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American gymnast Mary Lou Retton at the 1984 Summer Olympics said: “For athletes, the Olympics are the ultimate test of their worth.” For fashionistas, then, this must be making the cover of a major fashion magazine. Chinese weightlifter Deng Wei has accomplished the two as she bagged both a gold medal and an ELLE cover. We ask… What does make one a fashion heavyweight?

Turns out three-earrings-bearing Deng Wei turns into quite the heavyweight fashionista when that weightlifting getup comes off.

To answer this pressing question, we must travel back in time a bit.

Chinese weightlifter Deng Wei (邓薇) on August 9, 2016, not only became an Olympic Champion, in the women’s 63kg weightlifting final, but an overnight national sensation as well. She shattered two world records in just one lift. Interestingly enough, it turns out three-earrings-bearing Deng turns into quite the heavyweight fashionista (时尚达人, literally “fashion talent”) when that weightlifting getup comes off. China’s ELLE Magazine edition interviewed Deng in June of that same year, one month before she was set to embark on her Rio de Partayhay Janeiro Olympic adventure.

“I am interested in fashion and I love reading fashion magazines in my free time. Then, obviously, when they told me ELLE China wanted to interview me, I got very excited and was actually expecting wearing a myriad of fancy dresses for the shoot,” the 23-year-old on August 9 told Xinhua News. If one spent 24/7 clad in the not-so-much-come-hither look that weightlifting costume exudes, who wouldn’t… Well, I suppose Adidas might carry some decent enough stuff. Unfortunately for Deng (and my heart achy-breaks a little for her), ELLE had a somewhat different playbook in mind and decided to shoot Deng in her weightlifting gear. Athletic prowess, yes; appealing to Deng, not so much. Nevertheless, Deng proved a good sport (we are hilarious) and made the most of her setup, which apparently came with a silver lining. “I do look pretty good in the pictures,” she laughed, “It’s all about the makeup. It can make you look like a completely different person. A beautiful one, despite wearing a weightlifting suit.”

“When the closet in my Beijing apartment is completely stuffed with bags, I send some over to my hometown in Fujian Province to create more room for new ones!” Deng on her bag obsession.

Deng didn’t shy away from (jokingly, of course) waving her big ELLE fashion feature in the faces of her coaches and teammates alike, so much so the latter suggested she should drop the heavy ironclad weights and pick up the finely laced bralette. Whereas she kiddingly (yet swiftly) dismissed a career in the Olympic-style competitive world that is Fashion, Deng did admit to having a soft spot for bags. “I am crazy with handbags and I love collecting all kinds of them; as long as they are beautiful,” the belle du jour explained, “When the closet in my Beijing apartment is completely stuffed with bags, I send some over to my hometown in Fujian Province [Sanming City] to create more room for new ones!”

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On a quick sidenote: What does it actually take to become an Olympic athlete? Check out these 15 essentials according to Nick Catlin, a two-time Olympian, on Jen Reviews. The link offers a lot of personal insights and includes videos and photos from Nick’s Olympic training routine!

Circling back to China, then… Deng, aka the new Olympic Champion, was raised in a small village near Sanming City, a place known for its bamboo and mountains which have even influenced her vision on beauty: “Bamboo can maintain its own natural beauty and grace; no matter how strong the winds may get. I find that a good philosophy to go by in life.” Words to live by.

From a 10-year-old who began to lift weights to a true champion who at her core doesn’t differ much from her contemporaries when it comes to daily life’s hobbies, Deng prefers to have her money where she can see it. In her closet — thank you once again, Carrie. Fact is we nowadays switch phones overnight and there is so much more to say for buying a bag you can hold on to for years, even decades, to come. After all is said and done, as Deng jokingly concludes, some people simply love to buy bags; and preferably bags of that “arrogantly cool kind” (高冷型, a Chinese abbreviation used with a splurge of irony). From bamboo to bags, Deng has come a long and (now) golden-paved way!

Some might say “cool” and “arrogant” are the required standards in fashion. Do they really make you a fashion heavyweight? Nope, but style sure does. As Empress Vreeland once said: “Style – All who have it, share one thing: Originality.”















Featured Image: CCTV International.
Photos: Xinhua News Agency.


Copyright@Temper Magazine, 2018. All rights reserved
Elsbeth van Paridon
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