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It’s getting harder and harder for classical artists to compete in today’s increasingly image-saturated music market, which demands that female musicians be not only talented, but that they also look like Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera. Cellist Nina Kotova, however, has had no problem. Until recently, in fact, she was better known as a pretty face than as a musician. Who knew in 1993 that the girl on the catwalk wearing Chanel and Armani was a musical prodigy who had left her family in Moscow to study at Yale, trying to earn enough money modeling to buy a cello to replace the one that had been confiscated when she left Russia? Kotova’s is a fascinating story that the marketing division at any record label would salivate over—and it just so happens that, unlike Spears and Aguilera, the cellist is quite talented indeed. Her October 1998 D.C. debut at the National Museum of Women in the Arts was a phenomenal demonstration of superb technique and finesse that found Kotova performing rigorous standards from the cello repertoire as well as a few of her own colorful compositions. Since then, the 20-something Kotova has been featured in Vogue, Elle, and Newsweek magazines, appeared on the 1999 MTV Music Awards, and released her first album on the Philips Classics label. (And did I mention Carnegie Hall?) Now, the statuesque yet skilled cellist returns to D.C. to perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, at the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center’s Goldman Theater, 1529 16th St. NW. $20. (202) 777-3247. (Amy Domingues)