Alice Modolo in her element. @takuyaterajima
World record holding freediver, Alice Modolo, changed a consequence of childhood pressure to conform into one of her biggest strengths. A natural bodily response, to hold the breath when facing distress, has helped her gain an edge as she pushes the boundaries of her chosen sport.
However, it’s not just the boundaries under the water the athlete wants to dispel. The French-native has dedicated her time out of the ocean to inspiring people to breathe deep, to be their authentic self, and to be kind and respect themselves, so that they can, in-turn, offer that compassion towards others and our planet.
Alice’s story epitomizes both the challenges and rewards of following your own path, even if it goes against what others expect. Her journey, so far, demonstrates how when you’re moving in the right direction, the world (or in Alice’s case an opportunity for Beyoncé) can give you the encouragement you need to feel like you can and should keep going.
Since falling in love with freediving when she was 23 years old, Alice has gone on to achieve numerous phenomenal feats in the sport. She was the first French woman to reach the depth of 100 meters in a monofin and holds 25 freediving records in her homeland. On a global scale she’s held two world records, her most recent of which was at Vertical Blue 2022 in the Bahamas where she reached 96 meters in bi fins, beating her own record by one meter. Despite her underwater talent, Alice almost walked away from her passion.
Born to two dentists, she felt that a life in her parents’ field was laid out for her. In her body she knew there was another way but her predetermined path led her to become a pediatric dentist. It was during her studies that she first became fascinated with freediving and the power of the body. Inquisitive to the core, her scientific background led her to experiment with her body’s capabilities underwater.
Alice took up freediving in 2007 and finished on the podium in the French championships already that same year. The following year she won her first event, achieving first place in Dynamic No Fins (DYNF) at AIDA’s Coupe des Dauphins. It was also her curiosity that led her to the realization that her capacity to hold her breath linked back to her feelings of adversity as a child. While in the beginning she felt she lacked many of the other abilities associated with freediving she had the mental abilities and the power over holding her breath.
“When you’re holding your breath you have to face yourself. You’re facing adversity and in freediving you have to find a way to accept it, to be kind to yourself and slow down,” explained Alice. “I now have a sensation of calm when I hold my breath. I’m in sync with the elements rather than fighting against them.”
The practice has given her more than just a sensation of peace.
“Freediving taught me freedom. To be free doesn’t mean doing what you want, when you want. It means understanding and being yourself in any location, regardless of the constraints. It means truly listening to yourself. I believe this is the first step in respecting the planet.”
“What are you sinking about?” @andremusgrove
Alice Modolo saluting the sea. @andremusgrove
Despite her continued early successes, she stepped away from the sport, for a time.
“I had stopped my career as a freediver. It had been four years. I may have stopped freediving but it never left me and it came back to me in the form of an artistic project.”
Alice had worked as an underwater model for Kusmi Tea, gracefully moving in the water in a dress that many would struggle in on dry land. Following the experience, she was approached to do a music video. At the time she didn’t know who it was for but seized the opportunity and headed to French Polynesia for the shoot.
The song was the award-winning “Runnin’” by Beyoncé, Naughty Boy, and Arrow Benjamin. Over the course of four days Alice, alongside French freediver Guillaume Néry, navigated ocean currents, sinus infections, and the near impossible task of running upside down underwater wearing jeans, to create aquatic magic. While appearing effortless and peaceful the acts performed push the realms of what’s possible to do beneath the ocean surface. Alice and Guillaume’s fictional love story became the entire video, with the superstar not making an appearance in the ethereal clip.
“The music video showed me I was on the right path. Even if I stop freediving, it comes back to me,” reflected Alice. “Also the lyrics of the song, ‘If I lose myself, I lose it all,’ were a strong reminder.”
The theme song of Luc Besson legendary movie “Le Grand Bleu” (The Big Blue), titled “My Lady Blue” also captured Alice’s attention when she was younger, as did the famous freediving movie itself, but not for the reasons many would expect.
“Jean Marc Barr [who plays legendary freediver Jacques Mayol] showed me there was another world, another way to freedom,” reflected Alice. “It gave me hope.”
In 2019 she made the decision to quit her job as a dentist and focus full-time on freediving. She also started using the credibility her achievements gave her to do the real work she was passionate about – helping others to find and be their true selves.
It was a similar brave decision that the founders of Beauty Disrupted made, to walk away from security and what they know, that resonated with her.
“To quit everything and give themselves to the world,” as Alice put it.
“Beauty Disrupted is built on the values of care, consideration, and respect and their interactions with others reflect that,” recalled Alice. “Even if the product is great, it’s still the people behind it that matter. The human values behind what they are doing are so important.”
Alice shares her story through presentations and talks that inspire and uplift others, through teaching the importance of the breath, and raising awareness of important causes through charity work. She is also an ambassador for the Grégory Lemarchal Association, founded to combat cystic fibrosis after the early death of budding French singer Grégory Lemarchal.
“How do I mentally train for a dive? I need to know why I am doing it. That ‘why’ is to help spread a better vision of the world. For me the emergency to help the planet begins with helping people to be themselves. That is why I do it. I don’t care about the freediving records.”
Alice found that the more that she grew as her authentic self, the more that she was meeting people like the founders of Beauty Disrupted, who “spoke the same language.” People who were also showing up for themselves and daring to follow what they believed in. People who channel that respect and compassion into building something that, in turn, helps our planet.
Karryn Miller is a native of Auckland, New Zealand, for whom “home” has also meant Tokyo, Hanoi, Mumbai, Seoul, and Washington, DC. As a hotel public relations consultant with a passion for travel, she has also published pieces in dozens of travel books, magazines, and newspapers around the world. Most recently, together with a global collective of mothers, she co-authored the book Mother Wild, and launched a series of wellness retreats. In 2021 Karryn relocated with her family to the second snowiest city in the world, Sapporo, on the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan.