February 20, 2010

Former Winthropexchange studenttakes on Hollywood

BY BETTY ADAMS Staff Writer

BY BETTY ADAMS

Staff Writer

Olga TChakova has made it to Hollywood and adopted one of its famous last names: Fonda.

Some people might remember her as a 14-year-old exchange student at Winthrop High School in 1996-1997 who came from Uhtka, just above the Arctic Circle in Russia. She later returned to attend the University of Maine at Augusta.

Now she's in a much warmer place and making her way as an actress and model as Olga Fonda.

"Living in Los Angeles has given me an opportunity to pursue my dreams and has been able to open the doors to unlimited possibilities," she said recently via e-mail.

Fonda's introduction to America began with the Auclair family in East Winthrop.

"Well, first of all, I was able to learn English," she said. "I was also introduced to the beauty of the American culture through my lovely host family, my teachers and all of my friends in Maine. They believed in me and encouraged me to always follow my dreams."

Fonda now speaks English with a hint of a Russian accent.

"Her English is really great," said Debora Hillier (formerly Auclair), who was her host mother. "From the third month she was a chatterbox; she has such a wonderful command of languages."

Several members of her former host family joined her recently in Boston for the East Coast premier of the movie "Love Hurts," where she appears as Valeriya.

"Olga plays a Russian ballerina love-interest of the young star," said Hillier said. "She very convincingly breaks his heart as she did to a few of the Winthrop boys."

"Love Hurts" premiered at the Strasbourg International Film Festival, the Temecula Valley International Film and Music Festival in California, the 15th Annual Boston Film Festival, La Femme Film Festival in Los Angeles, and the Savannah Film Festival. Fonda said it will be screened at the Orlando Film Festival and the Big Apple Film Festival and has a theatrical opening in Los Angeles on Nov. 13.

More info about "Love Hurts" is at www.lovehurts-movie.com.

Hillier, her husband Jim Hillier, and her son, Paul Auclair, attended the Boston Film Festival where the movie won Barra Grant the best director award and took the best comedy award at the Boston Film Festival.

"Lovely Olga wanted to be a model," Hillier said. "It was her aspiration and she never lost sight of that goal."

At the UMA admissions department, Kristen Duplessis recalled Fonda as a bubbly, outgoing work/study student.

"She was very successful doing student tours," Duplessis said. "She's such a sweetheart." At UMA, Fonda majored in financial management.

"I want to thank everyone at Winthrop and at UMA for letting me become a part of the exchange program and welcoming me into their schools, community, lives and hearts," Fonda said. "It was an unforgettable experience and I will cherish the memories and friendships I have made in my heart forever."

When she's back East, Fonda tries to visit her friends in Winthrop and Augusta. Hillier is hoping she can make it to Maine for a visit this year, and Fonda, too, said she hopes to be back soon.

Fonda still models for television and print commercials.

She stands about 5-foot-8, and spent time modeling in Japan, Italy and the United States.

She has appeared in "Nip/Tuck," "How I Met Your Mother," "Melrose Place," "Entourage," and in many television commercials and advertising campaigns, including print ads in "Vogue," "Bazaar," and "Cosmopolitan."

"I am looking forward to continue working with creative and dedicated directors and actors," Fonda said. "There is so much that I want to do, people to meet, places to visit. I want to do it all! As an actress, I would love to take the audience through the journey of a story in the most believable way."

Betty Adams -- 621-5631

badams@centralmaine.com

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