Stéphane Olivier Tackles Every Obstacle in His Path
by Chael Needle
French model Stéphane Olivier spent a good part of 2017 running hilly miles, scrambling up muddy rope ladders, and hunkering down under barbed wire. That’s the life of a Spartan racer, tackling obstacle after obstacle on courses meant to test one’s endurance and grit. And while he hasn’t traded in designer digs for athletic wear completely, Olivier is utterly dedicated to Spartan’s “strong mind, strong body” mantra. He always has been.
A lifelong athlete as well as a fitness coach, Olivier made it to the Spartan Races world championship this past year, and his success has led to an offer to run in the Elite bracket next year for the U.S. Championship. He is up for the challenge!
And it is no surprise that Olivier, who is based in L.A. and Ashland, Oregon, has garnered fitness gear sponsorships like Dissident Gym Wear and Exoskyn. Represented by Success Models in Paris and a few other agencies in Europe and L.A., Olivier has been the face of numerous print campaigns, including recent ones from GOOD Paris, CROQUIS, L.A. Saints, and Giorgio Brato. The creativity that has helped make him a top model has spilled over into acting, too. He most recently worked on the short Likeness, directed by Rodrigo Prieto and starring Elle Fanning.
Early in his career, he was asked to participate in a 2001 collaboration with Belgian model Hannelore Knuts for what was to become Designers against AIDS (DAA), and he traveled to the project’s homebase in Antwerp from Paris on his own dime. DAA collaborates with fashion houses, models, and pop culture celebrities to create awareness about HIV/AIDS among global youth. Knuts and Olivier modeled pieces for Designers Do Denim; the auctioned pieces raised $32,000 in support of the AIDS community.
Says Founder/Executive & Creative Director of Designers against AIDS Ninette Murk about her support of friend Stéphane’s Spartan races: “He wants to set a good example for his daughter and also for young people who want to become a model, [showing them] that it’s important to have a healthy mind in a healthy, fit body and that this beauty is not only on the outside.”
Chael Needle: Why did you donate your time, energy and talents to Designers against AIDS as a fashion model?
Stéphane Olivier: When my agents asked me if I would like to represent DAA, I straight-away said yes.
At the time nothing was really [in the stores about] prevention and it was still taboo to talk about HIV or AIDS.
I lost a friend and I wanted to show my support to his family and this cause.
What inspired you to start racing?
I have always been an athlete, and from a young age I start competing, but modeling and life kind of stopped it. I was still working out, but not the same way as before.
Last year a friend of mine told me about Spartan races and he said that I would be great at this sport. I started to look at it and liked it, so I started to train for my first in April 2017.
My first race and the fact that I did very well made me want to compete again and feel the rush of the competition. [This past year] in my last two races I finished top 10 in my division, top 400 in the world.
And I am now going compete as an elite racer next year—dreams come truesometimes, no matter your age!
Spartan Races look quite grueling, with all those various obstacles. What kind of training is involved?
Like I said earlier, I have trained myself all my life; I just had to focus on a lot of cardio and elevation, a lot of trail running and upper body strength [training]. For now I have to train twice as hard for next year to be at the level [I need to be].
What do you hope to model for your daughter by competing?
She is my first fan and I am hers. I have always brought her on my races and she has rock-climbed with me since she was five years old. We bike-ride and run together. She is like Daddy—she wants to succeed in all the things she starts, so for her to compete is already in her genes [laughs]. But she knows that to win is not the most important. And [she knows] to respect her competitors.
Right now, Stéphane is focused on raising funds to pay for Spartan registration fees and travel expenses (races are held all over the U.S.), and he has set up a GoFundMe page to that end. As he states on his page: “I will drive in my car to the races whenever I can, but some races are on the East Coast, while my daughter and I live on the West Coast. The Spartan season starts next month in January and the World Championship will be in September 2018—hopefully I will qualify for it!”
For more information about Stéphane Olivier’s Spartan journey and how to support him, log on to: https://www.gofundme.com/on-the-rd-to-the-world-championship. Follow Stéphane on Instagram: s.oliviertimetoworkout_spartan. For more information about Designers against AIDS, log on to: www.designersagainstaids.com.
Chael Needle is Managing Editor of A&U. Follow him on Twitter: @ChaelNeedle.