By Humphrey Carter
Photos: H. Carter
SUPERMODEL Carmen Kass loves nothing better than a tasty pasta dish, preferably in Rome, accompanied by a good red wine, Australian or even Chilean, with some blues or jazz playing softly in the background, and what would round off a perfect evening for the face of Dior, would be a game of chess.

The 26-year-old top international Estonian model is currently in Majorca as President of the Estonian Chess Federation and is leading her country's bid to beat Dresden and host the next chess olympics in 2008.

Carmen did not arrive in Majorca until very late on Wednesday night, but first thing yesterday morning, she was ready for business and was busy “working” delegates at the chess olympics in Calvia.

I haven't had time to see anything of Majorca yet, but I'm going to hang around for a few days once the event is over to visit the island.
You are here, not as a supermodel, but as President of the Estonian Chess Federation, what is your mission, what do you hope to achieve here in Majorca?

We're competing with Dresden for the 2008 chess olympics so we've brought our lobby to Majorca and we're going to be giving some presentations in order to convince people that ours is the better bid.

What do you think your chances are?
I think it's 50/50. Obviously Dresden, with Germany being such a big country people will naturally think it's probably easier to go that way than ours, it sounds much safer. Nobody really knows what Estonia is but, I think, what we've got to offer is at least on the same level as Dresden.

How did you get into chess, when did you start playing?
My father was a chess teacher so I've played ever since I was a little girl, but I've never played professional. I just got taken by the game at a very early age and I've played pretty much all my life. There was a period of about five years when I was just so busy that I didn't have time to play but I eventually realised that there was something really important missing in my life and that was chess, so I started playing again. It's my passion. I love it.

Do you think by 2008 you could be playing professionally for Estonia?
Who knows, that would be great. But it's all a matter of time.
You are now 26. How old were you when you started modelling and how long do you plan to continue on the catwalks and front covers?
I was 14 when I started and who knows how long I plan on doing it for. I guess it all depends what else comes into my life. I might start playing chess more. But modelling is one of the best jobs because you can choose when you do something and when you don't. Obviously, you have to keep yourself at a certain level in the business to be able to pick and choose, but for me at the moment, after 12 years working, I'm in that position, it's now up to me.

You are a perfect example that beauty and intelligence go together and that all the jokes about ‘dumb blondes' are pretty lame. Are there more beautiful and intelligent women working in modelling nowadays?

I think the understanding about modelling, in general, is all wrong. There are beautiful people outside modelling and there are some really intelligent people in modelling. It's like in any other business, and that's all it is, it's a business. Some people think that beauty and intelligence don't go together, but that's a very small minded way of thinking.

Is there any chess player you admire in particular, Kasparov or Anand for example?
I admire all the top ones because of the way each one individually handles their game. Maybe Kasparov has been more commercialised so, for me, it makes him a little less interesting. But Anand, I've met him, and he's incredible as a person, a really great guy, and of course, his game is just incredible. Plus there's this new young child, the Swedish kid who is amazing, he plays so well it's beyond our understanding.

When you are not on the catwalk or playing chess, how do you spend your free time?
Oh, I don't mind, what ever comes up. I try to enjoy my life as much as possible. If I'm modelling or playing chess, I mean chess is fun don't get me wrong, but it's still sort of business as well, so I just try to get away from them both and enjoy life itself.

Your favourite food?
Italian. Pasta.
Favourite drink?
I don't really have a favourite, red wine I guess and Italian mostly but I know there are some very, very good Spanish reds but there are also some great Australian and Chile has some really nice ones, but I've only really got into red wine lately.

The place in the world that has most impressed you?
Every place in the world impresses me, but if I had to choose one, I'd say Rome because every statue has a different story.
Colour?
Colour, no favourite...I don't really have favourites. I enjoy everything.
Favourite film?
Latest favourite because I just saw it a couple of days ago, “Down By law.” It's incredible. I haven't laughed so much for ages.
Do you like comedies then?
No, not really, but this is not a comedy, but the dialogue is just hilarious and really believable.
Favourite actor?
There are so many but Sean Penn (after a long pause). He's so highly under-rated.
Favourite actress?
That's a tougher one...Meryl Streep.
What sports do you like?
Chess (she laughs) but also basketball and soccer, I love watching soccer.
Person you really admire?
I don't think I can answer that question. There are people I really admire but there are also people who have done some really awful things that I hate with the same passion...Saddam Hussein. But I don't really think about this, I'm into the concept of people. What they've done as opposed to who they are. I have met so many people already in my life but I do however wish that I could have met Charlie Chaplin, I've been fascinated by him, ever since I was a little kid.

Favourite music, group?
I listen to everything from classic to rock. I don't like techno - my favourite though is jazz and blues.
So we're not going to find you clubbing?
No (she giggles). And I love classic Mozart.
I'v been reading you are a bit of an e-mail addict...
That's right, I have my palm with me at all times so I can read my e-mail. I don't like phones, there's no personal contact while you are speaking, so I'd rather write it down so that way you're more concise, when you write you always say what you want to say, on the phone you just go on talking for the sake of it.

You have worked for nearly all of the top fashion houses and designers but is there one you still want to work with in particular?
I have to admit, there really isn't anyone I haven't worked with. Not ones that are still alive...There were some brilliant ones before my days, but that's something I can't do anything about.

When you first started modelling, did your parents worry about you leaving Estonia and travelling round the world?
I was a very stubborn kid and my mother was smart enough to realise that had she said no, I would have done it anyway, so she supported me, which was a very smart thing to have done on her behalf.

So Dresden be warned, Carmen Kass has set her mind on Estonia hosting the next chess Olympics.

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