Right before her 24th birthday, Israeli model Shahar Hayoun celebrates next week her one-year anniversary with On Refaeli, the brother of one of Israel’s top models Bar Refaeli.
Refaeli, who recently announced his new career choice as a musician, recently said in an interview that “Shahar is the love of my life, I can't live without her. Waking up in the morning and seeing her is the most calming thing for me." On’s mother, Tzipi Refaeli, already calls her "my daughter-in-law".
“I’m having so much fun,” Hayun confessed. "I found my soulmate, my rabbi approved of him as well, and a few days ago we talked about our wedding. I want a simple dress, not overly revealing of course, and I want to be barefoot. On and I want a small wedding, 200 people tops, to share this sacred moment with our closest people. It's our moment, our families' moment.”
What does On’s mother say about holding a modest wedding? “We only talked about the wedding between us, we haven’t told our parents.”
Do you think he’ll propose to you on your birthday? "Some say that there’s no reason to get married before wanting children, but I think 'why not?' In my opinion, a wedding is a beautiful gesture that partners make to each other. The ring is a beautiful reminder of 'I am here with you forever.' Some people say that the first year of love is the most exciting, and I aspire to make every year together happier than the last one."
So are you looking forward to a diamond ring as a present? "I have no idea what will happen. On is the one who’ll make that decision. In relationships, as in career, there are desires and hopes, but I’m careful with my expectations so as to not be disappointed."
Isn’t your lack of expectations harming your motivation? "On the contrary. I just finished shooting a lead role in a new series. Many will say that I got the role because I'm good-looking and have a lot of followers, but that's really not the case. Until I got this role, I had two auditions per week for over a year, and got constantly rejected."
Hayoun grew up in Be’er Sheva, and is the daughter of Elizabeth and Zion Hayoun. She has an older brother in 26-year-old Ben, and two younger siblings Ziv and Nir. Hayoun herself, however, had no aspiration to become a model. "My mother, who’s an accomplished real estate agent, was my role model as a child. I find the field interesting and might pursue it in the future."
However, Hayoun got inspired to become a model when people complimented photos of her at her bat mitzvah. "So I said, 'Okay, maybe I could be a model' and applied for many modeling agencies. Only one of them took me in. I got bullied at school after I told the teacher I was attending photoshoots. The other students also had another reason to pick on me," Hayoun smiles and points to a small gap between her front teeth.
You could fix the gap in your teeth if you didn’t like it. "This is exactly what I decided to do. Although my parents always told me how wonderful and beautiful this gap is. I decided to go to an orthodontist and get braces. I almost did it, but everything changed when I decided to share it with my rabbi."
Hayoun talks about her rabbi with great admiration. "Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi. I knew my mom was close to him and went to consult with him, alone or with friends, but I thought bothering him about something minor like a gap in my teeth wasn’t proper.
“One day I broke down and told him I wanted the gap fixed. He replied: 'No, this gap is unique only to you, it's your trademark, and whoever sees your smile once will never forget it.' So I decided not to fix the gap.”
Hayoun says her rabbi supported her career after she landed her first acting role at age 16. “Today, I remember how I’d travel to audition in Tel Aviv from Be’er Sheva by train with the money I saved from waitressing. All my friends spent their money on clothes and makeup, and I spent it on auditions only to be constantly rejected.”
At 17, Hayoun told her rabbi her career wasn’t lifting off, and that she was only modeling in swimsuit and underwear commercials.
“The rabbi listened, like he always does, and told me ‘Do you know why this happens? Because you’re just like everyone else.’ And he recommended I’d stop exposing myself for commercials. He didn’t ask me to become more religious, just that I know when to stop.
It took me some time to think about his advice before I decided to remove all of my modeling photos from my Instagram. I had concerns because it was my livelihood, and thought this might be where my career ends. But it worked, the more offers you say no to, the more desired you become.”
Hayoun laughs when she’s asked how she met her celebrity crush. “It was the most natural thing for me. A year ago, I went to have dinner at a good friend's house who lives in Hod HaSharon and she told me, 'Let's go hang out with On and his friends.' I was stuffed from the meal, and said I was going to sleep. In the end, she convinced me and we went to his place.
"Of course, I knew who On was, but I saw him as just another hot guy. He's not someone who shares too much about himself, but that evening I discovered a funny guy, with good values and qualities. For a week and a half, he courted me and I liked it. He asked me when he was able to see me again, and we set up a date in Tel Aviv. The rest is history.”
What about On’s parents, Tzipi and Rafi? "We’re all human, believe me, they’re just like you and me. A week after we began seeing each other, I was with On and his friends and we were hungry, so I thought I’d make something, but there was nothing to cook with. On took me over to his parent’s house and introduced me. I was nervous, but not because they were famous, because I was meeting On’s parents. They gave me everything I needed and I cooked a delicious pasta meal, which they also tried.”
Hayoun shares that she and her partner have dinners with the other’s families. “Our parents haven’t met yet, but my and On’s moms comment on each other’s Instagram posts. On is a good man who grew up with a good role model for relationships. I didn’t have that, my parents are getting divorced.”
Doesn’t your rabbi warn you against things you or your partner do that go against Jewish religious law? “Not at all, On can do whatever he wants, and whenever I want to pray in the morning, he accepts it. He likes Jewish tradition. He has his own way in life and I’m not about to change it. I love his heart, and I didn’t choose him because of how religious he is. My rabbi met him and said he’s a good man.”