MOSCOW — Starstruck Russians snap selfies and crowd around reality-TV-star-turned-presidential-candidate Ksenia Sobchak as she walks in Moscow’s Red Square.
When three teenagers scream her name, Sobchak, a journalist and television personality who is taking on President Vladimir Putin, instructs them to get out and vote when the elections come round in March.
“We need real change in this country and together we can achieve this,” she told the teens on Wednesday.
Sobchak, 36, hopes one big thing will work in her favor: The vast majority of Russians know who she is thanks to years in the public eye.
She has starred in shows such as Russia’s equivalent of “Big Brother,” and “A Blonde in Chocolate,” in which she often swore, appeared drunk and wore revealing clothing.
But even though she is well-known, Sobchak is also highly divisive.
Not only does her family have long and deep ties to Putin, the image she has recently cultivated — that of a hip-but-serious politician — stands in stark contrast to how the nation has come to know her over the years.
A recent opinion poll revealed 24 percent of people have negative associations with the name Sobchak. Seventy percent said they view her presidential bid negatively and only 5 percent would even entertain the possibility of voting for her in March.
But Sobchak maintains that her reality TV days are a thing of the past.
“They can say, and they will say, whatever they like. They should judge actions,” she said this week.
For the past six years, she has been heavily involved in Russian politics, calling out Putin’s government and becoming an interviewer and a journalist on an independent TV channel. Her first order…(next page)