Sonya Molodetskaya is the longtime girlfriend of former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. She is known as a fashion icon in San Francisco and is the Style Editor-At-Large for Haute Living Magazine.
She now lives a life of glamour, but Molodetskaya’s life did not start that way. She was born in the Soviet Union in April of 1972. The Molodetskaya family came to the United States as refugees.
Willie Brown, 84, has been married to his wife Blanche since 1957. But they have been separated since at least 1981. Brown made headlines in January 2019 when he acknowledged that he dated presidential candidate Kamala Harris in the mid-90s.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Sonya Molodetskaya Grew Up in the Soviet Union & Moved to the United States With Her Family at Age 24 After Her Father Started Receiving Death Threats
Sonya Molodetskaya was born in April of 1972 in the Soviet Union. Her father is Yevgeniy Molodetskiy, her mother’s name is Alla Molodetskaya and she has a brother named Artem.
She shared with Forbes in 2016 that she had an early education in fashion and style from her mother. Molodetskaya explained that her mother “wouldn’t even take her garbage out without putting her makeup on.” She said that growing up in the Soviet Union, young women learned to design and make their own clothing because that was the “best way to get something fashionable.” But a fashion career was not part of Molodetskaya’s life plan in Moscow; instead, she majored in civil engineering.
Molodetskaya said that the family hid the fact that they were Jewish. She explained to San Francisco Magazine that her father had a successful job managing restaurants. But he was forced to quit after he began receiving death threats, allegedly from members of the Mafia. Molodetskaya added that her mother’s career was not doing well either.
In 1996, when Molodetskaya was 24, the family decided to leave. They chose San Francisco as their new home.
2. Molodetskaya Began Her Fashion Career as a Salesperson; She is Now a Style Editor For Haute Living Magazine
Sonya Molodetskaya admitted to Forbes that she and her family members “struggled alongside other immigrant communities” after moving to the United States. She told San Francisco Magazine that the family lived in “the worst possible house you can imagine.”
Molodetskaya found her passion after she began working in retail fashion. Her first job was at a shoe store, but she quickly moved on to higher fashion. She was hired as a salesperson at Wilkes Bashford, a high-end boutique in Palo Alto. Molodetskaya later opened her own boutique on Chestnut Street in San Francisco in 2006. But the company did not survive the financial recession. Her other sales experiences included jobs at Saks and Bloomingdales.
But Molodetskaya’s fashion career has been very successful in the years since then. She is now the Style Editor-At-Large for Haute Living, a luxury lifestyle magazine headquartered in Miami. The magazine describes Molodetskaya as a “volcanic fashion explosion, risk taker and fashion maverick.”
She is also the Founder & Creative Director of a fashion line called Major Obsessions. Haute Living described the second collection’s vast array of colors in May of 2017: “Color and texture are also an important part of Major Obsessions. Blood red is paired with vibrant pink, a kelly green dress is topped with an emerald and fuchsia Oriental-inspired print kimono, and polka-dots are loud and proud.”
3. Molodetskaya Was Engaged to Another Man When She Was First Introduced to Willie Brown in 2002
Sonya Molodetskaya was 30 years old when she first met Willie Brown at the restaurant Ana Mandara at Fisherman’s Wharf in 2002. She admitted to San Francisco Magazine that she was engaged to another man at the time, but that night, she was out with friends.
Brown was with Carolyn Carpeneti, the mother of his youngest daughter, at the time. (Their daughter, Sydney, was born in 2001). One of Molodetskaya’s friends knew Brown, and he asked for an introduction.
Molodetskaya and Brown have been together ever since. She told Haute Living in 2018 that she and Brown speak on the phone 5 or 6 times each day. She also shared that she does not cook, preferring to eat restaurant food seven days a week. She and “Willie” go to a steakhouse at least once a week.
Molodetskaya has long acknowledged that she did not think Brown was exclusive with her. In 2013, she told San Francisco Magazine, “He was always a playboy. So did he change for me? I don’t think so.”
4. Sonya Molodetskaya Has Also Worked in Event Planning
Sonya Molodetskaya has said in interviews that she has always wanted to be able to take care of herself financially–regardless of who she is dating. One of her jobs was as vice president of sales at Events by Corsi.
On the company website, she is praised as a “skilled veteran of the business community… A frequenter of numerous high-profile events, Molodetskaya brings a vast and comprehensive skill set in event management and planning consultation.”
Molodetskaya has taken additional steps to keep her options open. She went back to school in 2010 to study psychology.
5. Molodetskaya Previously Served on San Francisco’s Immigrant Rights Commission
Sonya Molodetskaya briefly tried her hand at politics in 2010. Then-mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom, who was sworn in as Governor of California in 2019, asked Molodetskaya to serve on the Immigrants Rights Commission.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported at the time that Newsom had learned about Molodetskaya’s passion for protecting human rights three years earlier. They both attended a dinner in 2007, in which Newsom talked about shutting down massage parlors that had been forcing Asian immigrant women into sex trafficking. Molodetskaya reportedly spoke up at the dinner. Appointments Secretary Matthew Goudeau told the newspaper that Molodetskaya “broke into this impassioned speech against human trafficking, which stuck with me. I knew she’d make a great commissioner on this board.”
Molodetskaya is no longer on the board, but according to Haute Living, she has kept up an active presence with charity organizations. She has been involved with organizations including Help for Haiti, Family Builders, and Rooms That Rock 4 Chemo.