SKYN: Hey Yanyah, thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk to us. For those who don't know, who are you?
YM: I am Yanyah, a daughter of a Serbian Montenegrin father and Finish Sami mother. Born and raised in Sweden but made in New York City.
SKYN: Looks like you got the best of everything then, plus everyone loves New York. So tell us, How did you become all that you are today?
YM: My struggles and hardships are what have sculpted the person I am today. I am a survivor of 4 years of extreme domestic violence and 7 years of being an alien in the states. The challenges in my life have made me more understanding of situations and people, but more importantly, the understanding of myself.
SKYN: With a background like that it certainly makes sense when we look at the way you continuously push yourself to achieve more in both fitness and life. Speaking of that, what got you into fitness in the first place?
YM: I have always been active with sports. Sports have been a part of my life since I can remember. My father was the one who taught me the importance of taking care of your body so that your body can take care of you, mentally and spiritually. I started with soccer when I was only 4 years old, playing in the 6 year old boys team. Around 10 years old I got introduced to karate and had great success, winning many big competitions and titles. One of them was The Open World Cup Champion for children and juniors when I was 15 years old.
YM: Besides soccer and karate I have trained in basically every sport possible and adapted very fast to physical activity, mastering basically anything I put my mind to. Fitness is relatively new to me though, I have only lifted for 1,5 years after 7 years of not doing anything. When I moved to NYC from Europe I kind of got lost in the nightlife scene of this city that never sleeps. I was living an unhealthy lifestyle, with too much alcohol, bad eating habits and no routine sleeping patterns.
One day when I was hungover as usual I passed by my mirror in the living room but this time I went back to the mirror and stood in front of it while only wearing underwear. I took a look at my body, and I didn't recognize what I saw. I then took a look into my own eyes. It was not this quick glimpse, but rather a moment where everything stood still. Nothing existed but the pain I saw in my own eyes, I didn't recognize myself like this either. I stood there for a while, staring deep into my eyes and my soul, that's when I told myself "enough". That was the moment, a short second of enlightening I decided to stop hurting myself and to accept the painful truth that I went through for 4 years as a victim of domestic violence. That was actually the moment I decided I wasn't going to be a victim anymore.
SKYN: From victim to warrior. The change in your life is remarkable. You display such a positive light and influence and it's clear that you've seen both sides of life. So besides fitness, you're also an amazing model. How long have you been in the industry and when did you get started?
YM: I did some fashion modeling in Sweden when I was younger, however I discovered pretty fast that modeling isn't something that I like. Fitness modeling is a little different in a way but there is times I don't like it either. The times when you deal with people and companies who are demanding in a negative way, rude and disrespectful because they feel like they can be that way because they are paying you. That's why I have chosen to become very picky from now on with who I decide to work for. I know my worth and since being chosen for the work obviously they know too and I should be treated the way that I or anyone deserve - with respect.
SKYN: That's totally understandable. Unfortunately a lot of people within this industry don't know the best way to treat the various models, photographers and artists that they work with. We do however love when you get in front of the camera and the work you've done with Brooily is amazing!
SKYN: From where we're standing, you've been an unbelievable success and we can't wait to see what else you go on to achieve. Did you have any mentors who really helped mold and guide you?
YM: My biggest mentor and the man behind everything I am and everything I do is my father. He was a single dad to three children, who he basically gave up his youth to. He cooked, cleaned, washed clothes, took us to school and practice everyday. He took us on vacations around Europe, camping, fishing, concerts yeah you name it! My dad did everything himself. One of my memories from that time that still breaks my heart is how he walked around in the same ripped and old sneakers everyday for a few years just so that we would have everything we needed. One day he decided to buy himself a pair of shoes, it was a pair of black Ecco shoes and he was so happy when he got them. However he only enjoyed them for two days because they disappeared at our Karate practice, someone must have mistakenly took them instead of their own or worse stole them from him. He was so sad and even though he tried to play it of, I still remember the look on his face walking home from practice that day.
My father is my best friend, I honestly believe he is my only true friend. He is someone I can trust and who I can always get the best and most honest advice from. Whatever time of the day my father will be ready to help us out with whatever it is we need. I am so blessed to have such a great man like him in my life, even though we are thousands of miles away from each other physically.
Besides my father, all my coaches have shaped me to the athlete I am today. Most notably my Karate coaches Shihan Johan Lindqvist and Shihan Ingo de Jong. These men have all contributed to the molding of the athletic me, through training and knowledge. I admire all three of them very much and I am very thankful for everything they have done.
SKYN: You've lived a full life! Parents are usually the first positive example we see and it's clear the influence that your father has had on you. I think it's clear to see where your inner strength comes from. As if you haven't said enough, how about you tell us something random about yourself.
YM: I think my whole life is random.. but to keep it simple - I like sponges.
SKYN: Sponges? Fair enough haha. So, what are some of your best memories of the past year?
YM: This past year has been fantastic! It was a year where I felt like I was able to build up a strong foundation to a whole lot of great things to come. However, becoming legal in America is probably the best of them all! After 7 years of surviving in every possible sense it actually took me 5 days to realize the fact that my life in America had just started. That everything that was and that had been, was just a part of a harsh past that will never repeat itself. I realized that if I survived so many years in those circumstances - everything the future would bring me in this country would be a piece of cake! Nothing would be as hard as the past and it felt amazing when the doors opened up to a bright future.
SKYN: That's amazing! Massive congratulations on becoming legal in America! I can't wait to see what new doors open up and what new opportunities come your way. Life's just like that, you just have to keep going and never give up. But to rewind a bit, do you have any tips for anyone looking to start training?
YM: What I always like to tell people who are looking for advice to get motivated to workout is that - Don't over speculate! Don't think about the workout too much, don't think about how hard it will be because the more you think about it the more reasons you will find why not to do it. Put your mind on autopilot as I always like to say; get ready, pack your bag and leave to the gym on autopilot. When you arrive is when you can turn that mode of and get yourself into beast mode!
SKYN: Beast mode! Really truly all they actually have to do is channel their inner Yanyah and they'll killing it in the gym in no time, haha. What are some of your goals for 2016?
YM: I have a few personal goals and then some professional goals that I would love to achieve. One personal goals is to attend my sister's wedding in Montenegro this late summer, to finally come home after 8 years in America. A professional goal would be to successfully finish a project I am starting with Muscle and Fitness Magazine, and who knows, maybe land my first magazine cover before 2016 is over.
SKYN: Wishing you lots of a luck with everything that you have planned, but at the same time from everything I've already heard I have no doubt you'll be able to see everything you want to come to fruition. And lastly, what would you like to be remembered as?
YM: I would love for people to remember me for my qualities as a person rather than anything physical about me (even though I take big pride in my abs lol) I am so much more than just a pretty face and fit body, my intellectual and spiritual being would be nice to be remembered for.
SKYN: We know you're super busy so thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. Much love.
Yanyah Milutinovic | www.facebook.com/yanyahgotitmade | @yanyahgotitmade
Brooily | www.brooily.com | @brooily
Jorge Quinteros | www.jorgeq.com | @jorgeq
Ludwig Araujo | @ludeigaraujo
Vesna Savcic | www.vesnasavcic.com | @_svesna_
Eames Alexander | www.thisiseames.com | @thisiseames
WHILE YOU'RE HERE, CHECK OUT SOME OF OUR OTHER FEATURES:
WEST END GIRLS
Two of Toronto's best. Cameron McLellan teams up withJasmine Ferguson for a beautifully sexy shoot in Toronto's Candyland location. Check it out here.