Eileen Gu: Sport and style aren’t so totally different for the Chinese language-American skier and mannequin

Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Interview by Coy Wire, CNN

If Eileen Gu’s account of final Saturday’s Freestyle Ski World Cup occasion in Calgary is something to go by, a day within the Olympian’s life is as diverse as it’s busy: She took first place in morning qualifiers, wrote two essays, learn some René Descartes and George Berkeley for a philosophy class after which “did some physics” earlier than returning to the slopes for the ultimate.

“I received that, got here again,” she continued, casually brushing over her first competitors look since final yr’s Winter Olympics, “proof-read my essay… turned it in, referred to as it an evening at 10 p.m. and hit the hay. In order that was a kind of days.”

This time final yr, American-born Gu was lower than two weeks away from making her Olympic debut in Beijing, representing China, her mom’s nation of beginning. As one of many Video games’ most closely sponsored athletes, she was already a recognizable face. However few outdoors the snowboarding world had seen her in motion. Any suggestion that her talents had been overstated quickly dissolved as she took residence three medals, together with golds within the halfpipe and large air competitions.

Within the 12 months since, Gu has enrolled as an undergraduate at Stanford College and been named amongst Time journal’s 100 most influential individuals. She has additionally bolstered her repute as a extremely sought-after mannequin. In Might, she made her runway debut for Louis Vuitton — in a torso-bearing outfit from the label’s Cruise 2023 assortment — and has starred on the covers of Vogue Hong Kong and Singapore’s version of Harper’s Bazaar in latest months.

Gu makes her runway debut at Louis Vuitton’s 2023 Cruise present in San Diego, California in Might 2022. Credit score: Jerod Harris/Getty Photographs

“Individuals all the time suppose that style and snowboarding are these two fully disparate entities … when in actuality, the core elements are literally very comparable,” she mentioned, talking to CNN sports activities anchor and correspondent Coy Wire forward of this weekend’s Winter X Video games in Aspen, Colorado.

“Each are rooted in a way of self-expression and creativity. Each require a number of confidence, with the ability to carry out beneath stress, and with the ability to be your self unapologetically. And I feel that these qualities actually do carry over.”

Not solely do sport, faculty and style overlap, they contribute to at least one one other, mentioned Gu, depicting the juggling act as a matter of symbiosis, not compromise. What she learns in psychology applies to snowboarding, which in flip sparks creativity that she carries into style; modeling in the meantime presents classes in resilience and confidence which can be then utilized to her faculty work — “so all of it goes in a circle,” she mentioned.

Watch: Coy Wire interviews Eileen Gu forward of the Winter X Video games

(Photograph by Patrick Smith/Getty Photographs of Gu competing on the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.)

Hurtling down a halfpipe could have little in frequent with strolling a runway however “all of it’s related,” the 19-year-old mentioned. Drawn to motion sports activities for the sense that she is “continuously pushing” her personal boundaries, Gu mentioned snowboarding leaves her feeling “like I am able to something.”

“As a result of if I can push my physique to do a double cork, who says I am unable to add one other 180 (levels rotation)? Or if you wish to flip it into one other space of my life, who says I am unable to get a greater rating on the following check, or shoot my dream journal?”

“Magnificence is energy,” she later added. “And sweetness is with the ability to be sturdy, not simply in what your physique seems to be like, but additionally what your physique can do.”

Eileen Gu reacts after her final jump before winning gold during the Women's Freestyle Skiing Freeski Big Air Final at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on February 8, 2022.

Eileen Gu reacts after her last soar earlier than profitable gold in the course of the Girls’s Freestyle Snowboarding Freeski Large Air Closing on the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Video games on February 8, 2022. Credit score: Mao Jianjun/China Information Service/Getty Photographs

Model ‘characterised by stability’

The California-raised athlete — whose determination to signify China provoked criticism from some quarters within the US — has lengthy been fascinated about style. Having “stolen little items” from her mother’s closet as a baby, Gu attended her first style week, in Paris, aged 15. The expertise was, she mentioned, “completely life-changing.”

“Simply seeing the way in which artwork can really be placed on the physique, and the way expressive it may be in a present. (It is) not simply in regards to the individuals sporting the garments and the way they appear … but additionally in regards to the ambiance, the music, the set — there’s a lot that goes into it.”

She describes her private type, like a lot else in her life, as “characterised by stability” — “between masculine and female, between elegant and sporty, between playful and mature.

“All of these actually are totally different aspects of my life, and relying on the day, I discover style is a good way for me to specific how I really feel … I look totally different every single day, even inside just a few hours. However that is what’s enjoyable about it.”

Gu is signed with IMG Fashions, the company behind Kate Moss, Bella Hadid and extra of style’s greatest names. She has labored with Victoria’s Secret, Tiffany & Co., Swiss watchmaker IWC and cosmetics large Estée Lauder (in addition to quite a lot of manufacturers in China, together with café chain Luckin Espresso, telecoms agency China Cell and Internal Mongolia’s Mengniu Dairy).

Gu attends the 2022 Met Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Gu attends the 2022 Met Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Artwork in New York Metropolis. Credit score: Theo Wargo/WireImage/Getty Photographs

These offers helped set up Gu because the third-highest-paid feminine athlete on this planet final yr, based on Forbes, which estimated her 2022 earnings at over $20 million. She additionally hopes the visibility could make her a job mannequin for younger women and aspiring athletes — the sort she mentioned she lacked when she was younger.

“For me, rising up, there weren’t that many women within the ski business,” she mentioned, including: “I am younger and I am attempting to do my finest, and I simply need to be the individual that a lady at residence can see on TV or on their cellphone and say, ‘Hey, you already know, if she will be able to try this, then I need to attempt it, too. She seems to be like she’s having enjoyable. When can I attempt?'”

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