Introduce yourself! Who are you?
My name is Helen Berkun and I’m a mom, wife, fashion photographer, stylist, digital influencer, and a major shoe collector!
What is one thing no one really knows about you?
Gosh, I’m an open book. If you’ve followed me for a while chances are you know it all, however for some newbies here are some facts.
I was sick with ITP a rare blood disorder when I was a child and spent majority of my childhood in hospitals. We came to America not only for a better life but to save my life!
I lived in Italy and Austria.
I started out as a fashion photographer when I was 18 years old and landed my first international gig at 20.
I was represented by Ford Model Management for 15 years.
I styled the Dove Campaign and the Express campaigns.
John Malkovich blessed my belly when I worked with him pregnant with my second child on a major project.
I became a single mom at 27.
I owned a body painting company.
I had a clothing line when I was in college that sold out at Akira within a few weeks.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
In this industry you have to have thick skin.
Have you ever had anyone doubt you? How did that make you feel?
Absolutely. People doubt me on the daily or question what I do for a living. I think sometimes people think that all I do day in and day out is go to fabulous events, get beauty treatments and receive free things. However this job is an all day all night hustle! It makes me feel like crap of course, especially when I have to justify that my career is just as valid as those that sit at an office or cubicle. Heck sometimes I think my job is harder, I have no guarantees, no benefits. If I fail it’s on me. I don’t have the steady paycheck.
What is your favorite thing about where you live?
It’s funny that you ask that because there is always that debate in Chicago whether or not you live in the city or the burbs. It almost feels like people love to divide themselves and put themselves into boxes. I’m not one of those people. I like to think that I have the best of both worlds. I love the city and love the burbs just as much. That’s why we chose the location that we did. We live in one of the best school districts in the country, my kids go to Blue Ribbon schools and they are public and absolutely amazing. We lived in the city for many years and that was always a debate. I was definitely a sceptic myself and thought I was always going to stay in the city. However I followed hubbies dreams and never looked back. My kids grow up around nature and safety. They comfortably run to their friends houses without my supervision. It’s that super Pleasantville vibe that I earned for when I lived in the city raising my son. I would never let him run around on his own. However, we’re also close enough to be able to uber or drive up for dinners, culture, art and nightlife. All the things I adore about the city! We also have a boat on Montrose Harbor so we are city living at least 4 times a week in the summer. All is good in both worlds!
Why do you love to travel?
I’m so passionate about travel. I grew up traveling from a very young age and before my 10th Birthday lived in three different countries, the US being my fourth. I love to see the world and the way different cultures live. It’s very inspiring not only for it’s history but to see that not everyone is the same or lives the same. We in America are very sheltered and spoiled in my opinion to the rest of the world. However there are so many things about the US that I love. It’s much easier to make your dreams a reality here.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
I don’t think I always manage that balance but I do have to say I’m extremely disciplined and motivated. I’ve always been that way. I don’t think I can ever work for anyone, so owning my own business I have no choice but to have a great deal of discipline. It’s all on you. I’m a tiny company and I have no one else that can hold down the fort. If I don’t show up to a shoot, or miss a deadline, unfortunately the show will not go on without me. I’ve also learned that there is definitely family time and that time does not include a phone. I try to disconnect, put it down and be present with my kids, my husband, my family.
What is your favorite meal?
I love food but my go to is always something salty. I love caviar! I grew up on the Sea of Azov and we had a lot of sturgeon there. So I literally grew up eating caviar with a spoon. AAAAAH, the good ol days!
What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about you?
When I was 18 I traveled to Israel with the Birth Right program. We were one of the first groups to go, and they changed the rules after we went. You can imagine how wild we were! Ha! I called my parents and ended up staying in Tel Aviv and not coming home with the rest of the group. My parents were freaking out but I just wanted to experience living and traveling on my own. So here I was, 18, in a foreign country, living with 7 other kids in one hotel room. We couldn’t afford to live in our own rooms. My parents didn’t give me any money, so when my initial $500 ran out at Birth Right, I ended up getting a job as a coat check girl in a club called Underground in Tel Aviv. I also lived in a $4 a night hostel. It was wild, crazy and so much fun! I’ll definitely have a heart attack if one of my kids ever does this… sorry mom and dad! I’m sure you were freaked out.
If you weren’t doing the job you have now, what would you be doing?
I always bounce back between a yoga instructor and chef. I love both s so much!
What is something on your bucket list?
Going back to that question above. I’d love to become a certified yoga instructor and go to culinary school. I know crazy but I do!
What are your biggest passions?
I have so many passions. I love living my family life, decorating, art, music, food. I love it all. I’m a very visual person and a very passionate person. I’m either all in or nothing at all, and most of the time… I’m all in!
More About Helen
Helen Berkun is a fashion photographer, stylists, creative director, digital-influencer, shoe collector and mama. With over 20 years in the fashion industry and represented by world-renowned Ford Artists, she has run the gamut from editorial and advertising photography to celebrity styling and commercial print. This multi-talented girl lives, eats, sleeps and breathes fashion.
Born in the former USSR, Helen’s aesthetic is eclectic, trend-driven and artistic—a quality that runs through her family of painters, photographers and designers. Helen’s contagious personality and sense of style has made her one of the most in-demand fashion “IT” girls about town. A sought after host for fashion events in Chicago, Helen has gathered the city’s most well-heeled with luxe brands like Teen VOGUE, Neiman Marcus, Cusp, Guess, Decades LA, Coach, Kate Spade, Furla, Thompson Hotel and many more.