Tetiana Gaidar, a Ukrainian model, actress, dancer, and competitive shooter, is poised to make her mark in America
Hometown: Kiev, Ukraine
Current Residence: Los Angeles
Tetiana Gaidar grew up in a family of scientists in Kiev, Ukraine. But despite her cerebral upbringing, Gaidar had dreams that took her far from home and landed her on the West Coast as part of the Taran Tactical team.
Hook & Barrel: Tell me about growing up in Ukraine.
Gaidar: My whole family is scientists—my grandmother, my grandfather, my dad. I’m the only artist. Growing up in Ukraine is very different from America—the culture is different, the mentality is different, and there aren’t a lot of opportunities back home. You have to work so hard for everything, but you appreciate everything you have. One night when I was six or seven years old, my dad turned on X Files, and I was obsessed. I told my parents ‘I’m going to be an FBI agent, and I’m going to marry David Duchovny.’
My mom had dreamed of being a ballerina when she was young, and she wanted that for me too. By the time I was 10, my mom wanted me to start dancing, but I still wanted to be an FBI agent. Walking home from school one day she said we were either going to the ballet studio or whatever sports club we came upon, so we walked past a kung-fu studio, and I decided I would do kung fu. I fell in love right away. I competed in kung fu for years.
H&B: But you’re a dancer, so when did you start dancing?
Gaidar: I went to university to study ecology and sustainable development. Right before I started, my best friend Daniel died, and that day changed me forever. I realized nothing is guaranteed, and you never know what’s going to happen. A hip hop dance studio opened, and I went to my first dance class. It was literally a salvation for my soul. Within three months, I was teaching dance. Then the Ukrainian version of So You Think You Can Dance started, and I was doing choreography for the first season of the show. In the second season, I auditioned and got myself on TV. I established a name for myself. I was teaching in the biggest studios in Ukraine, and I opened my own dance studio and started doing more TV, choreography, and directing.
H&B: So with that kind of success, what made you want to come to America?
Gaidar: I just knew I wanted to be here. It took me five years to get a VISA to America. I was rejected so many times. I was working with Ruslana Lyzhychko, a famous Ukrainian singer who won the European singing competition show Eurovision, and after working with her a while, she had a concert in Philadelphia. She asked us to go—I was a backup dancer and singer. After the concert, I realized I had to stay. This is my dream, and I’m here, and if I go home, I may never come back. Ruslana bought me a plane ticket to LA. I flew out here with nothing—I had $300 in my pocket.
H&B: Wow, what did you do when you got to LA?
Gaidar: I knew some dancers, and a friend of a friend of a friend gave me a broken down car. I couldn’t find a place to live, so I lived in my car for six months. All the time I was going to dance auditions and trying to make it. I was working five jobs. I finally found a place to live in Studio City with a girl I was working with.
Meanwhile, the political revolution in Ukraine was getting worse, and my dad told me I couldn’t come home because of all that was going on there.
H&B: You’re a member of the Taran Tactical Team. How did that come about, and did you have experience with guns?
Gaidar: I didn’t grow up with guns. But I was obsessed with becoming an FBI agent and with guns. The process for getting a gun in Ukraine is very difficult, and most regular people do not have them. I remember watching John Wick in 2014 with my brother. I’m a big fan of Keanu, and I just loved the martial arts, the action, and the justice. I want to be a female version of John Wick. After I was in LA, I knew the cast had trained at Taran so I called and emailed him but never heard back. Two years later, a friend asked me to go shooting, and we went to Taran’s place.
H&B: How did that go?
Gaidar: It was my first time to ever shoot a gun, and I shot really bad. But I’ve continued to get better. I’ve won two competitions now, and I keep getting better. I’m still a student and trying to learn as much as I can. I now work at Taran Tactical teaching people, training, and doing whatever they need me to do. And I met Keanu in real life!
H&B: What is your favorite gun to shoot?
Gaidar: My Glock 34 and my MPX rifle. I call the MPX my husband because I love it so much. I remember the first time I shot it—I was so authentically happy.
H&B: Where do you want to go with your shooting?
Gaidar: I would like to be an actress who does all my own stunts. I want to do more competition shooting and win more competitions. I am an athlete, and I want to apply that to shooting. You have to be so present and out of your head.
H&B: You’re super fit. What’s your fitness regime?
Gaidar: It’s 80 percent healthy diet and 20 percent workout. I started learning about healthy diet and nutrition. I do intermediate fasting, I don’t do sugar or dairy, and I try to stick with organic natural foods.
H&B: What is your future plan?
Gaidar: I want to be an action movie actress. I’ve been compared to Demi Moore and Penelope Cruz. I want to become an American citizen. I got my green card this year. I want to be successful. When you work hard for something, it takes time and you appreciate it more. I also want to ride a motorcycle and speak Spanish.
H&B: What do you do when you’re not working?
Gaidar: I like to call my family in Ukraine (Tetiana hasn’t seen her family since she came to U.S.). I like to read a good book. I study English. I love to do yoga watch a good movie.