Chloe Whylie: Power Is The Word

Chloe Whylie is known as a weightlifter and spoken-word artist but she’s about to add further strings to her bow. The world of rugby now awaits for this gifted and motivated woman. Glorious investigates…

By Rosie Fitzmaurice

Chloe Whylie, spoken word artist, Fiit trainer and Olympic weightlifter, who has competed for both Team GB and Team Jamaica, didn’t fall in love with strength training immediately. Her journey into lifting competitively was sparked by trauma in her personal life. “I lost two people in my family and was expecting a child with my long-term partner at the time and had a miscarriage. I walked out of my job and literally sat at home in a deep depression for two months.”

Chloe likes to live by the mantra ‘peace is power’.

It was during this time that she spotted Michaela Breeze and Zoe Smith battling it out in the Commonwealth Games on TV. “To see two completely different women, one who had just come out of retirement (Michaela Breeze), and Zoe Smith, a mixed-race girl competing for Team GB, I was like, wow this is wild. I didn’t know women could lift like that, and that is exactly how I wanted to feel, I just wanted to feel strong.” Having left home at 16, moved to London and gone on to complete a degree in drama, Chloe was considering her options for the future. “I’ve always loved training so I started a personal training course and being back at the gym made me start to feel like I had a purpose again.”

Chloe is a member of Hammersmith & Fulham RFC.

But a passion for fitness had started many years earlier. Brought up by her Jamaican grandma in Bath, she says sport quickly became a form of expression for her at school. “When you’re the only one in the class who is mixed race or has black heritage – it was like me and one other person -– you always feel like an outsider. Plus, on top of that, I’m not the most academic, I’m dyslexic, so in the playground I was like, OK cool, I can’t beat you in a spelling test so I’m going to beat you in every single race!” she laughs. “That’s how I first found a passion for being competitive and using my body as an outlet.” She started playing football with her brothers and cousins from the age of four, representing South-West England doing track and field from the age of 12, and later kickboxing and Kung Fu. “Back then there weren’t really girls-only football teams, it was just me and one other girl who played with the boys. It was a very male dominated time… kick it with us or you’re playing on your own!”

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

On picking up powerlifting, Chloe says she was intrigued to start Olympic weightlifting, but lifting a bar above your head seemed “a bit scary” initially. She found powerlifting gave her a deep sense of resilience, and, after going through so much trauma, she decided to give Olympic lifting a go, too.” What’s the difference between the two? Technique primarily, she says. “Powerlifting is three movements: squat, bench, deadlift, and Olympic weightlifting is snatch, clean and jerk.”

Chloe began competing in 2018.

Chloe began competing in 2018, winning medals for England (including scooping Silver at championships with a broken hand and wrist) and this year achieved what she describes as her “greatest goal yet”, competing in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham for Team Jamaica. She placed eighth, with an ongoing foot and leg injury. It represented the first time the country had lifted in 25 years and the first time the team featured a woman. When Jamaica approached her to represent them, having previously competed for Team GB, she says it felt like the right time. “I was like, yeah, let’s do this because I grew up in a Jamaican household, brought up by my nan (not my English side), so to be Black British and be able to represent Jamaica, especially at a time when we were all talking about Black Lives Matter, felt right.”

Chloe’s mixed heritage serves as inspiration for another creative outlet: spoken word. “I just speak about what I know, being Black British and the Windrush generation. It’s been understanding myself a bit more, my culture, and that has formed into art,” she says. “In this country, we learn all about Martin Luther King, which is great, but we weren’t taught about the Windrush generation, why they came here, how much they’ve done for this country. We learned about Rosa Parks [the American civil rights activist], but [when I was at school] we didn’t talk about the first Black bus drivers in Bristol down the road from me. Black British history is definitely something I’ve been trying to educate myself on.”

Chloe is teaches strength and conditioning classes for online platform Fiit. Photography by Fiit.


Spoken word is her “form of meditation.” So how does it differ from, say, poetry? “It’s a cross between poetry and rap – you get to put more of an edge on it. Spoken word artists have our own flow and rhythm, there’s more performance behind it,” she explains. Is London’s spoken word scene another male-dominated space? “It’s pretty mixed now, you’ve got so many different backgrounds and characters who are in it. America has been so much further ahead of us when it comes to spoken word, but London is definitely catching on.”

As she has been busy competing over the last four years, Chloe performs less now and describes herself as a studio artist – she is currently working on an album called ‘Healing More Than Me’. Who does she take inspiration from in the spoken word world? “Akala (@akalamusic), he started out more as a rapper, he is my main inspiration; Kae Tempest, Charlie Dark (Run Dem Crew founder @daddydarkrdc) and LyricL (@LyricL_ ). I met them when I was, like, 16, when they came down to Bath to do a performance. They were the people who really pushed me.”

Chloe: "Spoken word artists have our own flow and rhythm, there’s more performance behind it.”

Her latest career move was to join online fitness platform Fiit earlier this year, where she teaches live and on-demand strength and conditioning classes to users across the UK and now also the US. Does she feel like the perception of women and weights is finally shifting, i.e. that more women are feeling like it’s a space for them too? “It’s easy for us to speak about the fitness industry and sports because we’re in touch with it and understand the importance of strength training alongside cardio to look after our bodies. But the average person is still reading articles about how women should look and ‘the best ways to tone up this summer,’ it’s always about the short sprints.”

Chloe: “Powerlifting is three movements: squat, bench, deadlift, and Olympic weightlifting is snatch, clean and jerk.” Photography by Fiit.

She adds that strong women are often associated with being aggressive, which doesn’t help. “The first strength athlete you probably saw in a film was Miss Trunchbull in Matilda – so the seed is already planted, where are the strength athletes who are just everyday women, looking after our bodies?” And women still too often discover strength training by accident. “But then they start to feel empowered, it helps you hormonally, improves your stamina and energy and helps to prevent injury – especially if you work in a desk job. It’s about the long game – everyone should be strong.”

Chloe: "We all have to learn how to love ourselves and it’s something people find hard.” Photography by Fiit.

Being an athlete, an artist and a coach “isn’t straightforward”, she admits. “People forget about how much you have to work on your mentality and your mental health in order to progress. We can talk about putting all the hours in the gym, and just showing up and getting it done, but it’s so much more than that, it’s about how you grow as a person at each competition.”

Keeping herself strong emotionally requires commitment, and Chloe says she likes to live by the mantra ‘peace is power’. “The more peaceful your life is, the more powerful you become, so make sure you know your foundation, then even when you’re going through the hardest of times you can always get back to it. By that, I mean your morning routine: how long do you go before scrolling on your phone? Things like waking up and giving thanks, making your bed, meditation – that could be a yoga class, cooking or just standing still in nature,” she continues. “But if you’d asked me this question, like, 10 years ago, that wouldn’t have been my answer! We all have to learn how to love ourselves and it’s something people find hard.”

So what’s next for Chloe in 2023? “This is the question everyone’s been asking me lately, but to be honest, this is the first time ever (in my 32 years!) that I don’t have big goals and big dates in the calendar. When people ask me what I’m doing for Christmas, I’m literally like: ‘I don’t know’. I’m trying to be present and take one day at a time. After you hit a goal like competing in the Commonwealth Games, no one tells you about the days, weeks and months afterwards, you can go into a really downward place so I have to bring myself back and re-centre.” But, as a proud hybrid athlete, she has already added another string to her ever-expanding bow. She’s just taken up rugby, initially training with a local team, Hammersmith & Fulham Women’s RFC, and is also hoping to compete nationally, as the Jamaica Rugby Sevens has asked her to play. “They are putting together a women’s team of elite athletes with the aim of qualifying for the 2024 Summer Olympics, and I believe this would be the first time females have qualified for it,” she adds carefully.

Chloe represents Team Jamaica.

So does she encourage other women to pursue multiple interests, too? “I was told not to juggle by everyone but you have to see it in order to believe it, so I just kept on with everything. It’s all about knowing when to give and take and push. We’re incredible beings who are here to do many things, we’re not just one person throughout life. I think by having multiple interests you’re setting yourself up much better long term, especially as an athlete – we’re not here to compete forever. Weightlifting isn’t my identity, powerlifting isn’t me, spoken word isn’t me, these things are just extensions of who I am.”

Chloe is currently working on an album called ‘Healing More Than Me’. Photography by Fiit.

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