GUEST COLUMN: Lewis Hamilton is just ‘built different’

Source: Mercedes F1 Twitter

By Alexia Tibil

In a white-male dominated sport, which Formula One has been since pretty much its beginning, being different takes a whole lot of bravery, fearlessness and most of the time, daringness.

It takes more than just showing up, but also taking a stand for what you believe in. And so, if we were to take a look at the last couple of decades of Formula One, and even other series in the Motorsport industry, a pattern can easily be observed. Drivers show up to each race weekend in team clothes and gear and then go on about their job at the track, but nothing more. Well, when Sir Lewis Hamilton arrived at the scene back in 2007 as a Vodafone McLaren–Mercedes rookie driver, pairing the two-time world champ Fernando Alonso, heads were turning all across the paddock. Not because he was, and still is, the only black driver on the grid, not because he outperformed his teammate week in and week out in his first week, but because he dared to be different in all aspects.

Ever since his arrival in the sport, Hamilton has made it perfectly clear that while training and car performance can be a monumental part in one’s success on track, finding other passions outside it can also play a key part. And, in his case, as an important voice for equality and inclusion in the motorsport community, Hamilton has transcended his power of speech in the fashion industry as well.

Acknowledging on a number of occasions that he felt unwelcomed the moment he stepped inside the paddock because he was different than everyone around him, Lewis also mentioned the fact that this has never stopped him in following his passions outside racing, whilst still breaking records on track. And so, in recent years and especially in the last one year or two, Hamilton has been more courageous when it came to stating his opinions in the fashion world. From attending different fashion shows, meeting with designers, ending up on worldwide known cover magazines, creating his own line with Tommy Hilfiger and eventually bringing Tommy as one of the main sponsors to the Mercedes F1 Team, the fashion industry has felt more like a home than the paddock ever has.

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At the end of May, Pierpaolo Piccioli, fashion designer and the creative director of Valentino, has announced in an Instagram post that Lewis, alongside actress Zendaya, will be Valentino’s newest faces for a campaign called PinkPp, a campaign that stands for everything that Lewis has been fighting for since he pretty much entered the sport – equal rights for all and love is love. Lewis is an interpreter; he is able to use his energy to express his authentic and precious self. The talent he spreads with his whole persona goes far beyond his sportive excellence, and embraces everything that he does. Lewis believes in what he does and shows it with effortless intensity. I have seen him committing himself to social causes with great independency. As a DI.VAs testimonial, he stands for diversity, equality and most of all – love. At the beginning of August, Lewis was introduced as the face of menswear Di.Vas for the Valentino PinkPp Collection, a campaign that is meant to be an indirect voice for those fighting for equality and inclusion on a daily basis.

With the Valentino campaign in full motion, Vanity Fair released an emotional, personal and in-depth interview with Lewis alongside a mesmerizing photo shoot, while also making him the star of the September issue. In this particular interview, Hamilton touched on different aspects of his life and career that made him into what he is today. One of them is his passion and love for the fashion world. A world that, as mentioned before, feels like nothing but a home he never knew he needed.

“I had been going to fashion events, a world that I love and felt very included in,” Lewis said in a recent Vanity Fair video.

“I was like I want to create my own kinda runway basically. When I arrive at the track I want to arrive in meanin’ business.”

Through his style, he also speaks volumes on different matters the society is facing right now.

“I’ve always been a daring person so I’ve always loved to use colour,” he continued.

“I went through a school where you had to wear the same thing as everyone else, which I generally hated when I was a kid.

“But I remember idolizing a lot of musicians and their style and wanting to have that style and swag one day[…]

“And I remember going to my first fashion show away from a race. I was the only person of color there. People used to look at me in my realm like ‘what is he wearing, he’s different’.

“And people sometimes don’t like what’s different, but when you go to the fashion world, it’s super eclectic, lots of people from different backgrounds and different styles and everyone just rocking it,” Lewis concluded.

Being different has never been a real issue for Sir Lewis Hamilton. It has only fuelled him to pursue his dreams and goals that exceed the race track.

“This is who I am. These are things I like to do,” Lewis said in the Vanity Fair August piece regarding his very first days with Mercedes, back in 2013.

“Don’t ever try to control me in that respect. I’m going to give everything to this, and I’m going to help you win championships. And I’m going to show you that being different is not a bad thing for your brand.”

If we look back on the journey he had with Mercedes, being able to express himself and show his truest colors around people who embrace who he is, has been a key part in his on track glory. And so, whilst still being hungrier than ever for more wins and championships, advocating for equality, diversity and inclusion and being different has shaped him into a person brave enough to stand for what he believes in the most.

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