Inspiring Women Series – part 2: Élodie Ouédraogo

Photo from her Instagram page @elodie_ouedraogo.

 

Who she is

Élodie Ouédraogo is a former olympic athlete and today she has her own fashion label and is a well-known public figure in Belgium. She is of Burkinabe descent, but was raised by a Belgian foster family from a young age. On Belgian television she said she still hasn’t found all the puzzle pieces to her life story.

 

When she turned eighteen, she took the Belgian nationality. She got her athletics training in Belgium, so it made sense to also represent the country in sports. In her personal life she has a relationship with Jeroom, a Belgian cartoonist, and together they have a son: Remus.

 

What she does

Élodie Ouédraogo has built a successful career as an athlete. In the beginning she combined her trainings with her studies in journalism. She even interned at ELLE Belgium and worked there a couple of years afterwards. In the meantime, in sports she started to focus specifically on sprinting and hurdling.

 

In interviews she stated that her (foster)parents always encouraged her to practice sports. She practiced judo for a while, but eventually discovered she was better at sprinting and that’s how she started to enjoy it too. A highlight in her career was a golden medal in the 4x 100 m relay at the Olympics of 2008 in Beijing. Back then, Olivia Borlée was part of the winning group and together they started the fashion label 42|54 of multifunctional sportswear. The clothing is available online, but also in physical stores across Belgium, in the Netherlands, United States, China...

 

Apart from that, she regularly appears on television. In 2018 she participated in Dancing with the Stars and recently she appeared in the media by collaborating with an organisation to break the taboo around mental health. For this initiative Élodie designed a hat with the seams on the outside, representing that it should be okay to be able to see on the outside what’s going on on the inside. 

 

Why she's an example

 Élodie Ouédraogo has a very positive and optimistic mindset. Yet, her life is not always easy. For example, in the past her car has often been destroyed by racist people. She made the choice to not talk about it a lot in the past because she stated not to want to be looked at as a victim. In this podcast, she also claimed there wasn’t much space to speak up during her career in sports. Today she does speak about it more often. One of the reasons why is the murder of George Floyd, which she was disgusted by.

 

Today she uses her ‘fame’ for good causes like mental health awareness. She also deals very well with her search for her identity. Growing up as a Black woman from Burkinabe descent in a White Belgian family, undoubtedly must have brought challenges with it. Yet, she remains motivated to look for her life story and what this means for her and accepts that she hasn’t found all puzzle pieces yet. Finally, by having a relationship with a White man, she shows that love doesn’t know skin color.

 

To shortly summarize: Élodie Ouédraogo is an inspiring woman because she built an amazing sports career while still studying full-time, she founded a fashion label, raises awareness for mental health, is finding her voice to be vocal about racism and because she is searching for her identity in a very positive way. 

 

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