Irina Shaykhlislamova was born in Yemanzhelinsk, Russia. Her late father Valeri was of Tatar origin and her mother is Russian. Shayk says that she got her unusual looks from her father, and she has said that people often think she is South American. “My father was dark skinned, because he was Tatar. Sometimes Tatars can look Brazilian,” she says. “I get my light eyes from my mother.”Shayk’s mother was a pianist who was the music teacher in a kindergarten, and her father was a coal miner. She has one sibling, an older sister named Tatiana. Shayk started playing piano at age six. At age nine she enrolled in a music school and studied there for seven years, both playing the piano and singing in the choir, as her mother wanted her to study music. Her father died of complications of pneumonia when she was 14, leaving her family with little money and forcing her mother to work two jobs to provide for the family.
After high school, Shayk studied marketing but was bored by it and entered a local beauty school with her elder sister. While there, she was noticed by a person from a local modeling agency who was struck by her unusual beauty. She was urged to participate in the “Miss Chelyabinsk 2004″ beauty contest, and she won.