People - February 12, 2019

The Blonde Salad meets… Bebe Vio

“If it seems impossible, then you can do it.” Bebe Vio, Paralympic fencer champion who won gold and bronze medals at 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, said so. According to her, nothing can stop someone to achieve dreams and goals. Energy, positivity, strength but also fun and glamour are some of the keywords that popped up during a chat that Bebe made with The Blonde Salad. Scroll down to read our interview!

Paralympic champion, brand ambassador, tv presenter… everybody knows Bebe Vio. Would you like to tell us something about you that probably some people still don’t know?

At the beginning of 2018 I moved to Rome, where I’m studying Communication at John Cabot American University, in Trastevere. I’m sharing a flat in the campus with three American girls and I’m enjoying the city. I love Rome, I’m having so much fun.

You’ve been practicing fencing since you were a child. What does sport mean to you?

Fencing is everything to me. Sport, actually, is everything. I’ve been practicing since I was four years old and I want to keep on doing this for a long time.

How this passion helped you to face your limbs’ lost?

It was essential. I don’t think I could be able to do everything I did so far without sport. That’s why my parents and I decided to found our NGO art4sport.

Do you think that your experience brought something positive in your life?

The disease I suffered from ten years ago (meningitis, Editor’s Note) didn’t change me. It only helped me to discover the amazing world of Paralympic sports, and since then I decided to do everything for it.

In all the interviews you made, you always talked about delicate topics, such as disability, with no fears, even with irony and lightness. How did you learn to be so strong?

Many disabled people are very resentful and they spent their days asking: “Why me (or my family)?” My family and I learned to move on and to ask ourselves: “What can I do for myself and for other people?” This awareness helped me to find a purpose in my life and to be happy.

Do you want to tell us something about art4sport?

art4sport is an NGO that my parents founded when I started to practice sports, again after my disease. It supports children and kids with limb amputations to enjoy the beauty of life practicing sports, both for competitions and to have fun. There are 30 athletes in Italy, from 5 to 30 years old.

We talked with Ramona, the girl Chiara Ferragni and Fedez decided to help to get her an electronic knee prosthesis. You expressed some concerns about the Nomenclatore tariffario (a document that, in Italy, establishes how National Health Service can supply prosthesis, Editor’s Note). According to you, what measures institutions should take to help disabled people?

The problem is that the Nomenclatore tariffario hasn’t changed since the Nineties. It was partially updated a few years ago, but new tariffs have not been established yet. That’s why Ramona can’t get an electronic knee prosthesis, which could help her to have a normal life again, from the National Health Service, but she must buy it by herself or ask someone for help.

Three years ago you were training for Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. Which are your best memories?

Everything was awesome, but it’s just the beginning. Now we’re working a lot to arrive in Tokyo and to kill it with the team!

Which is the training for Tokyo 2020?
We started a few months ago with qualification matches, that will last until June 2020. We need to rank the team because we want to improve the results we reached in Rio, where we conquered a bronze medal. We’re training a lot, almost 5-6 hours a day, and when we go to a camp we train even more!

You are training for Tokyo, but we often see you studying for your exams on your Instagram. How can you balance all the activities you do?

Since I moved to Rome in January 2018 to attend university, I’ve never had a free moment. My days are full of things to do: studying, training, competitions, art4sport activities, holidays, and of course some good time with my friends in Trastevere, as every twenty-something person does.

“Life is dope” is your motto. It’s a very powerful claim, that sometimes is not very easy to repeat. Why do you think life is dope?  

Because life really is dope, we only need to enjoy it. We have to be committed in everything we do.

Three words to describe yourself.

Realistic, busy and… happy.

Besides Tokyo 2020, which are your dreams and goals?

My dream is to help the Paralympic sports to rise and to change the perception that people have about disabilities.

You’re an athlete, but you are also a fashion icon. What do you love about fashion? Which are your favorite brands?

I can’t really consider myself as a fashion icon, these words really make me laugh. But I do want to feel confident and beautiful in every situation, at a sports event or a night gala. I love so many fashion brands, starting from Christian Dior, which I wear a lot thanks to my friendship with Maria Grazia Chiuri, but I could also mention Tommy Hilfiger, Patrizia Pepe, and Nike, that I love since I was a child!

You have many followers on Instagram, where you share your everyday life through your posts and stories. What do you think about social media? Which are the pros and cons, according to your personal experience?

I love social networks and I use them every day, just like all the guys of my age. They can become toxic when there’s an abuse, especially when young people overly look for likes.

You’re a good friend for Chiara and Federico. Do you want to tell us how did you meet them and why are you so close?

I met Federico many years ago in Treviso, during an instore. I was there with some friends of mine, and I wasn’t very famous at that time, then he started texting me, giving me compliments. I met Chiara more recently, at a Dior fashion show. They’ve always been very nice to me, and I really like to spend some time with them. I loved their wedding, it was so emotional it made me cry. Last year Federico took part in Giochi Senza Barriere (literally “games without barriers”, Editor’s note), an event that art4sport organize every year in Rome at the Stadio dei Marmi, and it was awesome! He attended the event with passion and commitment, having fun with many children,  able-bodied and disabled.

Chiara is a huge supporter of female empowerment and the power of supporting each other. You’re a true example of strength and courage: what message would you love to send to all the girls that consider you a role model?

When I speak to the girls I met during the events, I always tell them to do what they love and to keep on doing it, without being stopped by anybody or anything. They have to believe in themselves and they need to make their own decisions, from simplest ones like “What should I do today?”, to the hardest ones, such as “Which sport do I want to practice?” or “Which courses do I want to attend?”.

What would you like to do in the future?
I would like to keep on living in the sports industry and doing my best to improve Paralympic disciplines, in order to bring them to the same level of Olympic ones.

Where would you like to be in the next ten years and which goals would you like to reach?

I would like to attend a master after my bachelor, maybe at Columbia University in New York. Thinking about my career as an athlete, I hope to have more fun and to reach more goals at the next Paralympic games, starting from Tokyo 2020 and arriving at Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028.

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