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ESQUIRE Magazine KZ Feature // November Issue - Print + Digital // November 8 th, 2018 // Kazakhstan + Central Asia

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Deniz Reno

The answers to every question lie within the self


Singer, songwriter, visual artist, citizen of the world. Esquire took the time to get closer acquainted with Deniz Reno – the young woman who grew up in a small sculpture studio in Almaty and is now living in North America and building a Hollywood music career.


Writers: Artyom Krylov, Marina Ruzmatova

Translated to English by : LC Media

Photographer: Samantha Howard


An ocean away from where she was born, former Almaty resident Deniz Rakhmanova (going by the artist pseudonym Deniz Reno) has accomplished that which most local artists can only dream of. Her songs have found a large worldwide audience. She has become the first and only musical artist from Kazakhstan to release songs on major labels like Warner Music and Armada. The young woman likes to inspire others, saying “If I can do this, I believe other Kazakhstani artists can too”.

Young, energetic and fiercely driven, in her hometown she is virtually unknown, but she loves coming back to the place where she spent the first ten years of her life to visit her father. Vagif Rakhmanov is a well known sculptor, one of the most nationally celebrated representatives of the Kazakh monumental postmodernism movement, revered for his techniques of juxtaposing bronze and glass. Reno’s mother, Marina Reshetnikova is a well respected visual artist, who has spent the last 16 years working as a sculptor and scenic artist on dozens of Hollywood film productions, including two Oscar winning films.

“In my family intelligence, love and respect towards the self and others were valued above all else. My parents pushed me to constantly expand my horizons and tried their best to instill within me a unique point of view on the world”, says Deniz as she remembers her childhood. When she was just a toddler the young family lived in a sculpture studio and the little girl often had trouble falling asleep as she would often be kept wide awake by the sounds of large outdoor concerts echoing from the city’s central stadium, located just a few blocks away. “I remember the moment when I heard Anjelika Varum’s “Winter Cherry”, I knew I wanted to sing” ..

Reno recalls one more childhood memory that would become key in inspiring her dreams of a career in music. In Almaty she met famous French superstar Patricia Kaas, who bought one of her mother’s sculptures ‘Piero’. Kaas invited Marina and six year old Deniz to a fashion show and the young girl fell in love with the singer’s voice. “When I heard her sing my jaw dropped to the ground. She was unbelievable, it was so beautiful”.

Growing up in her father’s sculpture studio had a huge impact on Reno’s life. As soon as the little girl learned how to crawl, she had access to paint, clay, pastels and markers. “Everything that could make a kid happy”, admits Reno. At the age of four Reno started drawing, sculpting, and showing her artwork in galleries, which would over the years lead to multiple awards and diplomas.

When I was eight years old, I won an art competition at the International Children’s Day show in Tenri Umai. I got to take my parents on a week long all inclusive vacation to a resort in Karachi, Pakistan. It was really special.”

Tennis, reading, drawing, dance, playing flute, studying at a Montessori English school for the arts – the young girl’s schedule was full to the brim. Then when she turned ten the family immigrated to Canada.

Life in Toronto was vastly different. She started working at a coffee shop on the weekends at the age of 13. Her parents divorced and her father returned to Kazakhstan, leaving the girl to live with her mother. Reno’s parents always wanted their daughter to be independent and supported her desire to make her own way.

Between the ages of thirteen and twenty one she washed dishes at a coffee house, worked as a barista and a chef’s assistant at a restaurant, worked in retail, taught kids arts and crafts classes at the local community centre, worked as a receptionist at a Yorkville beauty salon, handed out newspapers in the subway at 4am in the morning at Bay and Bloor, worked as a runway and print model, a film extra, as a graphic and web designer, as a club promoter and a media relations assistant for a major network tv channel. She is sure there was more but can’t remember it all.

When Deniz turned sixteen she firmly decided to follow her dreams to the stage. The teenager joined her high school’s co op program, took a three mile walk to the offices of Sony Music Canada and asked for an internship in media relations. The young woman appeared so sure of herself no one bothered to inquire about her age. She was hired that afternoon. This marked the start of her long journey in the music industry.

Writing, producing and recording a song can run a bill in the tens of thousands. Reno remembers buying her first semi-professional audio equipment and recording demos at home. She would later record the vocals to her first two major label singles in her bedroom by herself. Recording songs in a professional studio was an option that had only become available in the past four years.

Her breakthrough came when a cover of Chris Isaak’s famous ‘Wicked Game’ she had created with Russian producer Anton Ishutin went viral in 2015, playing in clubs around the world and becoming one of the top circlutaed tracks on social media across Eastern Europe. Just on youtube alone the track had gathered over thirteen million streams.

This past September the world was treated to a new single “Fly”. On November 8th Reno released her debut solo EP Narcissus. She spent the summer shooting music videos for each of the songs on the EP on the island of Bali in Indonesia, where she spends many months during the year.

Reno supplements the costs of music production by working on another one of her creative passions – film. In the beginning of the year she completed work as an assistant sculptor on a big studio production that is set to release in 2019. In the past eight years she has worked on over thirty major television and feature film productions, as a scenic artist, costumes assistant and an assistant sculptor.

It’s grueling work. There is nothing glamorous about set construction. A production can go on for several months at a time, up to a year and the crew works extremely hard, it takes an extreme toll on your body”.

In regards to allegations of sexual harassment that have plagued Hollywood in the past two years, Reno doesn’t mince words, “Sexual harassment certainly exists in many places in our industry where there is severe abuse of power, where people have no respect for themselves and consequently a lack of respect for others and can take advantage of the hierarchy that exists in the workplace to abuse their victims. In my personal life I had been propositioned and harassed more times than I would like to remember, starting at the age of fifteen when I was offered an apartment in Manhattan and a record deal if I would consider “dating” an executive. I had always had too much pride and could never fathom being raised by my parents a certain way and then taking that road. There was never even a question about it, just a firm ‘No’.

In 2017 Deniz lived through a personal tragedy. She lost her fiancé. Graham Dickinson was one of the world’s best known BASE wingsuit flyers. He died during a failed wing suit record flight attempt in the Tianmen Mountains in China. For many in the skydiving community it did not come as a surprise. Dickinson often talked to his young fiancé about the dangers of the sport and tried to mentally prepare her if anything ever happened.

Graham’s death was an absolute shock. It destroyed me on so many levels, I didn’t know how to deal with people or with life, I didn’t want to be here anymore… No amount of conversations about the possibility of it ever happening can ever prepare you for anything like that. I believe in spirit and I’ve always felt him around me in every situation I’ve had to deal with in the past two years, always. The veil on how I perceive life and this reality has come down for me in a major way. I’ve truly cemented my value of the importance of love, towards yourself and towards others, how important it is to do only what you are truly passionate about and not let time pass you by.”

Reno’s single ‘Fly’ was released in September, featuring flights by some of Dickinson’s closest friends and colleagues. She privately dedicated it to the memory of the man she loved.

When it comes to sharing her life philosophy Deniz Reno takes pause.

“I don’t chase things like fame or money, those things have little currency in my life. Driving expensive cars, having nice things and going to faraway places can be fun, but it was never the reason why I went into the entertainment industry and it never will be. Unfortunately we are currently still living in a world where we are conditioned to try to find ourselves through the use or ownership of material things. We are conditioned since we are children to look for validation and worth outside of ourselves, instead of looking inwards, constantly vying to have someone else tell us we are “enough”.  We are always looking in the wrong direction and chasing things, people and places that we think will make us happy when we acquire them. It’s the biggest lie we have ever been made to believe. The answers to every question lie within the self.

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