Miles Chamley-Watson does not look like the old-school image that the title fencer might recall. African American with brilliant blonde hair, he is tall—6 foot 4 inches—and decorated with edgy tattoos. At only 27, the young athlete is singlehandedly changing the meaning of professional fencing today. In addition to competing in the 2012 Olympic Games and winning a bronze medal four years later in Rio, he’s designed a line for Nike, and is truly the first fencing champ to fully utilize Instagram (he’s at 113K and still going). On the announcement of his new model contract with IMG models—revealed exclusively here today—CR caught up with the Olympic athlete to ask about his infamous fencing move, his weirdest DM’s, and how modeling compares to the sport.
How did you get your start in fencing?
I was born in London, and moved to America when I was about ten. I was kind of a pain in the ass; I used to get into trouble all the time. Fencing was offered as a kind of after school punishment, like chess or badminton. I fell in love with it right away. Then I entered a few local competitions, and I ended up winning those. I won the Junior Olympics and then qualified for the real Olympics five or six months later.
You have a move named after you, the Chamley-Watson, that involves reaching around your head, and no one can seem to recreate it. How are you hoping to fencing as a sport?
I didn’t even think about it. It just kind of happened, and then no one could do it. Kids started sending videos online and on Instagram trying to do it. I was like “Wow, we’re getting kids who aren’t even in fencing trying this move.” There’s a real potential to put fencing on the map, and hopefully someone like me can appeal to people—not just fencing [fans]—but those who like sports in general. I think it’s just the beginning, but it’s nice to see kids of all skin colors and ages loving what I’m doing. That’s really cool, and I’m really happy that it’s kind of happened like that.
You just signed to IMG Models, which is a very big deal. How does modeling compare to fencing?
Actually, modeling and fencing both take place on the same runway-strip—it looks very similar. Obviously, when you’re on the runway, it’s just you walking. And when you’re competing, it’s you against the opponent. But mentally, you’re on your own when you’re out there. It’s two very different worlds, but they’re similar. I think athletes want to be models, and models want to be athletes. So how do I naturally cross those two? It’s a perfect fit. Having [IMG] behind me can take me to a whole other level.
“I think athletes want to be models, and models want to be athletes.”
You have so many more Instagram followers than most fencers, and you’ve used the platform to create a public persona and increase the hype that surrounds yourself. What are the best and weirdest things about Instagram?
No matter if your sport is televised or not, Instagram gives everybody a platform to be able to get the message that they want across. It’s amazing to have. I’m on it a little too much sometimes, but the good outweighs the bad. If I’m competing, I can tell everyone and they can watch me. I’ve had a lot of people, who I never thought would reach out to me, reach out to me because of social media. It’s really nice to have support behind me. It’s been amazing for me. Weirdest? People ask to have babies with me every other day [over DM]. Someone asked me to baptize their baby. I don’t even think I’m physically allowed to do that. They were like “Come to Jerusalem.” That was insane. I get a lot of moms too, which is kind of nice.
If you could only wear one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I might need underwear. I’m going to get cold! My Olympic medal. No, no I can’t wear it. It’s so heavy! Probably my wallet. Or my watch, but that’s so materialistic. Probably just like my heart. Heart on my sleeve—that’s it. The ladies will think I’m sensitive.
PHOTOGRAPHER SLOAN LAURITS
FASHION IAN MCRAE
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createdAt:Fri, 27 Oct 2017 21:34:32 +0000
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