A friend invited me to take part in a contest as a stand-in, and surprisingly I was awarded the title when I was only 14,” says model Shelly Gafni, recalling how she started out in the fashion field, in an interview with Gleam. “From there, one thing led to another. I entered a contest in Italy, where I became familiar with the Elite Agency, which I worked with abroad for many years. I spent years traveling abroad and around the country. My mother always told me that modeling was the kind of thing the ended early, and then you had to worry about the future,” she says.
Today, Gafni is well known in Israel for her modeling, as well as for her successful business career. She is the importer of the Madina Milano makeup brand, which became a trendy chain of stores and is now a family business.
Gafni and her husband, Ofek Kairi, live in northern Tel Aviv and have three sons: Ben, 14; Yaheli, 10 and Oren, 4. The couple are partners in the Madina Milano company with Ofek’s twin brother Ram and sister Nirit.
They established the Madina Milano chain 10 years ago, and today it has 11 branches in Israel, offering a variety of professional makeup and makeup accessories.
How did you go from modeling to makeup?
I have always liked drawing and sculpting.
At 20, I worked a lot in Germany, where I used to put on my own makeup because I wasn’t always assigned a makeup artist.
I enjoyed it and was good at it and started doing other models’ makeup. When I moved to New York, I worked for a year as the assistant of a successful makeup artist.
I moved on to work at a bridal spa, where I learned the real art of makeup, behind which there is a whole psychology: every person has personal preferences. For instance, there are women who feel naked without their makeup on, and you need to know what suits each woman.
I returned to Israel at 24 thanks to Ofek, a friend from my teenage years who became my husband. We got married and decided to start a business that would combine his knowledge of business management and economics with my skills as a makeup artist.
What is your role in the business?
I am the face of the company; I’m in charge of public relations. Nirit and I are the chief makeup artists, and I also lead workshops and give lectures and do a lot of field work.
I apply makeup for brides, appear on morning shows and also do modeling. The work is fun and interesting, and my days are dynamic. I truly like what I do.
How do you juggle your family responsibilities and kids with such a demanding job?
It’s not easy. Sometimes I feel guilty. I get help from friends and family. I was raised by a working mother, and it’s ingrained in me.
Children with working mothers are more independent, and they have the freedom to develop their own personality. When I’m with them, my attention is 100 percent focused on them. Once a year we take a family trip together and travel to distant places. The boys surf, so we go to places like Costa Rica and Sri Lanka. These are places with lots of nature and without TV, which brings the family together.
Do you surf, too?
I used to, but today I usually just watch.
I don’t have enough time for hobbies, not even for sleeping. Even though I like it for years. But I think I’ll get back to it sometime. I also really like to travel.
What are your business plans for the future?
We recently entered 160 Super-Pharm branches with Madina Beauty Professional Accessories, which includes such items as brushes, sponges, tweezers… everything a woman needs in makeup, apart from the make-up itself. These are premium products at affordable prices. Branching out of Madina Milano’s concept stores is a big step for us. We are also opening more branches and expanding.
You’re 40 and still modeling, which isn’t so common.
Modeling is a bonus that I continue doing.
My mother, may her memory be blessed, wouldn’t have believed that I would continue modeling even at the age of 40.
It’s fun, and I feel at home with it. I like working with a staff and photographers that I feel comfortable with. However, it’s not my essence. I do other things.
Nowadays I’m not just appreciated for my beauty but also for what I represent – a mother and a career woman. I have my own opinions and women want to identify with me, and that’s very gratifying.