It is said that pound for pound, jockeys are the strongest athletes in the world and women are thought to be physically weaker than their male counterparts. Now just imagine that a woman decided stereotypes and odds were not going to get in the way of her passion and dreams and decided to forge her own path. Chantal Sutherland competes with the best jockeys in the world in this very dangerous and competitive sport.
At first glance, Chantal Sutherland’s looks can place her in the pages of any glossy fashion magazine. In 2008, People magazine called her one of the most beautiful people in the world. Fast forward to today, when she has been featured in Sports Illustrated, and in May of 2012 Chantal graced the pages of Vanity Fair on a horse. “Good for her,” I’m sure you are thinking. Did I mention she was nude?
All the while, Chantal has shattered public perception by making a fortune in the male-dominated world of horse racing as a jockey. With almost 1,000 career victories, $45 million in winnings, international acclaim and a simultaneous career as a model and actress, her life proves that you can be everything you are at once and succeed. Growing up on a horse farm in Ontario, Canada, she rode in equestrian events throughout her childhood. After graduating from York University with a degree in Communications and Psychology, she decided to return to her first love of horses and explore her passion for racing.
Can you be too beautiful, work in a field that is too manly or be too rich, or successful at too many things at once? A teacher once shared the most empowering and liberating message in class that speaks to the heart of such questions. “You are free to make as many choices, free to make as many mistakes, free to take as much time as it will take you to get it right,” he once said. Indeed, when you study the lives of the most successful women, most never even thought of such boundaries. They never thought of odds and what is deemed as possible. As a matter of fact in order to be a true visionary, a true pioneer you do the opposite — you don’t look outside for confirmation of possibility of attaining a dream; you look within.
Many of the pioneers in our history have said that they had no choice but to follow their passion. I’m thinking of Amelia Earhart, the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, or Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, or Zaha Hadid, the first woman to win the Priztker Prize for Architecture for her groundbreaking designs. Martha Graham, the famous dancer and choreographer, was once told that she was too old and didn’t really have the right body type for dancing — now she’s renowned as one of the world’s greatest dance icons.
It isn’t far-fetched to imagine that we can all be a visionary in our lives. This title isn’t just given to world-class athletes and fortune 500 executives. Our lives and the nature of our work asks this of us each and every day — to be true to who we are, to stand for what we believe in and to create a life that is worthy of our time, love and energy.
Chantal Sutherland models this in her own life and shares her own words to live by:
“Believe in yourself, take on your challenges, dig deep within yourself to conquer fears. Never let anyone bring you down. You got to keep going.”
Perfect words to live by. We must embrace the hero within, cultivate a life worthy of our talents and celebrate the journey. For some this will be an exhilarating ride, for others, less glamorous, but it’s imperative, nonetheless. A well-lived life is a beacon of hope and inspiration for all, and for those living their dreams, who can argue with their force?