The role of women today has gone far beyond the boundaries of "kitchen, children, and church." Many women now conquer a variety of professions and career heights, while dealing with home, family, and personal development. Juggling new opportunities and myriad responsibilities and expectations is often challenging. And what if a person has more than one career?
We met at Equides Club near Kyiv with a businesswoman, philanthropist, actress, singer, healthy lifestyle expert, and mom in one person, Anna Butkevich, and asked her about everything: her time management secrets, the ability to laugh at herself, beauty secrets, and the state of modern Ukrainian cinema and culture. What played out of our conversation, read in our interview.
"In the video "I want to be weak," I laugh at my toughness"
– Congratulations on the premiere of your new song "I want to be weak"! As your previous video "Without a Married Guy," which has already collected almost 2 million views, and been directed by Semen Horov, this one is also an entire mini-film with a plot and unexpected twists. How did you come up with these stories?
Thank you. Ideas are often born spontaneously and then turn into stories. And sometimes, listening to the song, I see a picture in my mind. Then the only job is to write my idea on paper and shoot the video. The premiere of "I want to be weak" happened in December, since the video's theme is New Year's and magical. I really wanted to explain to the audience what strong women dream about. After all, each of us can and should allow ourselves to be weak and defenseless, and also believe in miracles. And then the prince will definitely appear. And naturally, the video wasn't without humor, because I treat my toughness and strength with irony. You need to confront the truth, even though it can sometimes be bitter.
Watch a new video "I want to be weak":
– Is a personal story implied in the song "Without a Married Guy"?
Yes, the story of my two friends. We often have disputes around this topic and I've always insisted that romance with married people is a mistake and a vicious circle, but friends have their own arguments. So I got tired of proving myself and just filmed a video for them and people like them. The key is to discuss problems, even with a laugh.
Video "Without a Married Guy":
"I'd been in a toxic relationship for 8 years"
– The video "Without a Married Guy" is full of irony. The "Servant of the People" party is even featured in one episode. Your activities seem to be a challenge. You do so many things. And it all started, it seems, after the divorce. Tell us how it happened.
Yes, before the divorce, I was an exemplary wife and mother only. But even a golden cage remains a cage. You cannot limit freedom to home. The stereotype, "the wife should stay at home," isn't about love because a loved one should be happy. And I became genuinely happy after the divorce when I was able to realize my potential in a creative field and do what I loved. I need to be engaged in business, I can't stand still, I want to go forward.
When you tremble with excitement, catching the glances of the overcrowded concert hall, 4000 people, then you feel the energy of each person, it inspires you to conquer new heights. When you participate in a charity telethon, act in films, or interview a legendary athlete, every time you discover the world, and the world discovers you. It helps me to overcome my own doubts and fears. And sitting at home, you just can skip it and never try.
– Why then "I want to be weak"?
Because sometimes you need to be weak. And when you want to cry and say, "I won't work anymore, that's it, I'm tired," someone close will definitely say, "If you don't want to, don't work, rest." And I'm immediately back in the ranks.
I realized one thing: girls, women, grannies listen to me; they write to me and share their problems and ask for advice. They care about the same things that I do now or did once. Therefore, I sing about what excites me, my friends, and I do it for all those women who are like me. Although I probably sing a little for men too. Maybe it'll become clearer for them what we really want.
– But it's also an enormous responsibility, especially, when girls trust you. Do you feel it?
Yes, absolutely. When a girl once wrote to me in direct messages, "I want to commit suicide," I exchanged messages with her all night. I thought, "What if it's the case when I'll save a person? She writes to me that she's being bullied at school. And I think: I won't rest until she changes her mind, I'll find arguments, I'll mince my words. I understand that at this moment, she may not have her mom, the person you believe, and at school, you're an outcast and seem like a freak to yourself, because no one likes you. We, adults, understand that all this will pass, but the child doesn't believe it. And I try to help, to talk sincerely, to become the support. This is an enormous responsibility. You can't pretend here, you need to be honest.
I never give a recipe if I haven't tested it on myself and I never recommend something I'm not sure of.
For example, I constantly receive offers to advertise cosmetics. I test everything, but I realize that I can't guarantee the effect, so I refuse. My dad always laughs about this, says: if you love the truth, also love loneliness. I smile in response: Thank God, I don't go into politics, so I can speak the truth.
– Would you like to go to politics?
I'm definitely not ready now. You need to move to politics with an excellent team of professionals. When you know exactly what everyone does. It's like building a house you want to live in for the rest of your days. This is how I built my house. I did everything as I liked, with love, meaning, and forever.
"The psychologist asked me one question: "Do you want to live like this?"
– If you could say something to every Ukrainian woman, communicate a life motto, what would you say?
We're all very different. No two people are alike. And mottos at different points of your life should be different. Sometimes you need support, sometimes you need to calm down, and sometimes you need to stop. But there's one motto for any occasion: "In any situation, be yourself and don't be afraid to change your life drastically if you don't wake up happy."
I've traveled this path and I know for sure that if life doesn't bring joy, change your route, leave toxic relationships. Don't allow others to make a victim out of you.
For some reason, our girls–beautiful, kind, noble, and loyal–suffer but tolerate and live with men who don't respect and love them but only sustain them. They don't walk on air but live in fear that they might be abandoned. I don't understand why. After all, mentally Ukrainian women are very self-sufficient and strong. The beautiful, interesting, bright says, "I'm afraid to start something new and I can't do anything." I wish to help them overcome this fear. And I'm sure each woman if she tries, will recover confidence in herself, and maybe later, and draw her husband's attention if she wants to. There are so many possibilities around; you just need to try them.
– Have you overcome any psychological barriers, ending the relationship?
Of course. My parents met and fell in love with each other at 18. Once for a lifetime. This is a top bar. Therefore, it was very scary to admit to myself and my parents I am filing for divorce. Doubts tormented me. For two years, I couldn't decide. I got married very early. 20 years old is early.
TikTok of Anna Butkevych:
– How to overcome the fear of breaking off the relationship? After all, it's a common situation…
I consulted a specialist, a psychotherapist. It was hard for me, but I understood that my mother could not recommend me anything because she had no experience. I came and explained how it was: I have a problem and need help. I can't live like this anymore, wake up terrified. I have a 3-year-old child and am afraid of her. And every session the psychologist asked me one question: do you want to live like this? I understood that I always wanted to say no but resisted: maybe I can save the family, somehow change it. I persuaded myself as best I could and fought for marriage. And each time she asked me the same question: "Hi, how are you? Do you want to live like this?"
A week went by, and the decision was final. I only regret how much I could've done in these 8 years. But, I think, that's okay. It's good I got married early! (laughs)
– In Ukraine, there are many prejudices and stigmas around psychotherapists. Seeking help is scary and embarrassing. What to do about it?
Besides, we've recognized that depression is a disease only recently and that a psychotherapist is a doctor. Fear is also present because we have a lot of non-professionals. In our country, whoever puts on a white robe first is a doctor; a three-month course won't even turn a talented person into a psychologist. Therefore, I take doctors very seriously, and I believe that only a person with extensive work experience, qualifications, and an entire set of personal qualities can be entrusted with my problem. It's right to be afraid, doubt; you need to filter and search for an actual specialist who can help and teach you how to cope with your crises.
"I love to be unexpected"
– We've already discussed that you shouldn't be afraid to break patterns, even family ones, but you also need to pay attention to your mental health. What advice would you give your daughter?
My daughter is the most important achievement in my life, my main treasure, and love. It's hard for me to express it in words. I also have a younger sister. When she was born, I was 16. Hence, I believe that I have two children. And everything I do is for them to be proud of me and realize that nothing is impossible if you strive, work hard, and love what you do.
It's important to always be there and communicate so that your child and loved ones could trust you, and you could support them and give advice on time. And if at such moments, they hear you and your advice helps, then you're doing everything right. I really don't want them to repeat their mistakes.
– Do you show with your example that a woman can be a leader for both her family and team but, in the meantime, is entitled to weakness?
Yes, that's right. It's like being able to laugh at yourself, and make serious conclusions, make quick decisions, and immediate changes. I love to be unexpected and different. And I transform several times a day. I love to surprise myself and the people around me. And I really love movement. It seems to me that you can't get tired, have no time to get depressed when you're busy all the time. And I also believe that development (when you've got no fear of trying something new and entering some new doors) is probably the recipe for youth.
"There are so many blockbuster scripts in Ukraine"
– Let's talk about cinema and acting. What's the state of Ukrainian cinema today?
Can I tell the truth? Bitter one. Russia. They're in tatters there, closed from all sides. Europe restricts them, but they always have money for the cinema. Why? I think we know the answer.
We also have a lot to film. And we try to shoot. Foreign actors and producers come and are surprised: how many stories you have, what wonderful locations you have! And I agree, we have gorgeous locations, stories that we can beautifully design into plots. But we have no money. Every time foreign colleagues tell me: a historical film, look at what masterpiece you can shoot. And I say, "One minute. Do you realize how much one costume will cost?" I'm ready to find partners, search for funds, opportunities, but I cannot do it alone. My production company has been involved in five films, but production requires partners or government programs.
In the spy thriller "Legacy of Lies," we showed Kyiv as beautiful as no one has ever shown it before.
Trailer 'Legacy of Lies':
They also shoot TV shows here but only the series sold to TV channels. And they're always simpler and weaker. But we need to educate our children. How to teach them stories? Teach to love your own thing and be proud of your heroes? We must have a movie that our children will watch and say: it's made in Ukraine. Art should first educate, instill a love for one's country and history.
– By the way, about art. You also starred on a Playboy cover. What drove you?
I love daring experiments. But it was risky and scary. Especially for a person like me.
For me, it was a challenge, a moment to overcome my own fears. And then, if not now, when? And I wanted to do it. All my workouts, constant shredding, swimming in the pool, eating restrictions, no alcohol, sugar. What is it for? And when you see the result, you realize it's not in vain. It isn't how I see myself in the mirror. From a photographer's lens, I'm completely different and I like it. It's also a great way to boost your self-esteem; if you're on the cover of the most famous men's magazine, then you're beautiful and sexy.
"Goodness loves silence? No, it doesn't work like that"
– We can change reality for the better, not only through politics, naturally. Actually, the charity day was in December. We're very interested in discussing your activities in this area.
It's a shame that it's only one day a year. I believe we need to talk about charity every day, especially in our country, where so much repose on the private initiative of caring people.
– Recently a loud initiative in ATB-markets became famous, which was organized jointly with the "Tabletochki" Foundation to support children fighting cancer. Then they raised over 10 million hryvnias. Tell us a little more about it.
When such initiatives take place, you realize how kind our people are. We raised this money in less than 2 weeks.
Many people worry that they don't have enough means to help someone, but when a few hryvnias make it possible for them to feel their own involvement in a great good deed, everyone is involved. When they write that they need very expensive equipment, we understand that one or several people cannot give this money. However, when such promotions take place, when everyone can take part with one hryvnia, you can raise millions; it's very cool.
I'm for more charity at celebrity parties and major events. But I'll tell you one unpleasant thing from my experience: many companies doing major shows always warn us: if you write the word "charity," you should know that half of the invitees won't come. It's a big mystery to me why. I believe that wealthy people and successful companies must set an example and take an active part in charitable projects, and ideally, initiate and promote them.
– What's your motivation for doing charity work?
Should there be motivation to do this?
I used to be very shy and asked not to include my name when I took part in charity projects. I thought that goodness loves silence. And later I realized: no, it doesn't work that way. We need to shout around and above: I helped, you'll help too. I did it, do it too… And then others will also try it. If they don't act right away, then at least, they'll pause to think. My help may be a drop in the ocean, but it's better to act than sit and turn away when they show sick children or abandoned old people. Turning a blind eye to problems and pretending that they don't exist isn't an option, because you cannot fool yourself.
– Do you have any personal stories when you helped, and it changed lives?
Non-public stories on Facebook and direct messages—every day. I always buy things for causes, send them, for instance, parcels with food and clothes to large families, a microphone to a talented girl from a large family, equipment to hospitals.
Recently the mother of two girls wrote to me and asked for help; her children needed outerwear. As simple as that. And I understand she's not lying. And I give her things, and then she sends me pictures of girls in my clothes. It's very touching.
Or one more quivering story. I help OKHMADIT. One device that I donated to the hospital recently saved the life of a 14-year-old girl who threw herself out of a window. Such stories give me goosebumps.
It's important for me to see videos and photos people personally send me, picturing the entire family at the table smiling and happily celebrating the New Year; the kid was saved thanks to the device I helped buy. So I cry with happiness and feel that everything isn't in vain. We can do a lot together, save, fix, and give joy.
All my life I dreamed of being a mother of five. Maybe that's how I manifest it.
– How to develop a culture of charity? What do we need to do?
Just do it. And talk about it. You can't tell anyone to do sports if you don't do it yourself. They won't believe you. It's the same here. Many of us can speak eloquently. But in fact, when something needs to be done, everyone immediately hides in a hole. I can't say that I give passionate speeches; it isn't for me. However, I definitely know how to help and be there at the proper occasion.
"Even pasties, pizza and dumplings can be healthy"
– You're also an expert on healthy eating. You even have burgers on your menu, not very healthy food. How does it work?
I love everything unusual. There's a stereotype that diet should be torture and hunger test. You limit yourself in everything, don't eat, don't drink, and you, poor and sad, die of hunger. Naturally, if you've got no time, then boiling buckwheat and eggs is better than frying pork chops. However, if you want and have time, you'd like to surprise your friends and loved ones, then you can make both trendy and healthy dishes. With correct ingredients. That's where creativity comes in. Bake a bun, but from the correct flour, don't add baking powder, yeast, that isn't good for your body. It may not be as puffy as at McDonald's, but it's correct and beneficial. For instance, cutlets are meat without chemicals.
There are only three important ingredients that you need to eliminate, and in 3 days, you'll see an effect. These are sugar, cow's milk and all its derivatives, and gluten. At the same time, any favorite dish that you've excluded from the diet, like pasties, pizza, pasta, dumplings, can be cooked right, tasty, and harmless to your health and figure.
– What else would you recommend for people who want to lead a healthy lifestyle?
Move. You need to exercise at least 15 minutes a day to sweat. The moment you're tired and start sweating is the moment of cleansing. Blood circulation is increased, unnecessary calories are burned, and our muscles remove excess sugar that we have in our body. When they tense up and work, it's impossible to get diabetes: our muscles incinerate extra sugar. Nature and our bodies are very smart and work correctly. They don't need to be fixed. You just need to not stuff your body with junk.
– You make healthy eating cool. Don't you come off it sometimes?
Surely! It's so important for the nervous system to break the rules from time to time. This isn't about food. If you work from morning to evening, choose one day and experience it not as you need to, but as you want.
There's a well-established concept of cheat meal among athletes and actors. You need to take a break guilt-free. You can allow yourself and plan a cheat meal. Set the day: champagne, holiday, desserts. For instance, if a friend has a birthday. You know for sure that you cannot sit there and drink green tea or water. Eat and have a full blast. But other days, strictly observe your regiment.
"By its example, ATB-Market is stimulating other big businesses"
– Personal wrap-ups of 2020. What would you note? What conclusions have you drawn?
A very unusual year due to the coronavirus; I've changed my attitude towards many things. I became my father's representative in the ATB corporation (Hennadiy Butkevych is the co-founder of the largest supermarket chain in Ukraine "ATB-Market" – ed.) and entered a big business. It's very hard. Really. In all seriousness. It's another challenge for me. I realize that we're probably the only ones on the Ukrainian market who now affordably feed people. It sounds harsh, but we're actually feeding people. Because no one has such low prices. It's a painstaking work of a huge team, tough negotiations with suppliers. It's very difficult to prove and explain that social products for pensioners should be the cheapest. The supplier doesn't care. But we do. I understand how hard it is for seniors, and I'm proud that I got into a company where they think about it and where the coolest specialists work. Shopping hours for retirees, when they can buy essential products at an affordable price and not be afraid of COVID, is just one example of this work. Or cashiers and store security who fight against a bully to protect granny. That's where real movie plots are. I write about them all the time on social media; the country should know its heroes.
I don't know how to describe 2020 in words. But we needed it one hundred percent. We rebooted, looked at loved ones, and understood strangers. How many marriages broke up; people didn't understand with whom they lived. How many companies, empty and meaningless, burst instantly like a bubble. Tough times showed who's honest and decent. It showed real friends, real specialists, you can rely on, and ones you can't even sit at the table with.
– Did 2020 strengthen you?
Very much so. So much, I want to be weak in 2021. For a day. (laughs)
– What are your life rules?
I will stand my ground and be honest. Even when it's uncomfortable, unpleasant, sometimes, painful. Thinking of words, but being honest. Being kind and helpful. But I don't consider it a rule one must observe. It must come from you, from your heart and soul. You can't teach it but only instill it in children and provide a role model. Fear nothing and take risks.
– What are your work plans for 2021? Scaling charity at ATB?
Naturally. The charity has been at ATB for over 28 years. We've never cut budgets for this area, we have limited nothing. By our example, we should encourage other big businesses to do similar things. And I see that many are improving.
At ATB, we're always ready to experiment. It's cool that we can continually do it. There are many new things ahead. We'll surprise you, most likely, closer to March with a cool idea. I like it when I have the courage to materialize ideas already working in Europe and America. For some reason, we treat them with fear, but we're used to being pioneers. You won't understand until you try. There'll be no successes without failures. You can't be afraid of them.
– And a little about your creative plans?
I have a lot of plans and taking this opportunity, I'd like to address the songwriters, musicians, composers, singers. I don't have my next song! I want to release a cool song in March, and I'm looking for it. Write to me in direct messages on Instagram, I listen to everything.
We'll also develop the show "Without Makeup" on YouTube. We filmed an extensive amount of content for the period until April for a weekly release. So you'll see a lot of interesting things.
Watch "Without Makeup" with Anna Butchevych on YouTube:
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