‘Beauty is power’: For Eileen Gu, fashion and sport aren’t so different – CNN
If Eileen Gu’s account of last Saturday’s Freestyle Ski World Cup event in Calgary is anything to go by, a day in the Olympian’s life is as varied as it is busy: She took first place in morning qualifiers, wrote two essays, read some René Descartes and George Berkeley for a philosophy class and then “did some physics” before returning to the slopes for the final.
This time last year, American-born Gu was less than two weeks away from making her Olympic debut in Beijing, representing China, her mother’s country of birth. As one of the Games’ most heavily sponsored athletes, she was already a recognizable face. But few outside the skiing world had seen her in action. Any suggestion that her abilities had been overstated soon dissolved as she took home three medals, including golds in the halfpipe and big air competitions.
Gu makes her runway debut at Louis Vuitton’s 2023 Cruise show in San Diego, California in May 2022. Credit: Jerod Harris/Getty Images
“People always think that fashion and skiing are these two completely disparate entities … when in reality, the core aspects are actually very similar,” she said, speaking to CNN sports anchor and correspondent Coy Wire ahead of this weekend’s Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.
“Both are rooted in a sense of self-expression and creativity. Both require a lot of confidence, being able to perform under pressure, and being able to be yourself unapologetically. And I think that those qualities really do carry over.”
Not only do sport, school and fashion overlap, they contribute to one another, said Gu, depicting the juggling act as a matter of symbiosis, not compromise. What she learns in psychology applies to skiing, which in turn sparks creativity that she carries into fashion; modeling meanwhile offers lessons in resilience and confidence that are then applied to her college work — “so it all goes in a circle,” she said.
Watch: Coy Wire interviews Eileen Gu ahead of the Winter X Games (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images of Gu competing at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.)
Hurtling down a halfpipe may have little in common with walking a runway but “all of it is connected,” the 19-year-old said. Drawn to action sports for the sense that she is “constantly pushing” her own boundaries, Gu said skiing leaves her feeling “like I’m capable of anything.”
“Because if I can push my body to do a double cork, who says I can’t add another 180 (degrees rotation)? Or if you want to flip it into another area of my life, who says I can’t get a better score on the next test, or shoot my dream magazine?”
“Beauty is power,” she later added. “And beauty is being able to be strong, not just in what your body looks like, but also what your body 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. Credit: Mao Jianjun/China News Service/Getty Images
Style ‘characterized by balance’
“Just seeing the way art can truly be put on the body, and how expressive it can be in a show. (It’s) not just about the people wearing the clothes and how they look … but also about the atmosphere, the music, the set — there’s so much that goes into it.”
She describes her personal style, like much else in her life, as “characterized by balance” — “between masculine and feminine, between elegant and sporty, between playful and mature.
“All of those really are different facets of my life, and depending on the day, I find fashion is a great way for me to express how I feel … I look different every day, even within a few hours. But that’s what’s fun about it.”
Gu is signed with IMG Models, the agency behind Kate Moss, Bella Hadid and more of fashion’s biggest names. She has worked with Victoria’s Secret, Tiffany & Co., Swiss watchmaker IWC and cosmetics giant Estée Lauder (as well as a variety of brands in China, including café chain Luckin Coffee, telecoms firm China Mobile and Inner Mongolia’s Mengniu Dairy).
Gu attends the 2022 Met Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Credit: Theo Wargo/WireImage/Getty Images
“For me, growing up, there weren’t that many girls in the ski industry,” she said, adding: “I’m young and I’m trying to do my best, and I just want to be the person that a girl at home can see on TV or on their phone and say, ‘Hey, you know, if she can do that, then I want to try it, too. She looks like she’s having fun. When can I try?'”