to live airs from home? Due to the pandemic we were forced to relocate our studio and work from home, and Katya’s experience, knowledge, and probably sheer excitement of the challenge allowed us to connect three radio stations in our house! Yacht-Radio, the Music Saloon, and Matreshka, all in live on-air concerts! She basically got the whole planet from our house!

K – Well, I’ve got someone to keep up with, mom 🙂 

Yulia, how did you personally develop a love for the microphone, do we know that before your radio career you were a popular singer of the 90s? Y – From an early childhood I’ve always had a microphone by my side. With mom and dad I was on stage in their musical conservatory. The stages only grew from there – and the microphones were becoming more and more significant. Studio recordings, projects of my event-company, and when the radio mic came to me, I finally understood what this long and wide, strange and often hard path was for. In the studio I have a great pleasure to meet so many captivating people, bringing their message to the world. Those who share their experience about life, their view of current events, in the studio, on my program, I get to speak to them and truly understand their point of view.

And when the hard elements of my path have brought me to this side of the world, I got this strange dream… It had two very distinct phrases. First one was: “Give her the mic so she can sing!” but the second one was: “Give her the mic so she can live.” And that is exactly how it played out. The microphone was what showed me the path. My three children and I, the youngest one being only one year old at the time, all together on this side of the world. I got my artist visa and returned to the stage, and that is how I came to the radio. 

Now, are you thinking about resuming musical creativity? Y – The fate has decided that my path has brought me back to the stage. 20 years married to a sound engineer, I was only singing lullabies to my children. And then, by sheer accident, I ended up in a recording studio with Sasha Rodovski and we decided to record my lullabies. And that turned into an album that warmed the heart and soul during our immigration journey. Now we have recorded a duet with Slava Malezhik, happy to collaborate over such wonderful music! 

Perhaps very soon we will be able to see your video? Y – Yes, my son as the director and my daughter as an actress always surprise me with their talents! Now we are preparing the premiere of my music video with Dmitri Galitski – “Forgive Me” – coming out in May on all listening platforms! 

Katya, now you are a student, tell us about your studies and about increasing in addition to education? K – It’s a known phrase for an actor: “An actor must be capable of everything.” And I am so incredibly lucky that from an early age I had so many opportunities to experience different interests and take different directions. In recent years I have remained on a few specific skill sets, along with my main focus in my acting conservatory at AMDA. Practicing skills include stage combat – hand to hand, and swordwork. I was always inspired by strong female protagonists. A princess that takes the sword from her Prince Charming and takes care of the dragon on her own 🙂 Maybe that’s the inspiration I got from my mom?

Along with stage combat I also fell in love with fencing and parkour, and even sailing. My dream is to play main characters in big fantasy and action movies, so my skill set must match my goals! 

But of course with my musica family there is no way I can stay away from music. With grandparents as professional conductors of Saratov Music Conservatory, my dad was a sound engineer, and my mom as such an amazing singer… Let’s just say music is in my bones. Grandma’s piano lessons were my beginning – and now I play guitar and a 32 string harp. And I absolutely love to dance! 

They say you even write a book? What is it about? K – I mentioned it a bit earlier. Honestly, I was always certain that my first book would be about some sort of epic adventure, since this is the genre my heart is set in. But now, thinking of this project, I understand how important it is to share my journey. This book will explore the definition of beauty as we see it now. “Model with Eczema” will be about my experience in modeling and acting industries, where the perfect body and face is one of the deciding factors of whether you get a job or not. And with my skin condition, as a child I could never see myself as someone beautiful. It really is a unique experience, to look at yourself in the mirror and not see anything but your scars and wounds, and then show up on a photoshoot, to see through the camera lens someone beautiful. Someone who you do not recognize in the mirror when you come home. 

This book will also be about mom, and about all of her support throughout my journey. Even today, she never misses an opportunity to remind me that I am beautiful as I am, and no scars can change that. 

The belief in my own power and my own beauty was one of the hardest things to achieve for me. Now I truly love myself with all my scars. They are a part of me, part of my story. And if my book will help at least one person who is struggling with believing in their beauty or their power, all of my efforts in writing it will be worth it. 

You have a lot of sailboat photos on your Instagram profile, how did your passion for this sport come about? K – I honestly love sharing this story. As I said before, I love epic stories, full of adventures and excitement. And what can be more exciting and adventurous than pirates?! I think I was in 8th grade when I first got an idea of a brave and daring pirate – Captain Merylin Stewart, who was not scared to stand in the way of an entire Spanish fleet! She did not rely on her strength alone, it was her cunning, her skill, and strategy that brought her to her victories. See, I told you I love strong female protagonists 🙂 When I began to write her story, I faced an unexpected obstacle. How can I write about pirates without mentioning sailboats? And just for this story alone I decided to sign up for a sailing course with True North Sailing School in Jersey City. And I brought mom with me as well 🙂 It was supposed to be pure research so I would know how to describe the boat and what is happening on it. But the moment I stepped on board, I just fell in love. Feeling such freedom, such power of the elements, and see how all of your worries become so small and insignificant compared to this powerful ocean, the beautiful sun, and an endless horizon. It gave me such freedom. Merylin Stewart is still waiting for her time to be published in one of my stories, but this path has already gifted me a chance to work as a deckhand on Clipper City, a beautiful sailboat that still goes around Manhattan with the company Manhattan By Sail! And if any of my old crew is reading this, hey gang, it’s Katya! Miss all of you so much 🙂

How else do modern students have fun besides studying? Mom admitted that you are also an excellent bartender! K – Bartending is another fascinating art I fell in love with in recent years. And it mainly attracts me as an actress and a writer. Because when you are behind the bar you can meet the most unique and exciting characters. You can get to know them, and then add them to your next story! And honestly working as a bartender is a whole adventure on its own. It has already brought me to the roofs of Times Square and giant lavish weddings in Upstate New York!

All of this experience comes to light in my short stories, scripts, or simply characters that are waiting their turn to become a story through a book or a movie.  Along with that I have developed quite a love for cosplay – themed photoshoots based on my favorite characters from different shows, movies, or video games. But my main excitement, or even, I would say, my addiction, is table top role-playing games. TTRPG’s, as they are known, or more specifically, Dungeons and Dragons. This is where I feel all the excitement and energy, where my imagination runs wild and free! I have been playing for a few years now, but recently has achieved something I could not even dream of – I joined the cast of an amazing team of players at “D20Tales” and now get to play in front of an audience! And everyone at “D20Tales” are just fascinating. I feel so lucky to be a part of such an amazing creative cast and crew. Our story unfolds in the magical fantasy setting of the fictional world of Gregoor-Sheav. The story is based on an improvisation of professional actors, led by a team of amazing writers, and with the best editing team anybody can ask for, the whole project feels like an exciting fantasy podcast narrative that anybody who loves the genre can enjoy! There, we get to explore the vastness of a fantasy world and tell a truly compelling world-class story. And because everything is based on improvisation, it becomes the most thrilling and exciting arc that none of the participants can predict! If you love fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons, or thrilling adventures, join us on the wild ride that is “D20Tales” on YouTube and Twitch every Friday! 

Yulia, you have a comprehensively developed daughter, how did you help the development of non-talents? Y – We always supported her and trusted her decisions. Her father and I, her grandparents, my sisters, our whole family – we always believed in her. As everyone, we cherish what our kids have, what they create and continue. And with her it only seemed more special. She is so strong and motivated, it felt like no support was necessary. She always brings such inspiration with her drive and dedication to what she loves. Sometimes I think she came to this world as an adult, and other times I look into her eyes and touch her fingertips, and right away I am brought back to 20 years ago and see my little girl in her happy family and warm happy home… As if nothing has changed at all. 

Yulia tell us about your own mother, grandmother Katya, is she also filled with creativity? Y – Of course, my amazing mom has been a conductor to a choir for 50 years! And when she got to this side of the ocean, she got a chance to return to her calling here! My father is an accordion player, an orchestra conductor, and a music teacher for the accordion. 

Tell us about your family places of power, where are you recovering? Y – When we gather together as a family, feel the loving looks between generations, this care and feeling of safety is what charges us to go forward. And of course, the caring spouses. My mom and dad will celebrate 62 years of marriage this May!

K – I think mom said it the best – because after you cross half the world so many times, whether it would be in travels or in moves, sooner or later you understand that it’s not the place that makes you feel like home. It’s the people. Your people, your family. When we all gather together, the place where we are is becoming our place of power. 

What inspires you to new projects the most? Y – Excitement and support of those closest to us. My mom’s expectations, Katya’s reactions to all the amazing people we get to meet, our team of like-minded creators – the true happiness is being with your people in one flow of creativity. 

K – I mentioned before that mom, somehow, has helped me to remain a child at heart. And with that I have learned to see magic in the ordinary, and an adventure in the mundane. And of course inspiration always comes from extraordinary stories that I come into! And with a mom like that, there is an extraordinary story awaiting at every corner. Whether it would be radio, acting, sailing, photoshoots, training courses, bartending, everything! Inspiration is in everything, the most important thing is not to miss it. And I am so grateful to mom for teaching me to see it. 

On Mother’s Day, I would like to talk about family values and the modern role of mothers in the world. What is she, a mother reflecting the spirit of the era? Y – I feel that right now the most important thing for a mom is to hold her kids in an open warm hug. To support them, but fully trust them and their path. Provide guidance without restraints or lecture-like teachings. Keeping the traditions alive with the family, building upon the history and experience of previous generations, so our children would know the importance and meaning, while making their own decisions with full knowledge and respect. So they would know to carry what was given to them with pride, and for them to pass it forward. The root of the family tree is a powerful entity. And when you know what kind of experience you carry within you, it’s impossible to lose your path. 

K – And this is where I feel mom looking at me 🙂 and of course I fully agree with what she said. Feeling the support of your mom, and knowing that she believes in you, you simply have no room for doubt. It’s priceless to know that no matter how crazy your adventures would get, you can always look back and see her smile and a small nod of support, and the whole world is yours to take! The most important thing is that after all of your adventures is to return back to mom. To feel her warm hands, hear her voice, and know that now you are home. 

Share your endeavors, what other projects of yours can we see this year? Y – Thank you for all your questions and for a wonderful opportunity to meet with you. I am currently finishing my new album, that will come out on a vinyl record, and two new music videos. We are also working on my son’s project, Katya’s brother Egor Subbotin. He created a very powerful short about global warming, and we are planning to present his movie to the public on the big screen with a live symphony orchestra. And about Katya’s projects…

K – Like I said, gotta keep up with the family 🙂 I am very happy to announce that our team at “D20Tales” is heading to our first live show at Fan-Expo in Dallas, Texas! We will be playing live in front of a 500 audience, all of whom will become a part of our show! We will be performing for all three days of the convention, and the show will also be streamed for 10,000+ audience online!

Also I am currently working on a few short movie scripts, one script for a series, that hopefully I will be able to talk about soon, and of course I am working on my book “Model with Eczema, Journey to Self Love” with which I hope to further spread the message that beauty is first and foremost is love and care to your unique self, to every part of you. 

And finally, what would you like to wish to mothers all over the world? Y – Peace. Safety to the children. Strength. Mutual understanding to those closest to them. For their prayers to be heard. With thankfulness, love, and hope. Happiness to all families. And for all their dreams to come true. 

K – And along with that, a peace of mind. I actually remember an anecdote mom shared with me sometime ago: A mom of two little kids comes home from work and heads straight for the kitchen. There, she takes out a pint of ice cream and starts eating it. Her kids run into the room, and are shocked that their mom is eating ice cream by herself, and did not even offer them any! To that their mom looks at them, and with a smile, answers: “Kids, I am creating a happy mother for you two.”

A happy mom is a happy family. So happiness and peace of mind to all moms on this wonderful day!

Team:

Yuliya Levit  http://silent ylevit.com  Instagram @ylevit

Katya Saturday & Yulia Geniush @katya_saturday_actress @yulia_Geniush

Dresses: Alex Teih @alexteih_couture

Jewelers: Alex Soldier – @alexsoldierjewelry

Hairstyle: Elena Shevchenko @hairmania.es / @frizosalon

Makeup: Olivia Alvares @olivia_olie

PR: Maria Borovenska @mariborovenskaya