She is a Russian street-style megastar who parties with Pharrell Williams and is blogged about everywhere she goes. Who is this cool, connected character?
by KRISTIE RAMIREZ
portrait by MAXINE HELFMAN
Take a look at Nasiba Adilova’s Instagram feed — @naseebs — and it is quite clear her life is fashion-fabulous. There she is with Pharrell Williams at a party in New York City. There she is in Diane von Furstenberg’s apartment in Paris. There she is in on-the-street shots on the websites of W and Harper’s Bazaar, and in party pictures on vogue.com. In others, she’s on a yacht in St. Tropez, drinking bellinis in Portofino or watching fireworks in Cannes.
There is even a snapshot of me, during an interview lunch with her one afternoon.
She tagged me in that shot — and 269 of her 32,000 followers instantly liked the humble reporter in Dallas. In a matter of minutes, a slew of people with foreign names started following me. Why? Because Adilova is the BFF of couture-clad Internet style star Miroslava Duma, who has a popular Moscow-based online lifestyle site, Büro 24/7. It covers fashion, beauty, books, movies, music and, indeed, celebrities. Adilova, 32, works for Büro 24/7 as its director of business development, and her association with Duma, a former editor at Harper’s Bazaar Russia, makes her part of a tight-knit circle of Russian It girls who have come to dominate street-style blogs, fashion-week front rows and the international jet set. In a few words: People are obsessed with Adilova. And so, it seems, is her new hometown.
A week after the whirlwind of New York Fashion Week, Adilova, all 110 pounds of her on a 5-foot-2-inch frame, answers the door to the Volk Estates manse, bought in March, which she shares with her fiancé, the scion of a family that owns a global electrical products and services company. The house is massive: three stories, 10 fireplaces, and looks rather like a dormer-roofed White House. The gated property is almost two acres in an enclave where the neighbors’ names are Ford, Dedman and Tolleson. Its real-estate listing touted its tennis court, two-story cabana, putting green and in-ground trampoline; its Dallas Central Appraisal District market value is $15.9 million. Adilova has been home at this idyll for a couple of days of rest; in a few hours, she flies to Europe for London and Paris fashion weeks. But on this Sunday morning, at the front door of the 12,900-square-foot house, she is barefoot and makeup-free, with her blonde hair skimming her shoulders, slightly mussed. Still, she is striking. “Hi! Come in!” she says, in her slight accent. In a tissue-thin tee and lounge pants, she shuffles from the grand entry to an even grander kitchen, where organic almonds sit soaking in a bowl by the sink. “What can I get you? Do you want me to juice for you?” She begins to peel the almonds, adding them one by one to a bowl of yogurt and raspberries, sprinkled with two kinds of flax seeds, a meticulously concocted breakfast of champions for Whole Foodies. We walk outside and sit on her first-floor veranda overlooking the manicured lawn and pool. She begins to tell me her story: how a sheltered only child from the Soviet Union made Dallas her home, and why she is determined to make a mark here.
Adilova grew up in the republic of Dagestan. Google Dagestan and the suggested searches include massacre and beheading. Click on images of those and there are gruesome photos: open-mouthed bloodied soldiers; bombed-out buildings with rebar dangling like tentacles from broken concrete; frames and bodies of destroyed vehicles. In fact, do yourself a favor: Don’t Google Image what goes on in Dagestan. “Where I’m from is kind of dangerous,” Adilova says, sipping her coffee. Adilova says she comes from a long line of intellectuals: Her late mother was a professor and engineer with a doctorate from the Lomonsov Moscow State University; others in her family were scientists and doctors. Adilova came statewide for an education when she was 15, just a few years after the Soviet Union collapsed. Through the Freedom Support Act, a program created by the United States Congress, she was awarded a one-year scholarship and placed with a family in small-town Oklahoma. “I was in this crazy people’s house in a town of 30,000 people,” she says. “They put me in a walk-in closet with no door, and dogs that peed on my clothes and a sister who had a pig living in her house.” She shakes her head, laughing. “Look, I came from communist Russia, so I was quite deprived, but this was crazy. I’m a fighter. I thought, God is testing me. I must go through this.” The living conditions weren’t the only things that took her by surprise. “Salad. I couldn’t understand why people were eating green leaves. The whole notion of eating leaves was, like, ‘This is what cows eat.’ I remember telling my family ‘They eat leaves in this country!’ And Wal-Mart. Wow. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it.”
The first time Adilova came to the Dallas area was on a school trip to Six Flags Over Texas, while she was living in Oklahoma. After her year of an American education there, she went back to Dagestan and finished high school. She applied to Oklahoma State University and was accepted. Her resulting degree in political science in 2002 eventually took her to Capitol Hill, where she was a paid intern for Oklahoma senator Don Nickles. She moved to New York City, worked as a grant writer — helping immigrants move to America — and got a master’s degree from the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. She worked as executive assistant to the president of the New York Community Trust, today a $2.1 billion foundation that helps New York–area nonprofits. It was during this time that she jumped at an opportunity to work for Peter Munk, the chairman and founder of the world’s largest gold-mining corporation, Barrick Gold. He was in the beginning stages of developing Porto Montenegro, a luxury playground and marina for the major rich on the Adriatic Sea. Never heard of it? Then you don’t have a yacht — or enough money. (The website for the community of the wealthy beau monde has tips on how your yacht crew can spend its downtime during the low season and a report on the perfuming system and massage seats in the new Mercedes S-Class.) While working in sales and marketing for Munk, Adilova traveled with friends to St. Barts in 2011, where she would meet the Dallas-based young man who would become her fiancé. “His boat was next to the one I was on, and he brought over a plate of grilled cheese to me,” a smiling Adilova says, clearly smitten. “Our courtship was so romantic. We both immediately knew.”
Adilova and her beau lived together in Montenegro until she says he finally persuaded her to move to Dallas. “Once I got here,” she says, “I wanted to know everybody.” And everybody wanted to know her. She went to top-drawer events (Cattle Baron’s Ball, Two x Two for AIDS and Art), got involved with the Goss-Michael Foundation and befriended A-listers Catherine Rose, Jennifer Karol and Jessica Nowitzki. (“I’m more of a mover and shaker,” Adilova says. “I don’t sit on the sidelines.”) Dallas’ social and philanthropic community is tight-knit and has the tendency to be suspicious of newcomers, but the collective curiosity around Adilova was overruled by her impressive connections, quick wit and pared-down glamour. “Nasiba is a fearless dresser,” says Forty Five Ten boutique owner Brian Bolke. “She is one of those people who can wear serious fashion but is never a victim.” Around the city, Adilova is more likely to be found in a baseball cap, track pants and Nike sneakers — albeit with a Balenciaga jacket thrown over her shoulders — rather than a Chanel suit. “Women in Dallas are super-bold and I appreciate that,” she says. “The big hair and big makeup and plastic surgery is a bit shocking at first, but once you get past that, you love it. And the women here aren’t bitchy. The women are open and very warm.”
After attending Two x Two for AIDS and Art in 2012, Adilova quickly identified it as the group on which she wanted to spend her time and energy. “It was the best event I’ve ever been to,” she says. Raising more than $40 million for the Dallas Museum of Art and amfAR over 15 years, Two x Two is one of the most expensive tickets in town, weeding out anyone who is not serious about the cause. As with everything else in her life, Adilova took control and soon found herself in charge of securing fashion-y auction items and cultivating a young-collectors group for the organization. “A friend introduced us,” says art patron Cindy Rachofsky, who co-founded Two x Two with her collector husband, Howard. “Nasiba said she was well-connected in the fashion world and did I want her to go to these designers and ask for donations [for 2013]. I thought, go girl, and she did.” Of the 30 designers Adilova asked, 27 donated. The names were impressive: Joseph Altuzarra; Donna Karan; Oscar de la Renta; Jonathan Saunders; Mary Katrantzou. Even a street-style shoot with top photo-blogger Tommy Ton was on the auction block at the tony event, held last month. “I was incredibly impressed with her passion and willingness to help,” Rachofsky says. “I think she desperately wants to do good things in the community. She is ambitious. She followed through.” Adilova’s Instagram feed is already littered with Dallasites posting cat faces with heart eyes, thumbs ups and gold lightning bolts. Meanwhile, some of her prominent pals from around the globe — art dealer Vladimir Roitfeld, jewelry designers Noor Fares and Eugenie Niarchos — are going to be part of a group of influencers to spread the word about the city, especially Two x Two. “Everywhere I go now,” Adilova says, “I’m the Dallas girl. I pitch Dallas all day.” (She recently dashed off her favorite haunts in an interview on the fashion blog The Style Scribe: “Favorite restaurant in Dallas hands down is Nobu. I also frequent Hillstone for grilled artichokes, Smoke for best brunch, Jake’s burgers for best cheeseburger in town, T room [sic]for best salads + sandwiches, Javier’s for best margarita!”) Indeed, she is hooked on her new city. “I didn’t know I’d love it so much.”
In Adilova’s walk-in closet, a beaded Dior dress she is taking to Paris is hanging on a hook. On another is her favorite coat of the season, a plaid Stella McCartney number. On a shelf is a Nancy Gonzalez crocodile bag made to look like a pineapple. Adilova is planning her outfits for her business trip, a week and a half of runway shows, mingling with European designers and promoting and licensing the Büro 24/7 brand. As the site’s name implies, it is an around-the-clock job that never stops; Adilova admits the schedule is intense. As she shows me a drool-inducing rack of dresses, I remember she said she would rather be with her fiancé today, who is going to the Dallas Cowboys game. I get the feeling she’d rather be cooking dinner at home with friends or tangled up in bed watching Game of Thrones — anything but this. She seems tired. On her jewelry cabinet, a faded photo of her mother sitting at a desk stares out at the couture closet. Biyke Mukhtarpashaevna “Bella” Horinek, her obituary reads, died in a car crash near Tulsa in late 2001, when Adilova was a senior at OSU. She had married Bruce Horinek the year before and lived in Ponca City, Okla., where she was a design engineer in research and development at Pelton Co., a manufacturer of geophysical electronics equipment. “My mother [was]the same as me,” Adilova had told me earlier. “She always worked.” (She doesn’t talk about her birth father, only to say that he died when she was 25. Her stepfather, Horinek, owns the Napa Auto Parts on North Main Street in Newkirk, Oklahoma, population 2,317. He posts photos of her on his Instagram feed: One, in March, is captioned “My beautiful daughter.” Her Insta-response: “I [heart, heart, heart, heart] my dad!!!!!!”)
At this moment, it strikes me: Adilova will probably always work, too, whether she has to or not. It isn’t in her DNA to sit still and wait for things to happen for her. “I’ve had a wide-open canvas of opportunities in my life,” she says. But she also says it’s not all her. “It’s crazy where I am now. It’s God’s grace on me.” In many ways, it seems, Nasiba Adilova has come to the right place.