SHOCK WIN FOR male fitness model
It was an unexpected but exciting win for Chris Olwage from Auckland’s North Shore when he picked up the NZ Fitness Model Search title at the NZ Fitness Expo in July.
Chris was surprised to win the men’s category for the NZ Fitness Model Search, as it was not his intention to enter. “A friend of mine entered me without consulting me and told me later – a week and a half out of the event. That meant I had to go into body shock mode,” he says, “tightening the reins on my diet”.
His friend Alexandra Cohen, entered the competition as well in the women’s category, but didn’t make the top five.
“I entered this to support my friend who was entering. To win this was the cherry on the top. It made me feel quite warm and fuzzy inside. Being a dancer I knew how to work the stage – you have to exude confidence and personality.”
Chris, however, is no new comer to winning on stage.
In 2013 he won Mr Gay World in Belgium, following his win as Mr Gay New Zealand.
Last year he danced at the Commonwealth Games as part of the Cultural Festival.
Then there has been the Kiwi Classic Show Dance. Together with dance partner Lisa Jurakovich, they won this in 2013 and 2014 – and they are looking to enter again next year.
But wait, that’s not all. Chris has been an entrant in the New Zealand’s Got Talent 2012 television show and was lucky enough to be a semi-finalist for his solo ballet on point performance of The Firebird.
It has not, however, been all plain sailing for Chris who in his early life suffered from childhood obesity.
“I was 129kg at age 14 and consequently suffered a lot of abuse and bullying from other school kids.”
Chris tells me he suffered from depression and tried to commit suicide, twice.
At after school care he just helped himself to lots of food. Then at home he would have lamb chops, vegetables and chips for dinner. In the weekends he would have lollies and ice cream.
“At the age of 15 I decided to change my life around. It has been a long process, he says – now aged 29 and weighing 82kg.
Chris stopped eating junk food and comfort eating to feel good – and started eating more regularly and healthy. He found a sport he really enjoyed [tai chi] and also started karate. “The weight dropped very quickly after that.”
Born in South Africa, at the age of 16 he came to New Zealand – a turning point.
“No one knew me when I arrived and I was not as big as I used to be. It was a new lease of life.”
At Auckland University he studied biomedicine and classical studies. At the age of 19 he went to his first ever gym class at the university recreation centre. He then went on to complete a degree at Unitec in performing arts, majoring in contemporary arts.
At the New Zealand Institute of Health and Fitness he trained as a personal trainer and fitness instructor, achieving a Diploma in Personal Training.
Chris then became a fitness instructor at the Auckland University Recreation Centre, where he has been for the past ten years.
“Being a dancer I know how to work the stage – you have to exude confidence and personality.”
— Chris Olwage
“I was there doing fitness classes and then started teaching classes [Zumba, Pump, Abs Butts Thighs, Power Yoga and Spin].”
He teaches anything between 25 and 150 people per class, with Zumba being the big puller. In addition to the five classes a week Chris teaches at the gym, he also takes another five dance classes a week at Candy Lane Dance Studios – and that’s ballet, contemporary dance, cabaret and burlesque.
He has choreographed a dance performance he calls Black Swan, which has been screened around the world. It is his personal story of overcoming childhood obesity. It is about chasing your dreams and overcoming barriers. It is also about his scariest moment learning to dance from scratch at the age of 22 and not being flexible.
Then there is art! Chris tells me about his recent art exhibition where his oil paintings depicting religious images, challenged the norm and where six dancers added to the visual entertainment.
To keep on top of such an active life, Chris eats fairly much a Paleo diet – lots of clean food, fresh vegetables and fruit. He tends to stay away from carbohydrates and alcohol and drinks lots of water.
Ultimately, Chris has a goal to own his own integrated arts studio where he can teach people and empower them to be better people through dance and self-exploration.
NZ Fitness Model Search male winner Chris Olwage.
It is hard to believe Chris, in his early life, suffered from childhood obesity.