Born in the city of Zabalj, Serbia in 1979, Jelena Jakovljevic Bin Drai was raised by teacher parents, who instilled strong educational values within her and brother, Pedja. Despite a loving family upbringing, Jelena’s childhood wasn’t without its drama, with the air raid sirens of the 1990s Serbia-Bosnia-Croatia war a vivid memory - one which she credits as character building - as she wondered if she would ever step outside the Serbian borders.

Encouraged by her parents, Jelena channelled her energy into education, training in architecture, business, and later proudly earning her Master’s in Economics and Diplomacy. It was during her studies that she first got a taste for modelling, entering the industry professionally at 19 and soon earning the coveted title of Miss Yugoslavia in 1998 – being the first competitor to ever win three of five titles within the same pageant; Miss Yugoslavia, Miss Internet (the people’s favourite) and Miss Photogenic. Jelena’s modelling career took her on a global tour, with a brief stint living in Italy before arriving on Dubai’s shores in October 2001, as one of the region’s first supermodels.