Modeling career

The bear abandoned by his mother as a cub now has a hot modeling career

If you thought Russia was a place where no one smiles and bears mingle with people, you’d be only half right.

Meet Stepan: a 750-pound bear who’s taking the Eastern European fashion world by storm.

The handsome brown bear was discovered as a cub abandoned by his mother and taken in by his wife and husband Svetlana and Yuriy Panteleenko. Now 28, the apex predator has been living under human care ever since and has the docile demeanor to prove it, according to Moscow photographer Mila Zhdanova.

“People have stereotypical ideas about Russia. They think we never smile and bears are walking down the street,” Zhdanova, 40, told Media Drum. “We have bears, but I want to show in my photos that we are smiling.”

Mediadrumimages / Mila Zhdanova

She added, “Filming with Stepan is such a pleasure and I have to hold back my emotions.”

Zhdanova posted a series of images depicting the charming bear next to women in ornate costumes, often traditional Russian clothing, reminiscent of fairy tales.

“Stepan is so likable because of the care and love of his trainers,” said the photographer, whose work has attracted “models from Thailand, Australia, Germany, Britain and all over the world.” ‘Israel’, all of whom hope to work with Stepan.

Photographer, Mila Zhdanova, with Stepan the bear.
Photographer Mila Zhdanova with Stepan.Mediadrumimages / Mila Zhdanova

“Some had heard of the mannequin bear and had been dreaming about it for five years,” Zhdanova said. “The shoots are a pure delight. There are never any problems.

“I had more trouble photographing kittens,” she joked.

His latest series featuring Stepan was filmed in the woods of Moscow over a period of months, as the wild animal can only be expected to “work” for 90 minutes at a time. Any longer and they might risk agitating the bear.

But despite their innate ferocity, Zhdanova’s whimsical portfolio is indicative of Russian wildlife itself.

“I hope people see the beauty and strength of animals and nature through my photos,” she said.