With international covers from i-D and Self Service to Vogue and Numéro, with more than a hundred catwalks and campaigns including Gucci, Max Mara, Saint Laurent, Balmain, L'Oreal or Mac Cosmetics, Hungarian model Eniko Mihalik discusses her top career alongside her new motherhood and her philanthropy projects with 5'ELEVEN'' Magazine.
Words by Charlotte Coquelin.
Photographed by Fernando Sippel at L&A Artist. Styled by Tatiana Cinquino at Art Department.
Makeup by Chi Chi Saito at Art Department using Westman Atelier.
Hair by Eddy Scudo at Julian Watson Agency using Maria Nila.
Casting by Dean Goodman. Eniko appears courtesy of New York Models.
Special thanks to Braza Studios and Jack's Wife Freda.
Raised in the Hungarian countryside by her parents and grandparents, Eniko Mihalik remembers “a very happy childhood. My grandfather was a very family-centred man and I guess I can say I was his little girl, I was his everything.” She was scouted whilst walking the streets of her hometown before entering, and winning the Elite Model Look contest age of 15. “I never thought I would become a model. I was always the tall, skinny, awkward girl in my class.”
Five years later, Mihalik moved to New York, a city she made her, “first home. This is where I became completely independent.” But prior to moving to the States, she found those first five years of modelling a challenge. “Not being successful was very hard on me. I wanted to quit at one point, around the time my mother agent told me that my American visa was approved. I felt like I was not a good model, I didn’t think I should continue and I didn’t think I was ever going to make it. So that phone call from my mother agent was both a pleasant surprise and bad news, because I didn’t know if I should waste any more time on something that didn’t seem to work out for me.”
In 2008 her lucky break came when she booked with the Italian giant Gucci for their Fall Winter campaign, shot by Inez & Vinoodh. “Later on we did a cover story for V Magazine, I think it was the 55th issue – 5 is my lucky number – and it changed my career. From merely a model full of hopes and dreams, overnight I became one of the most in-demand girls in the industry.” A year later, she walked for Victoria’s Secret when they were at the height of their fame. It wasn’t until working with a lingerie brand that Mihalik began to enjoy sports, “From a no-show at the gym I became a workout-twice-a-day kind of person. And that’s when I picked up running. I liked setting challenges for myself. I became competitive, and I kept running longer and longer distances until I ended up running my first marathon. I’ve run my second marathon in 2019 and I really hope I get to run my third one next year in New York again.”
18k gold plated brass hoop earrings by Jennifer Fisher. Silk top and skirt, beaded shell necklace and leather boots by Altuzarra
Following Victoria’s Secret, Mihalik was shot for the prestigious Pirelli calendar in Brazil by Terry Richardson. She mentions her 2008 French Vogue beauty shoot, photographed by Giampaolo Sgura, as a career highlight. “They made me age from 10 to 60 years old. Up until today, I get so many compliments and so many questions about that shoot. I do believe it was as iconic of a moment for my career as it was for the magazine.” She explains that after a few months in New York and finally booking important jobs, she officially felt confident in her vocation. “It was really rewarding when I finally started getting good jobs, great opportunities, recognition. I finally enjoyed being a model.”
In December 2016, Mihalik was chosen as a playmate, joining other legendary-status models such Cindy Crawford and Kate Moss. Whilst shooting for Playboy wasn’t on her bucket list, Mihalik happily accepted the opportunity since the magazine had re-established itself as a sophisticated and High Fashion publication. Having been told her nude story would be released in the October issue, Mihalik was concerned to see they had not printed it, “I was worried Playboy didn’t like the story. I kept calling my agent to ask what happened. To my surprise, they said they wanted to put me on the December cover, and they explained that for Playboy it’s the most important month. So that was the icing on the top of the cake! It felt great and I am really proud of it actually.”
Mihalik began modelling before Instagram had a huge impact on the fashion industry, and she continues to keep a distance from it.“I love that it’s here, I scroll, I laugh, I learn, I follow, I admire… But at times I feel like I am too old for it. So for my mindset, for myself, I think I would prefer no social media.” She does however appreciate some of the changes the industry has opted for since she started working, especially regarding the obsession over the perfect body that she remembers from her Victoria’s Secret days. “Most of those changes are for the better. It was about time the industry realized that being idolized and iconic, comes with great responsibility that goes way beyond creating perfectly photoshopped images of ‘perfect’ looking women.”
Putting her little black book of industry contacts to good use, in 2019 Mihalik asked famous friends to gather all of their designer pieces they no longer wore for a secondhand sale, donating all the funds to UNICEF Hungary. “We did this two years in a row with UNICEF Hungary and I am very proud to say that it has became the most successful event ever organized by one of their ambassadors. Unfortunately Covid-19 has put a stop to that for now but I hope that we can continue next year.” Her generosity does not stop with one cause, she also works for a charity called KCA – Keep your Child Alive. “I got involved with them through running marathons, and I help them recruit other runners and donors. At the moment I am working with a couple of children who have a genetic condition called SMA Type 1. I am trying to help these children and their families individually because unfortunately every country has different rules when it comes to the treatment for this unfortunate condition.”
During the pandemic Mihalik and her husband became the parents of a baby girl and they are both fully embracing this new period of their life. “It really brought the best out of the both of us and it changed our relationship for the better. We realized that we are meant for each other and we were meant to have a family together.” She always wanted to be a mother, as challenging as it can sometimes be, “It is way harder and way less rewarding than I thought it would be. Of course probably most people knew that, but not me, not till now.” But she has not stopped working and she is proud to set that example to her daughter. Next on her list list to create her own sustainable and handmade brand. “I imagine having my own little studio where something precious is being made with a lot of love and care by only a handful of people who work together.” When it comes to her future, as with everything Mihalik strives for, she hopes to celebrate collaboration. “I am just very curious to see where the fashion industry is headed in the future, and I really hope that it will still have room for me, because I enjoy being a part of it.”
You can find this piece in the Fall Winter 2022 Issue 9: Purchase your copy here.