Sara Racey- Batraville and I are new friends. We met through my blog a few months ago when Sara reached out to tell me about Athleteist — the American-made luxury activewear brand she founded 3 years ago.

Unbeknownst to me, Sara and I had a relationship that went way back to her days as a modeling contestant on season 2 of my supermodel homey Tyra Banks’ blockbuster show America’s Next Model. Sara and I exchanged emails about our mutual passions for fashion fitness and family.

“You’ve always been one  of my favorite models,” Sara told me, adding “Tyra was impressed I knew my fashion history like that!”

Back in 2004, when Sara was on ANTM, her dreams were to win the show and become a Sports Illustrated Model as a stepping stone to a bigger career. Sara got sent home from ANTM. Dejected, but not defeated, after coming THIS CLOSE to having Sports Illustrated whisk her away for a game-changing photo shoot only to be benched again. Sara knew she would have to write her own playbook if she hoped to reach her goals.

Pierre Batraville, Cyrus Batraville , and Sara Racey-Batraville

Fast forward to 2019. Sara is now 38 and living the American Dream. Heading her own clothing company in the fastest growing and most competitive sector of the apparel market and married to Pierre Batraville. Sara signs emails and has changed her Insta profile to her married name of Batraville.

She plays a triple role of wife and mom to her 3 year old son Cyrus in addition to running her company. Sara gets real with Webb On The Fly about why this may be the toughest, but the best season of her life yet.

The Reason Why I’m A Boss Babe

Veronica Webb: Why did you start Athleteist?

Sara Tabrizi: I was always a tomboy. Always played competitive sports, which resulted in three knee operations from an ACL tear. I never was a girly-girl. I always had my sneakers in my bag and tried to get into the NYC clubs with them, usually successful. One day, I started the brand on the 3 train heading from Harlem. I was going to a shoot and knew I had a basketball game later that day as well. So I stood there saying, “Who am I?” Oh, I’m an ATH-LETE-IST.” And that’s where the name and the concept of the brand came from — simply from who I was.

I love all things sexy, athletic, luxury, retro, especially all things 80’s/90’s, all things funky and e. I wanted to make things that I loved, things that I would wear. Fashion meeting fitness. I wanted to design things that would allow the woman to literally be able to leave her house and go to the gym and/or go out on the town.

I know a lot of brands state this, but so many LOOK like activewear still — I wanted to be me. And show the things I love. Always be true to who you are.

Photo from Athleteist

Don’t Let Anything Stand in Your Way for Too Long

VW: The biggest obstacle?

ST: My biggest obstacle was leaving behind a life I knew and was successful at  (modeling and acting) to venturing into owning my own business with no guarantee of ANYTHING. Having meetings with major companies and finding out not everyone had/has your best interest at heart. Sort of like modeling, but now I was starting something new with my ideas and designs and having high profile men tell me they wanted “more”. I walked out and decided to do it on my own with my amazing business partner Richard Gilbert 70 — owner of MUDD Jeans, Paper Denim, and Cloth. Oh, and not to mention I became pregnant and had our first child at the most perfect moment while I was designing my first pieces. It all came together at the right time. Now he’s 3 years old, and I’m pulling my hair out!!!!!

America’s Next Top Model

VW: How did your experience on America’s Next Top Model help you in business?

ST: ANTM Season 2 helped me in many ways because it made me grow up quickly and teach me how to be a boss right out of the gate. I was 23 and had to deal with a lot in a short amount of time. Not just with my brand but in life in general and being recognized on the streets freaked me out. I never realized how popular the show was until I was being talked about by major celebrities and talk shows and for some reason. I was so self-conscious. One reason I hired a PR firm once I launched Athleteist was to help me navigate through all these things while officially launching the brand.  

Photo from Athleteist

Supermodels Know Best

VW: What kind of guidance did you get from Tyra?  

ST:  Tyra gave me a lot of great advice, not just on the show but after. She really was gunning hard for me to be in Sports Illustrated Swim and really became a mentor for me with that. I never had someone (besides my mom) believe in me so hard for something that had always been a dream of mine since the days of Kathy Ireland and Stacey Williams. She told me to bust my a** and make it happen in whatever I wanted to do in life. Oh, and to let my grievances with my Persian father go because she told me they were holding me back.

Pierre Batraville, Cyrus Batraville , and Sara Racey-Batraville

Great Brands Have a Good Soul

VW: What’s the philosophy behind Athleteist?

ST: The brand’s philosophy is to stay true to you. Be loud when you need to be. Be silent when you feel it serves you best. That’s what my pieces stand for. Funky, luxe, retro, and LOUD combined with subtle and basic pieces that you can mix and match together. I call the brands vibe: “RETRO ACTIVE”. And our customers and fans are THE HUMBLY COCKY (our company motto). Show them who you are without saying too much. Let your actions, confidence, and clothing tell your story!

Story x @veronicawebb
Photos Courtesy of @SaraRaceyTabrizi of Athleteist