Thursday, December 1, 2022

Chill Ukrainian cat Stepan goes viral, does ad for Valentino

by Artur KorniienkoDecember 3, 2021 7:34 pm
Stepan, the viral cat from Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, sits next to a purse by Valentino Italian luxury brand in a photo posted on his Instagram on Nov. 30, 2021. (LoveYouStepan / Instagram)

Laidback and almost always with a drink, a cat named Stepan from Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine has gone viral in just a few months.

With a million followers on Tiktok and over 800,000 on Instagram, the cat has also started receiving offers to promote local and now international brands.

Next to Stepan in his latest, Nov. 30 photo with a glass of wine is a $2,800 purse from Valentino Italian luxury brand. It's from the latest "The Party Collection."

Stepan has had more offers coming his way, including from the Discovery Channel and MTV, which has bought a license to one of his videos.

Millions related to Stepan's home-alone parties, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. But contrary to what many may think, Stepan is not sad in those pictures – he's just drowsy.

"Stepan loves to sit in that chair and often falls asleep there. When I shoot it, it comes out funny – all I need is to keep changing the glasses," his owner Hanna, who reveals only her first name, told TJ media.

Hanna started posting videos of the tomcat on TikTok in July with different drinks, music, and sometimes disco lights.

One of these first videos of Stepan with a glass of wine, cake, and Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You" playing in the background had reached over 27 million views in days.

"The expression on his face is a separate art," Hanna says.

Stepan's popularity took off globally after pop icon Britney Spears reposted one of his Instagram posts on Nov. 24. Other celebrities, like actress Diane Kruger and model Hailey Bieber, had also shared his photos or videos.

But a repost by Spears, who has returned into the spotlight after winning a legal battle against her father's conservatorship, has made a real difference. In one day, Stepan gained over 15,000 followers on Instagram and the numbers keep growing.

Hanna took Stepan off the street as a one-month-old kitten. He is now 13 years old.

But the late-bloomer doesn't make "crazy money" yet, his owner says, with most of it being spent on the props for new photos and videos. She says Stepan likes to sleep, eat raw beef and "rush around the apartment despite his age."

Artur Korniienko
Artur Korniienko
Culture reporter

Artur Korniienko is a culture writer at the Kyiv Independent. He previously reported on Ukrainian literature, art, music, film and social issues for the Kyiv Post, including the controversial Babyn Yar memorial and other development projects opposed by the community. In 2021, he ran a podcast about Ukrainian migrant workers for RFE/RL on the Vaclav Havel Fellowship in Prague. With a Master's in Journalism from the Ukrainian Catholic University, Korniienko had also worked as a freelance journalist and a TV correspondent.

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