With Russian roots, American dreams and a heart that beats for Denver, our June ITgirl is a blend of beauty, brains and business sense portrayed with kindness, compassion and elegant professionalism. We are proud to present Miss Masha Pichugina as this month’s CRAVE ITgirl.

At a mere 31 years young, Pichugina is not only a vibrantly successful model but a dedicated entrepreneur who takes her education and her future very seriously. With a myriad of achievements already under her belt, the blossoming fashionista traces her can-do attitude back to her early childhood.

“Growing up in Russia I had a hard life, a kind that an average American teenager does not usually think of. Both my parents worked hard, day and night, supporting me and my older brother, providing food on the table, roof over our heads and education in our minds,” Pichugina revealed in a CRAVE Magazine interview. “I had no toys to play with; I had books to read. I had no electronic gadgets, phone, TV, internet, and social media; I had friends that I talked to, spent time with, planned outings and activities with, friendships and connections that I cherished everyday. Life was not glorious, but it was simple and it was good to the core.”

Instilled with a strong sense of family values, respect for her elders, and a profound appreciation for the little things in life, Pichugina naturally placed a great deal of importance on her education and her future with a strong desire to learn and grow as much as possible.

When her family made the decision to move to America, the 12-year-old diamond being pulled from the rough was determined to make the most of the opportunity she had been given. Despite the many hardships and challenges that came along with assimilating into a brand new culture and lifestyle, especially at such an impressionable age, she was resilient.

“I left everyone I knew and everything I had behind,” Pichugina said. “It shook my life to the core. Everything was different, the language, the culture, the people, the thought process.”

But with unwavering willpower and resolve, Pichugina learned to speak English and did her best to fit in as the new girl in town.

“I was different. I spoke a different language. I dressed and acted differently. I behaved differently towards my studies and my elders, and I was a minority in my school, something I never even considered before. I survived middle school, and it made me a stronger person, or so I thought, until I had to face the challenges of American high school; the teenage cliques, the bullying, the social awkwardness, the ridicule for lack of fashion sense, the strive to identify myself, the search for self-confidence.”

Finally, in 2008, Pichugina found her place when friend and hair stylist Erik Emblen asked her to participate in his Holiday Party Hair Show.

Masha Pichugina Photography by Sam Nguyen“I remember being extremely nervous attending my very first casting call, not knowing if the casting judges were going to like me, approve my height, admire my walk, or select me out of all the girls that attended the casting. They did all of the above and I was ecstatic to be in a hair show. Little did I know that 5 years later, I would not care about any of those things I stressed about before, because I had done my homework, worked hard, gained my experience, built my self-confidence and accepted myself as I am, a professional model,” Pichugina explained. Still, she said, “For someone like myself at the time, trying to associate and to find a sense of belonging, it was like a shot of espresso in the middle of the night.”

Since then, Pichugina has been involved in a plethora of runway shows, photo shoots and other fashion events, especially those raising awareness for the environment, AIDS, breast cancer, poverty, disaster relief and more.

Though the discovery of herself and the acceptance of her own self-image has been an important element of her desire to pursue her career as a model, Pichugina says working with other creatives is her true motivation.

“My favorite aspect of modeling is the creativity and talent that I get to be a part of every time I work with a new designer, photographer, makeup artist or hair stylist. I love to see someone’s vision come to life through me, the live canvas transformed with creativity,” she says. “The greatest challenge is not to lose the sense of oneself through all the transformations. I know that I’ve worked hard to achieve my modeling status and to build the social network that I utilize everyday. I value my integrity and professionalism and strive to maintain both to the highest standard.”

Pichugina’s passion for both personal and professional growth also extends beyond the runway. Of her business degree and her many entrepreneurial endeavors she says, “I wanted to try things, to make progress, to grow, to make mistakes, to fall, just to get up again and keep going. I got involved in various things, from entrepreneur business ventures, to owning a clothing line, to opening up hookah bars and entertainment venues, all that to determine what is it that I enjoy doing the most and what keeps me going.”

While this self-made Russian gem has found many successes, her passion for the runway trumps all.

“Thus far, fashion involvement and modeling continues to be the most self-motivating aspect of my life and I plan on expanding both,” she said, adding, “I hope to explore this aspiration to the fullest extent.”

You’re an ITgirl from head to toe, and we’re glad we found you! Congratulations and best of luck Miss Masha Pichugina!

To find out more about Miss Masha, visit facebook.com/MissMashaModel

Masha Pichugina Photography by Sam Nguyen

Masha Pichugina Photo by Sam Nguyen
Masha Pichugina Photo by Sam Nguyen
Masha Pichugina Photo by Sam Nguyen

Photography: Sam Nguyen
Makeup Artist: Sammy Maestas
Design: Eve Jenkins of Parasite Eve Designs
Jewelry: Thomas Paul Althaus of Canned Goods

If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next CRAVE ITgirl, submit your application now!

Sam Nguyen Photographer Denver

ITgirl Xtra >>> Photography by Sam Nguyen

After a bit of digital collaboration with our busy June ITgirl via Pinterest and e-mail, photographer Sam Nguyen and our team of collaborators took to the mountains to capture a little bit more of Colorado’s adventurous spirit for this month’s photoshoot.

“We were finally able to get together and dive deeper with designs and locations that would give us something surreal to work with,” Nguyen said. “Luckily we had a make-up artist who was willing to hike up a mountain with us to get to the location.”

As if shooting on the ledges of a mountain top didn’t provide enough locational challenges with wardrobe and equipment, the team also found themselves in a race for time to beat a summer storm rolling in. But even with the pressure to work quickly as the dark clouds gathered overhead, Nguyen said shooting with Miss Masha was a breeze.

“Masha and I have similar attitudes when working, so we meshed well and didn’t have a

[problem] openly communicating to each other … Communication is key when collaborating with a team. We didn’t have a problem with exploring or adventuring off somewhere just to see if the scene would be good,” Nguyen explained, adding, “It really did feel nice to be breathing in nature, though the moments where bugs were crawling all over Masha [were] a little funny. Probably not so much for her.”

Despite the many obstacles that arose with the outdoor shoot, Nguyen said he was pleased with the final results.

“Overall the experience was a fun adventure, and that’s the way it should be.”

Sam Nguyen is a Denver-based photographer and graphic designer with a BFA in Fine Art Photography from CU Denver. His current focus is centered on fashion photography combined with alternative and historic photographic processes.