Irina Valeryevna Shaykhlislamova (born 6 January 1986), known professionally as Irina Shayk, is a Russian model and actress who received international recognition when she appeared as the first Russian model on the cover of the 2011 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Models.com ranks her as one of the New Supers.
Shayk was born in Yemanzhelinsk (Chelyabinsk Oblast region), Soviet Union, to a Volga Tatar father, Valery Shaykhlislamov, a coal miner, and ethnic Russian mother, Olga, a kindergarten music teacher. She has stated that she inherited her looks from her father and that people often mistake her for being South American, saying, “My father was dark skinned, because he was Tatar, sometimes Tatars can look Brazilian. I get my light eyes from my mother.” She has one sibling, a sister named Tatiana Petenkova. She is also an aunt to Tatiana’s three children including a niece named “Irina” after her.
Shayk started playing piano at age six. At age nine, she enrolled in a music school and studied there for seven years, both playing the piano and singing in the choir, since her mother wanted her to study music. Her father died of complications of pneumonia when she was 14, leaving her family with little money and forcing her mother to work two jobs to provide for the family.
After high school, Shayk studied marketing but later instead chose to enter a beauty school with her older sister. While there, she was noticed by a person from a local modeling agency who was struck by her beauty. She was urged to participate in the “Miss Chelyabinsk 2004” beauty contest, which she won; she described this contest as far below the standard of beauty contests one would expect in that of metropolitan European cities or in the United States