Russian television host and magazine editor Ksenia Sobchak has announced her plans to run for president against Vladimir Putin next year, saying she is tired of the same faces seeking office.
Although polls show Mr Putin will comfortably win re-election if he goes for a fourth term in March 2018, 35-year-old Ms Sobchak offers an alternative for liberal voters unhappy with his rule.
The Russian constitution, which demands candidates be 35 or older, announced her intention to run in a video posted to her Instagram page on Thursday.
Ms Sobchak, who has 5.2 million Instagram followers, has previously been labelled an ‘It girl’ by US Vogue, which profiled her in 2016 as a ‘reality star turned fashion force’.
“During the early-to-mid-2000s, she was heralded as the bronzed, Slavic version of Paris Hilton,” Vogue‘s Liana Satenstein wrote.
Prior to developing political aspirations, Ms Sobchak posed for Russian Playboy, appeared in racy music videos, attended countless club openings and dated several wealthy, high-profile businessmen.
“[But] she underwent something of a personal transformation, emerging with a more serious agenda, speaking out on issues ranging from the personal to the political – and a distinctly more polished aesthetic to match,” Vogue proclaimed.
In 2015, Ms Sobchak was appointed editor-in-chief of Russian fashion magazine L’Officiel , inciting outrage when she made comments admitting she “doesn’t like fat people” in the fashion industry.
“Nothing is more beautiful than a skinny fit body. Leave the curvy women to truckers. Amen,” she posted on Instagram.
Ms Sobchak’s father, Anatoly Sobchak, was the mayor of St Petersburg from 1991 to 1996 and later became a mentor of sorts for Mr Putin, who he also counted as a friend.
But Ms Sobchak found fame in her own right when she was hired to host Russian reality series Dom 2, which combines a renovation challenge with a dating contest.
“I decided to exercise that right because I am against all of those [candidates] who usually exercise that right,” Ms Sobchak said of her presidential campaign.
“When I was 18 and was studying in university, Vladimir Putin became president of Russia. Children who were born that year will go and vote themselves this year. Just think about that.”
When Mr Putin was re-elected in 2012, Ms Sobchak became more politically active, joining Russia’s opposition movement, openly criticising the Kremlin and Russia’s involvement in the war in the Ukraine.
The first time she spoke at a political protest she was booed, but she has since established credibility and earned respect.
In 2015, Russian media reported Ms Sobchak had been forced to leave the country after it was suggested she had been added to a “hit list” of Kremlin critics, but she took to Twitter to call the reports “exaggerated”.
In a 2012 interview with the Financial Times, Ms Sobchak claimed her every phone conversation was being monitored by Russia’s security service.
She also spoke candidly of her apparent transformation and its motivation.
“Why was I going around in rhinestones before, and am now wearing a plaid shirt and glasses?” she said.
“It’s not a question of fashion. It’s a question of time and yourself. The country changed, I grew up, life changed. It’s normal.”
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