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Catwalk transformations: Do modern-day supermodels count as athletes?

posted on Tuesday, 17th February 2015 | find under 
With Fashion Week in full swing, all eyes turn to the runways in New York, London, Paris and Milan to admire both the clothes and the bodies on display. As scientific research and fashion trends evolve, fitness is becoming increasingly important and we’re finally beginning to see a new emphasis on strong versus skinny for the model physique. 

This paradigm shift is particularly poignant for Sweaty Betty, with Founder and Creative Director Tamara Hill-Norton recalling many seasons of struggling to source models with athletic figures and personal experience across our favourite workouts. Acknowledging and celebrating this catwalk revolution, Tamara asked #TeamSB to consider whether today’s models can also be considered athletes. Here’s the verdict that followed a lengthy debate…   


Candice Swanepoel in the 2014 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at Earl's Court, London 

Although the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show took place late last year, the brand’s famously beautiful models are helping to lead the charge for this new wave of high-fashion fitness. Eating well no longer means eating to stay slim, but eating to get the necessary fuel for frequent and challenging workouts. From Doutzen Kroes’ Ballet Beautiful training sessions to Adriana Lima’s intense gym workouts and Lindsay Ellingson’s Muay Thai practice, there’s evidence everywhere of supermodels having superpower strength. 

“Start the New Year off feeling Healthy and Strong,” said Karlie Kloss, while holding a solid side plank in one of many inspiring Instagram posts. The advent of social media makes it even easier for us to track the physical transformation that today’s models achieve, and to see how they advocate healthy messages to catwalk audiences and social media admirers alike. “To be the best, got to make it rain,” says Adriana Lima in a make-up free post-workout photo that shows just how much sweat it takes to win the spotlight. Many of today’s models also dabble in sport, such as Lindsay Ellingson who talks of learning “the art of eight limbs” in a private lesson with her Muay Thai coach.  


Victoria's Secret models post their fitness snaps on Instagram, including @lindsellingson (top left), @doutzen (top right), @adrianalima (bottom left) and @karliekloss (bottom right) 

Intense workout and nutrition programmes start for Victoria’s Secret models around a year in advance of the next fashion show, and their toned bodies provide infinite inspiration for fellow models and fitness enthusiasts. In fact, former Victoria’s Secret model Sara Sampio released a series of workout and nutrition videos with i-D magazine, clocking up 156,605 views on YouTube from people increasingly looking to models as authorities in fitness and wellbeing. Search #TrainLikeAnAngel and you’ll find hours’ more workout motivation direct from the past and present faces (and bodies) of Victoria’s Secret. 

An early influencer in this model movement was Sports Illustrated magazine, which championed sculpted physiques belonging to the likes of Elle Macpherson. In fact, the supermodel also known as “The Body” first appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1985, and was featured a further four times over the next 21 years. One of Sweaty Betty’s earliest fans, Elle Macpherson is someone #TeamSB continues to celebrate as a kindred spirit and someone who exemplifies the virtues of training hard, eating smart and doing everything with dedication. 

So as we look to Fashion Week for style and fitness inspiration, Sweaty Betty celebrates every show that helps to cement this paradigm shift and emphasise strength and fitness through female role models. And to answer the question of whether models are athletes, we look to the Oxford Dictionary for guidance: 

“Athlete: A person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.” 

If Alessandra Ambrosio’s perfect plank is anything to go by, we think the question answers itself… 


Alessandra posts from her Instagram account @alessandraambrosio

Join the conversation on Twitter using #ModelsAsAthletes to share your opinion. 
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